Today, this challenge is again being met in the tinderbox of the Balkans Croatia where, despite raging ethnic hatreds, Jewish life is flourishing, thanks to the efforts of two devoted communal leaders, Dunja Sprajc and Rabbi Kotel Dadon, both of whom have been aided in their studies by the Foundation.
, a multi-talented 33-year-old native of Israel, has compiled a remarkable record of firsts while rebuilding Jewish life in Zagreb as the first rabbi to serve the Jewish community in Croatia since World War II.
Raised in Netivot, a small town in the Northern Negev, he
attended Yeshivat Ha-Kotel, a hesder yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, while serving a tank commander in the Israel Defense Forces, with the rank of lieutenant.
In 1995, Kotel earned a Bachelor of Laws degree at Bar-Ilan University, and was ordained at the Shehebar Institute for Jewish Studies.
In 1993, Kotel
connection with the Zagreb Jewish community when, in the midst of the civil war between Croatia and Serbia he
answered the call to officiate at High Holiday services and to conduct a series of classes and seminars.
A year later, while the war was still raging, Rabbi Dadon again returned to Zagreb for Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur.
In 1995 he taught Talmud and Jewish Law at the Jewish school in Hungary and earned a Ph.D. degree in Law at the University of Budapest.
For two years he
practiced law, returning to Zagreb to officiate at services on Pesach, Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur.
Each time he visited Zagreb, the community leaders urged him to become their full-time rabbi.
Finally, in 1998, encouraged by his
acceded to their request.