O P I N I O N
WASHINGTON, DC—The chairman of “Admas Kodesh” today posted on a public Facebook page the following item and images, including an obviously posed photo featuring the chairperson of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, a close ally of the Lithuanian government and member of its controversial “red-brown commission” that has caused some pain to Holocaust survivors via its support of Baltic “Double Genocide” Holocaust revisionism. “Admas Kodesh” (‘holy earth) is generally used interchangeably for the London-based CPJCE (“Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe”), which is currently involved in a potentially major scandal over alleged payments in return for paid “supervisions” of cemetery desecrations allowed at the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. The CPJCE continues to adamantly defend the twenty-five million dollar convention center slated for the middle of the old Jewish cemetery, at a time of virtually unanimous condemnation by rabbis internationally and local people alike. That story was covered in today’s Jerusalem Post.
The same chairperson was recently involved in the “tale of the two tweets” effort to obfuscate the issue by replacing the actual topic (the convention center) with platitudes about preserving cemeteries in general. We continue to wish him well, while hoping that the U.S. Commission entrusted to safeguard Jewish cemeteries in post-Holocaust Europe, not least after last year’s pioneering law passed by the Congress, will not be manipulated by primary, secondary or even tertiary agents of the Lithuanian government or the Vilnius property developers who verily believe — as some boast — that they have achieved the Commission’s silence. Fears of political infiltration are based on concerns about members very close to the “Aaronite” branch of Satmar hasidism, to the CPJCE, to the Lithuanian government’s own heritage commission, and to the Lithuanian government-controlled restitution boards in Vilnius. Then there is the matrix of questions of current State Department politics and policies concerning Eastern Europe in the context of east-west relations following the onset of the Ukraine conflict in 2014.
Hopefully, the Commission’s silence will be broken very soon by a morally unambiguous call for the convention center to be moved to an alternative location in Vilnius where it can be a source of pride to all — with harm toward none. By doing that because it is the right thing to do, the Commission would also be helping Lithuania enormously, by enabling its leaders to make the right choice on this, enabling all to move on with building bridges and friendship instead of energies being sunk into yet another ongoing multi-year conflict that will never go away. Because the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt will never go away.
As Chairman of “ADMAS KODESH” I attended an important meeting in Washington DC with State Department officials and the Chair of the U.S. Presidents Commission for America’s Heritage Abroad, together with rep’s of #AgudathIsrael & #AJC & Director of London based CPJCE to discuss the preservation of the historic Snipiskes Jewish Cemetery in Vilna,#Lithuania one of the oldest in Eastern Europe.