For the first time, an Israeli minister attended the annual Mahar conference, which is a central meeting point for Jewish communities of Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Kosovo.

President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović addressed the hundreds of participants at Monday’s opening ceremony of the seventh Mahar conference in Budva.

The conference is being held in the Balkan nation due to the efforts of the Montenegrin Jewish community under the patronage of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), an umbrella organization that links the diverse Jewish communities and organizations in the region.

The meeting with Israel’s Minister of Religious Services, Yitzhak Vaknin, was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Montenegro Zoran Pažin; EAJC representative Haim Blekhman; president of the Jewish community of Montenegro Djordje Raicević; Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, Montenegro’s first resident rabbi and now chief rabbi; and others.

Vaknin expressed gratitude to the government and people of Montenegro for their friendship with the Jewish community, as well as for their commitment to peace, tolerance and cooperation. He also emphasized Israel’s willingness to share its advanced technological knowledge and enhance mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Montenegro.

At the opening ceremony, Đukanović expressed concern about the spread of anti-Semitism on the Internet and social networks. “We must use modern technology to combat hatred, to achieve mutual understanding and tolerance in society,” he said.

The Jewish community of Montenegro is one of the youngest in the world. Nevertheless, organizers managed to provide kosher food to about 500 conference participants at the conference.

President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović. Photo by Pierre Lavi.

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