December 12th, the Conference of European Rabbis met with the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama.
On the first day of Chanukah, the first candle was lit at the government residence of the Albanian Prime Minister. The delegation of the CER included the trustees of the organization, the president of the Jewish community of Albania Geront Koreta and the ambassador of the State of Israel in Albania Boaz Rodkin.
Despite the fact that the Jewish community in Albania has about 100 people, and there are no synagogues, Jewish life there exists. The leader of the community Geront Koreta actively develops the community with his initiatives. This was reason enough for the Conference of European Rabbis to meet with the Prime Minister of Albania in order to discuss future joint projects.
This meeting began with the ceremony of Chanukah candle lighting of the first candle. “I have lit candles in my life, but this is my first Chanukah candle,”- the prime minister jokingly commented during the ceremony.
During dinner, Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke about the history of the Albanian Jews, he specifically mentioned the relationship towards the Jews during World War II. “Albania did not give up the Jews to the Nazis. Even more so, the Albanian people always attempted to help and hide the Jews, so they would not be found by the German soldiers”,- said the Albanian Prime Minister.
It is worth noting that during World War II, Albania really became one of the first countries in terms of the number of Righteous Among the Nations (in proportion to the number of the Jewish population): there were 64 Albanians, the righteous of the world, for 244 Jews. Albania hosted Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, Croatia, and Serbia, and Albania became one of the few European countries in which the Jewish community after the Second World War became more numerous than before.
Edi Rama shared with the Conference of European Rabbis about his initiative to create a Jewish center and a museum of Albanian Jews. He noted that this is important both for the development of the Jewish community and for educating the rest of the population: “I am convinced that people, especially young people, need to talk about all religions. Despite the prevalence of Muslims in our country, people need to know what Judaism is, what Christianity is, what Islam is. And this only confirms the need to create a Jewish center, as well as a museum where not only Jews but everyone else can get acquainted with the history of Jewry and the heroism of the Albanian people during the war”.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt thanked the Prime Minister for this meeting and noted that the CER is ready to fully support the initiative of the Albanian authorities:
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt remarked:”A visit to Albania can cause a lot of questions because of the small size of the community. However, the importance of such a meeting is not always determined by the size of the community or by the size of the Jewish population. The historical significance of this meeting is that we can start the development of the Jewish community in Albania.
We are grateful to the Prime Minister Edi Rama for the invitation and hospitality, as well as for his readiness to revive and support the Jewish community in Albania today when the number of the community is not more than 100 people. The Albanian people showed their best qualities towards Albanian Jews during World War II and this must not be forgotten. The memory of the past is a reliable foundation for building the future”.