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KKL-JNF is now in the Balkans.
With great fanfare and festivity, KKL-JNF opened its 45th office worldwide, this time in the Podgorica, Montenegro, on November 8, 2013. 

L-R: KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Menachem Leibovic, KKL-JNF Balkan President Jaša Alfandari and Deputy PM and Justice MP Duško Marković. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Six hundred guests from 11 Baltic States came in honor of the grand opening, including Oscar-winning film producer Branko Lustig, who producedSchindler's List and Winds of War

The four keynote speakers at the event were Mr. Menachem Leibovic, KKL-JNF Vice Chairman; Mr. Avi Dickstein, KKL-JNF Executive Director of Resources, Development and Public Affairs; HE Mr. Yosef Levy, Israel Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, and Dr. Miomir Mugosha, the Mayor of Podgorica. 

The President of brand-new KKL-JNF of the Balkans is Montenegro Jewish community leader Jaša Alfandari

The establishment of the KKL-JNF headquarters of the Balkans was the result of the collaborative effort between KKL-JNF, the Jewish community of Montenegro, and the Government of Montenegro. 

KKL-JNF met with members of the Montenegro government, including the President, the Speaker of the House, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for the Environment, all of whom lent their support to this worthy cause. 

KKL-JNF Executive Director of Resources, Development and Public Affairs Avi Dicksteinthanked the Government of Montenegro and the Jewish community in Podgorica in his speech. Dickstein recalled their visit to Montenegro during Passover of this year, when community leader Jaša Alfandari said "We want to see a KKL-JNF office in Montenegro", and less than six months later, KKL-JNF of the Balkans was established. "It's only the beginning," Mr. Dickstein said. "I'm sure that every week now, people from around the Balkans will come to see and use our facilities. And I invite all of you to Israel to see our 110 years of experience in building and developing the land of Israel, making it green." 

HE Mr. Yosef Levy, Menachem Leibovic and Rabbi of Podgorica in Podgorica synagogue. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

In his address to the audience, Podgorica Mayor Dr. Miomir Mugosha hailed Montenegro as an open country which "welcomes people of all religions and of all nations". With regards to the opening of the KKL-JNF office, he said that this "sends the best message in renewing old friendships and relationships." 

Dr. Mugosha pledged full informational and logistical support from Montenegro's capital for the development of even stronger relations between the two countries, and spoke about the importance of raising awareness amongst Montenegro citizens about Israel's achievements in many fields, especially agriculture. 

Israel's Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro,  spoke about the significance of KKL-JNF in Israel. "Israel and KKL-JNF are synonyms", he said. "Both ideas are connected very strongly with the idea of smart agriculture – the treatment of wastewater, of turning rocky lands into gardens, into fruits, into production, into life, and I think that we can cooperate tremendously with all countries of the Balkans…I have great expectations from the cooperation between KKL-JNF and the lovely state of Montenegro." 

HE Levy also hailed the recent appointment of Montenegro's first ambassador to Israel who will serve in a non-residential capacity."I hope that soon we will have a real embassy of Montonegro in Israel, and maybe one day, an embassy of Israel here," he said. 

Left: Film producer Branko Lustig & Menachem Leibovic
Right: Menachem Leibovic, Avi Dickstein, and Podgorica Mayor Dr. Miomir Mugosha. 

Photos: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Menachem Leibovic thanked the Government of Montenegro for its "great kindness and total support." 

"Montenegro is a small Jewish community, but a very lively and active community, and very important to the State of Israel," he said. "KKL-JNF is known as a well renowned expert inpushing back the desert, and stopping it from expanding, which causes a decline in soil fertility. KKL-JNF would be honored to share our knowledge the government and professional bodies in Montenegro, or in any other country in the Balkans, for that matter."