When the Lithuanian Prime Minister Interrupts his Schedule to Greet Some Very Non-Litvak Rabbis from London
by Dovid Katz
Updates in [brackets] to 12 July 2015
VILNIUS—According to Lithuanian media sources, including the highly respected English-language Lithuania Tribune (now merged with Delfi.lt), the government, working in concert with property developers, plans to declare the controversial project of a huge convention and entertainment center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery site as a “project of national importance.” The move enables an application to the European Union for a grant of 13 million euros (14.64 million US dollars at current rates) as part of a grand-total (for now) of 22.8 million euros (25.67 million US dollars) for the new complex. The nation’s prime minister has told Lithuanian media that “after the modern congress center is completed, private investors could build a hotel, parking lots and other infrastructure,” eliciting fears that all of the old Jewish cemetery is becoming a cash cow slated for developers for years to come. The Lithuania Tribune / Delfi.lt report concludes with an estimate of “110 million euros in economic and social benefits over 15 years” in addition to “600,000 foreign tourists and 2.2 million local tourists to Vilnius over that time period, with their spending estimated at 183 million and 60 million euros, respectively,” in other words, with profits from the old Jewish cemetery exceeding the equivalent of 250 million dollars, apart from the millions to be had from the building projects per se. Some estimates are provided in Baltic Course.
U.S. State Department’s 2009 Memo Refers to Rabbis Compliant on Old Vilna Cemetery, the Need for Paying for their Supervision, and — Need for Secrecy
VILNIUS—A memo from the United States Embassy here in the Lithuanian capital, dated 27 May 2009, released by Wikileaks and in the public domain, expressed optimism about solution of the disputes that had arisen over desecration of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The cemetery, known to generations of Vilna Jews as Piramónt, is within the Šnipiškės district (itself in Yiddish: Shnípishok).
London Based “CPJCE” Rushes to Take Credit for Provincial Mass Grave Site Preservation; Fails to Mention Involvement in “Sale” of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery
O P I N I O N
LONDON—The same London-based European cemetery-preservation group that allegedly takes money (for supervision fees) for “supervising” cemetery “conversions” in Eastern Europe forbidden by other rabbinical authorities, today issued a triumphant press release (image below) about its “rescue” of a provincial mass grave site uncovered during routine roadworks in northern Lithuania, near Šiauliai (Yiddish Shavl). The group is the CPJCE (Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe), which was recently received by the prime minister of Lithuania upon its agreeing to a convention center in the middle of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, with no reference to any of the local rabbis or to universal decency on the question of what is appropriate in an old cemetery.
Protocol of 26 August 2009 Meeting in Vilnius on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in today’s Šnipiškės)
Related: The 2015 saga. Paper Trail. DH section. Other descriptions of the same 2009 agreement. The U.S. ambassador’s dispatch mentioning the rabbis’ payment for supervising “beautification” of the grounds. Embassy’s dispatch on the secrecy of the document. What were they actually paid? What were the same rabbis promised in 2015? In the past, the slightest digging in the area revealed human remains throughout.
The Question: Does the agreement (which a US State Department cable, published by Wikipedia, makes clear was supposed to remain secret) really permit a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the old cemetery (and millions in subsequent development) where people will cheer, revel, drink in bars, use toilets and parking areas on top of and surrounded by tens of thousands of Jewish graves paid for by grieving Vilnius families over a period of more than five hundred years? Comment in 2015 by (inter alia) the chief rabbi of Lithuania, resident rabbinical Vilna Gaon scholar in Lithuania, a Christian leader, a Vilnius Holocaust survivor, Gaon of Vilna’s descendants in Israel at Tel Aviv’s Vilna Gaon Synagogue, and the Central Rabbinical Council of the United States and Canada.
O P I N I O N
VILNIUS—After two apartment and business buildings started to go up a decade ago on the grounds of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the Šnipiškės (Shnípishok) district of this city, across the river from the city center, a damaging international conflict ensued between elements of the Lithuanian government on the one hand and Jewish groups around the world and a number of Western governments on the other.
Open Letter to Members of CPJCE in the UK: Do You Really Want a Convention Center in the Heart of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery?
O P I N I O N / O P E N L E T T E R
Dear Esteemed Associates of the “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” enumerated on the CPJCE letterhead [more than one eminent personage on the list is deceased; their precious names might perhaps best not be invoked for the organization’s current adventures?]
S.B.E. Berger, Rabbi B.Z. Blum, L. Davis, Rabbi J.H. Dunner, Rabbi Z. Feldman, D. Frand, B.S.E. Freshwater, A.C. Ginsberg, Rabbi H. Gluck OBE, A. Goldman, S. Grosz, M. Hershaft, D. Herzka, M.B. Krausz, J. Kruskal, J. Lobenstein MBE, Y. Marmorstein, Rabbi A. Pinter, Rabbi E. Schlesinger, Rabbi E. Shechter, J. Shik, M.E. Stern, S.B. Stern, Rabbi C. M. Wosner
O P I N I ON
VILNIUS—The battle over the preservation of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (now part of the Šnipiškės [Yiddish: Shnípishok] district) has taken some bizarre turns.
In an article that appeared today in English in The Lithuania Tribune, city architects and officials excited by the prospects for the new convention and congress center planned for the heart of the cemetery, announced further plans for its rapid development. Proposals include “a hall for 3,000 people which could be flexibly converted into smaller spaces.” One of the plans cited explains that the center “should not be a venue exclusively for conferences, it should also host concerts and theatre performances. There are ideas to build an annex with a universal ‘black box’ suitable for various events, including circus shows.” Needless to say, there is no mention of any cemetery there, let alone having to ask any rabbis permission for any of this.
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Followers of the Jewish cemetery saga in Vilnius were shocked at the most recent “game playing” by a haredi splinter group allied with Admas Kodesh (“Holy Earth”) and the CPJCE (the London based “Committee for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe”) that was last April entertained by the prime minister of Lithuania and gave its blessing for a $25,000,000 convention center in the heart of the old Piramónt (Šnipiškes) Jewish cemetery that goes back to the fifteenth century, if not earlier. The group has been implicated by Wikileaks’ release of a 2009 U.S. ambassador’s cable explaining that their quiet permissions for digging and “beautification” comes with big price tags.
VILNIUS—The website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania today posted an English version of its chairperson’s reply to a Jerusalem Post article of 11 August 2015 by Sam Sokol. The following is the text of the reply reposted in full with no textual changes. For more background from the Defending History perspective, please see the list of publications on the topic to date, DH’s summary of the high political and finance-sector intrigue, a registry of public opposition to the convention center project, and our editor’s open letter to the group of London rabbis invoked in recent debates.
Lithuania’s Chief Rabbi Cites Evidence that Non-Litvak London Rabbis Get Paid for their “Permissions” to Desecrate Vilnius Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—In a new Facebook post today, Lithuania’s official chief rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, mentioned a Wikileaks-published cable sent by the United Stated ambassador to Lithuania to Washington in 2009. The cable references the need to supply a $100,000 payment to the London-based CPJCE (Committee for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe) for “supervision” of “beautification” and “exploratory digging” at the old cemetery. It notes the rabbis’ request for secrecy about their doings. In the chronology, the cable postdates the unknown arrangements by which the two buildings started in 2005 were allowed to stand, and it predates public mention of future plans for a congress and convention center. Observers have been struck, however, by the disparity between one of the secret agreements reached and the impression given in 2009 to the outside world by press releases that in effect, in return for no further “fuss” over the two buildings on the old cemetery’s land, no more would ever be built on the remainder. It was a “compromise” many could “live with.”
European Commission Redirects Cemetery Inquiry to Lith. Finance Ministry, Cites CPJCE’S “Close Cooperation”
VILNIUS—The following is the reply received to an inquiry concerning press reports that European Union funding of 13 million euros (around 14.5 million dollars at current exchange rates) would be sought as part of the new 22.8 million euro (= US 25.4 million dollar) budget for a convention and congress center in the heart of the historic Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes). The current debate, entailing reports of high intrigue, has engendered a long paper trail and considerable international opposition to the project. A DH section is dedicated to the topic.
What Does the 27 May 2009 Cable from the US Embassy in Vilnius Tell Us About the CPJCE, Money and Secrecy?
VILNIUS—The following is the text of a cable sent by the United States ambassador in Vilnius to Washington, on 27 May 2015, concerning the old Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes). Though initially confidential, it enetered the public domain via publication by Wikileaks where the document is available at: http://cables.mrkva.eu/cable.php?id=208864.
Satmar Grand Rabbi and Rabbinical Court Call on Lithuanian Gov. to Abandon Convention Center in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—The high rabbinical court of the most populous Hasidic group in the world, Satmar, today released to the media the text of its judgment of 6 July 2015 calling on the Lithuanian government to abandon its multimillion dollar convention center project in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The bilingual text, in rabbinic Hebrew and English, also calls on the American government to exert its influence to save the thousands of graves on the site from further desecration. The document was further signed, with an added note, by Satmar grand rabbi (der Sátmerer Rébe) Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum on 10 July 2015.
“We were horrified to hear that the government of Lithuania intends to renovate an abandoned building in the heart of the ancient cemetery of Vilna, and turn it into a place of assemblage and entertainment; and invest a huge sum of money to make it into an attraction for the masses from their country and worldwide.”
— from the Satmar Rabbinic Court’s ruling
VILNIUS—Several hours after the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s website announced the effective dismissal of Chief Rabbi Chaim Burshtein (rapidly reported by JTA and in DH), the community chairperson issued the following statement, also on its website, focusing on the debate over the planned $25,000,000 convention center in Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery, a project that has attracted considerable international opposition and press coverage, and has involved both political and financial intrigue. The text follows:
LONDON—The “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” (CPJCE), affiliated with “Admas Kodesh” and the “Aaronite” splinter group of Satmar hasidism, comprising the rabbis received by the prime minister of Lithuania in Vilnius last April, issued an extraordinary press release today, full of praise for the prime minister (which he no doubt deserves), but without even mentioning the issue at hand: the imminent construction of a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the cemetery. People attending conventions, concerts, and congresses naturally cheer, clap, drink in bars and use toilets. Here they will do so surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves from over a half millennium of Jewish life in Vilna, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Mr. Berel Fried of New York City, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and businessman, has authorized this publication of his letter, sent earlier today to Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, regarding plans for a convention center at the old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. He is a frequent visitor to Vilnius, where he is known for his exquisite Torah readings at the Choral Synagogue. The most recent public response from the European Commission is here.
Hon. Frans Timmermans
First Vice President of the European Commission
US Rep of London Rabbis Involved with Vilnius Cemetery Fiasco Boasts of Photo-Ops at the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
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.
US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Does Photo-Op with CPJCE in Washington D.C.
The following image and text appeared on the website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania earlier today.
by Defending History Staff
VILNIUS—For many years it has been a source of deep pain to many Lithuanians, Jews and others that the capital (and cities and towns around the country) continue to have street names honoring Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators but none for the true heroes of the Lithuanian Holocaust — the Lithuanian rescuers, who risked their and their families’ lives to “just do the right thing” and rescue some person or persons of a minority marked for rapid murder on the basis of Jewish birth. In the Baltics, the rescuers had to have much more courage even than in many other countries, because they were regarded as enemies of Lithuanian nationalism as then constructed, not only as defiers of the German occupying forces’ program of extermination. They were regarded as “enemies of Lithuania” and sympathizes of communism who could expect no mercy if found out either by the German authorities or the local Lithuanian forces.
Suspicions Rise on Role of “U.S. Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” in Plans to Build a $25,000,000 Convention Center in Heart of Vilnius’s Old Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—The American taxpayer-funded agency known as the “U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” has a mission statement that stresses commitment to preserving Jewish cemeteries in post-Holocaust Eastern Europe. They are in special danger because of the Holocaust: the people buried have no descendants or relatives to care for the preservation of their final resting place. Moreover, nationalism and antisemitism sometimes come into play, with powers that be not wanting any city-center reminders of major erstwhile Jewish populations in their cities, and in any case, applying very different standards to the preservation of Jewish and Christian cemeteries. The issue was addressed in a 2014 U.S. Congressional resolution.
First Moral Victory in the EU, in Effort to Prevent Unprecedented Desecration of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Lithuanian Government Announces Construction of a $25,000,000 Convention Center in the Center of Vilna’s Oldest Jewish Cemetery
by Sid Leiman
The following is a reprint, with Professor Leiman’s permission, of his essay originally published on 13 September 2015 (Erev Rosh Ha-Shanah 5776) in The Seforim Blog. He is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature at Brooklyn College in the City University of New York. Russian versions have to date appeared twice, here and here.
CONCERN SPREADING OVER “CLOSED [SECRET?] CONFERENCE” IN VILNIUS 25-28 OCTOBER FINANCED BY ROTHSCHILD FOUNDATION (HANADIV LONDON)! LIST OF SPEAKERS INCLUDES SPOKESMAN OF THE LONDON CPJCE “GRAVE TRADER RABBIS” BUT NOT ONE FROM THE MASSIVE INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION
Rothschild (of London) Finances “Closed” Conference (in Vilnius) on Jewish Cemeteries (That May be Cover for Most Painful Desecration Yet of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery)
VILNIUS—Not for the first time, outstanding scholars and professionals are happy to accept a gracious invitation to a Jewish-topic international conference in this beautiful East European capital city that has for centuries been a symbol of the resilience of various minority cultures, including stateless cultures, to thrive side by side.
“HISTORY IN THE MAKING”
Delegates to a conference on Jewish cemeteries, held in Vilnius in 2015, can get to read the statement in 2015 on a certain Jewish cemetery by the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania of 11 years’ standing, for which he was dismissed a couple of months before the conference. Would the conference not wish to hear from the rabbi too?
by Dovid Katz
VILNIUS—This city’s dashing young new mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, elected last spring, has now added Yiddish to the previously bilingual (Lithuanian-English) signs, wrought of expensive metal in rounded-edged casement, in times of austerity for pensioners and others in town. These signs are being placed near Soviet-era edifices made of pilfered Jewish gravestones (matséyves) that are a blot on this charming East European capital. This is the latest model featured on the mayor’s office website:
LONDON—At the initiative of Monica Lowenberg, Defending History’s London correspondent, UK member of parliament Gareth Thomas (Labour) tabled a question in the House of Commons (no. 14144) on 29 October 2015 on the planned desecration of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district of Vilnius, Lithuania) by construction of a twenty-five million dollar national convention center. His question, and the reply by the current Minister for Europe, David Lidington, of 3 November 2015, are reproduced below (and available online).
Is Lithuania’s President Distancing Herself from Prime Minister’s “Religious Zeal” for the “Convention Center in the Old Jewish Cemetery”?
NEW YORK—In response to his 20 Nov. 2015 letter that has been described by some who have seen it as “powerful,” New York businessman Berel Fried, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and descendant of many people buried at the old Piramónt Jewish cemetery in Vilnius received a reply this week from the office of Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaitė. Her reply, dated 18 Dec. 2015, was released today by Mr. Fried’s office in New York City. Mr. Fried has been a frequent visitor to Vilnius and Kaunas for many years and is a celebrated guest reader of the Torah when he visits the Choral Synagogue on Pylimo Street in Vilnius.
NY Satmar Affiliate of “London Grave Traders” Tweets Triumphant Photos with US Gov “Heritage Abroad Commission” Rep
DOCUMENTS| | US GOV’S “HERITAGE ABROAD” COMMISSION | OPPOSITION TO DATE | PAPER TRAIL | SECTION | EU ASPECTS
KIRYAS JOEL, NY—The “Satmar Headquarters” of the movement’s “Aaronite” branch, partners of the London-based “CPJCE / Admas Kodesh” issued this tweet earlier today, which some observers take to convey the message that the politically connected Hasidic group continues to boast of preventing the “United States Commission for the Preservation [emphasis added] of America’s Heritage Abroad” from expressing even the mildest protest at plans to erect a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. With the exception of the CPJCE, exposed in Wikileaks as having demanded money for their “supervision” at the same cemetery in 2009 (see Jerusalem Post and JTA reports), major rabbis and rabbinic associations, alongside a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish figures, have expressed unanimous condemnation of the project.
The condemnations include the major groups of Lithuanian (Litvak) rabbis internationally, and also the rival branch of Satmar itself, the “Zalmanite” branch, whose own highest rabbinic court last summer added its voice to the Lithuanian rabbis worldwide. Vilnius has numerous venues appropriate for the new convention center. Some observers remain baffled at the insistence on the old cemetery site, where thousands of graves lie intact, and where revelers would clap, cheer, and use bars and toilets surrounded by a half millennium’s Jewish graves, including major Jewish scholars of the city, historically Vilna, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Jews and Other Minorities in Eastern Europe Concerned by EU Chief’s Addition of a Single Word about Old Jewish Cemetery
BRUSSELS—Back in October, 2015, high-level European Union spokesperson Chiara Adamo had replied to French human rights activist Didier Bertin on behalf of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, assuring the public that
“Contrary to reports in some Lithuanian newspapers and international media, the planned renovation project at the Vilnius Snipisek cemetery is not supported by European Union funds.”
VILNIUS—When Lithuania’s official chief rabbi of eleven years’ standing, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, was dismissed last summer after disagreeing with the government’s plan to erect a national convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, the event caught the attention of both local and international media. It was quietly hoped, both in Vilnius and abroad, that the eventual replacement would be loyal to sacred Jewish causes (see Rabbi Burshtein’s final statement of his tenure in Vilnius), someone who would not dare, for the considerations of a job, betray the letter and spirit of Jewish law, or the living and the deceased actual Jews of Vilna over the centuries. See Prof. Shnayer Leiman’s essay on the subject, our editor’s summary, a satiric Motke Chabad take, and Dr. Bernard Fryshman’s reminder that “Even now, the cemetery contains the bodies of the Chayey Odom and the Be’eyr ha-Goylo among many others.” A second essay by Professor Leiman paves the way for inspiring reconstruction of many of the major historic structures of Lithuania’s foremost Jewish cemetery.
VILNIUS—Between October 2014 and October 2015, the international Jewish-cemetery group Asra Kadisha, coordinated by haredim largely affiliated with the “Zalmen” branch of the split Hasidic Satmar group (today the world’s largest Hasidic group) made a number of contributions that will remain permanent. Thanks in whole or in part to Asra Kadisha, eighteen important documents were published opposing the antisemitic decision of some Lithuanian government officials to allow a convention center to rise, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of skeletons on all four sides, skeletons of Jewish citizens of Vilnius buried there between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a Protestant minister and Catholic philosopher have pointed out, such would not have been the decision were it a Christian cemetery or one housing heroes of Lithuanian culture between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course the millions in store for property developers and their many “beneficiaries” (for decades to come) play a prime role; antisemitism enters the picture when the state fails to put in play the same brakes which it applies for majority culture and majority religion sacred sites.
VILNIUS—The following is a reprint of the article published on 2 July 2016 in Yated Ne’eman. The title refers to the accompanying illustration which considers the views of the many thousands of Jews buried at Piramónt, Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery in the Šnipiškės (Shnípishok) district, in active use from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. See also background to the article, PDF of the original article, the catalogue of international opposition, the paper trail, the DH section, and our editor’s summary of the issue published in December 2015 in The Times of Israel.
VILNIUS—Turto Bankas, the state bank here whose main mission is to “organize and coordinate renewal of state-owned real estate,” has again revealed itself to be deeply involved in the international scandal of constructing a new National Congress Center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, whose graves date back to the fifteenth century and include some of the leading European Jewish scholars of the last millennium. The project continues to attract opposition from various parts of the world, including major Lithuania-descended rabbis internationally and some members of Lithuania’s small Jewish community. Moreover, Protestant and Catholic authors have pointed out that this would not likely be the fate of an analogous medieval vintage Christian cemetery.
Dramatic Pre-Annual Litvak Conference About-Face as Official Jewish Community Finally Protests Something of 2016 Desecration of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery
But new alarm bells as community calls in as “fixers” the same anti-Litvak London rabbis exposed in “$$$ for graveyard permissions” scandal by Wikileaks, Jerusalem Post, JTA, and DH; They get royal treatment by politicians with interest in the building projects, and have utterly rejected heartfelt pleas from the world’s great Litvak rabbis to move the new congress center away from the old Jewish cemetery to another venue where it can be a source of pride for all the people of Europe and beyond.
LONDON—The world’s greatest rabbinic authorities are unanimously opposed to the project to construct a 34 million euro convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, surrounded by thousands of graves on all four sides. And now, 34,000 people around the world have also spoken up in a new international petition. Nevertheless, one group of London rabbis, the “CPJCE” (Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe [italics added]) continues to campaign for the convention center in close cooperation with the local business interests and politicians. Its Rabbi Herschel (Hershel) Gluck OBE has spoken out in the London Jewish Chronicle, trashing the petition of a Vilnius born Orthodox Jewish woman, Ruta Bloshtein.
Neither Rabbi Gluck nor the Jewish Chronicle mention that his “CPJCE” was allegedly exposed in Wikileaks (reports in the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, DH) for demanding money for their “supervision”. Rabbi Gluck told the London Jewish Chronicle:
A Year & One Month Since US Commission on Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA) “Reported to Satmar Rebba” in Monroe, N.Y.
VILNIUS—Today marks one calendar year-and-a-month since “Admas Kodesh,” the American affiliate of the London “grave trading unit” called CPJCE (Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe) boasted on Twitter that Herbert Block, a prominent member of the State Department linked Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA), came to Monroe, New York to “report to the Satmar Rebba”… Thirteen months later, there has still not been a single public word from the taxpayer-funded commission urging the Lithuanian government to move its convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, as now called for by a petition signed by 38,000 people including, in its first moments online in December, the official chief rabbi of Lithuania. The “Admas Kodesh” group had previously, in August 2015, posted triumphant photo-ops with the commission’s chairperson, Ms. Lesley Weiss. Earlier that month, they posted photos of USCPAHA’s Jules Fleischer thanking (!) the Lithuanian Consul General in New York for preserving the cemetery. The same “Admas Kodesh” group so dear to the US taxpayer-funded USPACAHA regularly attacks major Jewish scholars with whom it disagrees, particularly on the Vilna cemetery. One infamous July 2016 tweet refers to the esteemed Professor Bernard Fryshman, who played a major role in the US Congress’s passing of a 2014 law on preservation of cemeteries of minorities, as “Lying Professor Bernard Fryshman” for holding a different point of view on CPJCE / Admas Kodesh role in the Vilnius scandal.
See earlier summary of USCPAHA’s Vilnius cemetery record and DH’s USCPAHA section (best to scroll to bottom and peruse chronologically)
London CPJCE Spokesman Proclaims a Soviet Ruin in Vilnius to be Lithuania’s “Tower of London” and its “Statue of Liberty”
OPINION | PIRAMÓNT | PAPER TRAIL | OPPOSITION | CEMETERIES
MORE ON THE CPJCE. OUR OPEN LETTER TO THEM. Exposés by Wikileaks, Jerusalem Post, JTA, and DH.
UPDATE: THIS ARTICLE WAS REPUBLISHED IN THE FIVE TOWNS JEWISH TIMES
In a remarkable interview cited today in the highly respected Five Towns Jewish Times, an Orthodox publication based in Inwood, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, and Hewlett, all in Nassau County, Queens, New York, Rabbi Abraham Ginsberg, the PR specialist for the London-based CPJCE (“Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe”) is quoted as explaining why, in his estimation, the Lithuanian state feels the burning national-priority need to build a convention center and annex in the heart of Vilna’s historic Jewish cemetery that dates to the 15th century and continues to hold the remains of thousands of Vilna Jewish citizens whose families duly bought their plots over the centuries:
“I asked the rabbi why we are accepting the fact that this excavation and construction that will potentially unearth more bones and destroy many more graves must go forward.
“The rabbi explained that the location is important to Lithuanians because it was in this stadium now in disrepair and rotting that the Lithuanians declared their independence in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism in 1990. ‘This location is Lithuania’s London Tower and Statue of Liberty; they are not letting it go anytime soon,’ Rabbi Ginsberg said.
“He’s a little upset at the American rabbis who met with the Lithuanian ambassador in Washington last week.”
Ethical & Cultural Level of “Admas Kodesh” (/CPJCE) that is Underpinned by Taxpayer-Supported USCPAHA
The reference in the tweet is to the outstanding 24 June 2016 essay by the eminent Professor Bernard Fryshman in Yated Ne’eman. Professor Fryshman’s critical role in a landmark 2014 United States Congress law protecting vulnerable cemeteries of minorities internationally was explicitly recognized in the applicable Congressional Resolution. Why would a taxpayer supported agency, USPACHA, now be engaged in repeatedly honoring the Satmar-Aaronite sect’s de facto unit for trading away other people’s graves that publicly libels Professor Fryshman and any others who seek to defend the sanctity of human burial grounds around the world?
London Beth Din (Rabbinical Court) Issues Summons to Two Leaders of Lithuania’s Official Jewish Community
LONDON—Defending History has learned from reliable sources that The Judicial Division of the London Beth Din (Court of the Chief Rabbi) issued a summons on 27 February 2017 (1 Adar 5777 by the Hebrew calendar) calling upon Simas Levinas, chairperson of the Vilna Jewish Religious Community, and Faina Kukliansky, chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, to “agree to attend a hearing and sign a binding Arbitration Agreement, on receipt of which we will fix a hearing date for the mutual convenience of all parties.”
OPINION | PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION | USCPAHA (US COMMISSION FOR AMERICAN HERITAGE ABROAD) | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH | PAPER TRAIL | CEMETERIES
VILNIUS—The Hon. Herbert Block, a prominent and popular personality known to New Yorkers from his days as the highly successful Jewish affairs liaison for the campaign and administration of New York City mayor David Dinkins years ago has emerged as a major force at the confluence of Jewish-Hasidic, American and Lithuanian-government politics on issues in Lithuanian-Jewish affairs. There are conflicting views about his myriad, and some would say conflict-of-interest laden, entanglements that include a Satmar group in Monroe, New York intent on fulfilling the wishes of Vilnius builders for a convention center and annex in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius (allegedly for the financial benefit of their London followers in the CPJCE), a US taxpayer funded agency that exists to preserve Jewish cemeteries (but has yet to issue a word of protest at the “convention center in the Jewish cemetery” project) and the Lithuanian government’s “Good Will Foundation” that allocates monies deriving from the religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania.
In Reply to 40,000 Petition Signatories, Lithuania’s Chancellor Rehashes Reliance on Allegedly Corrupt Group of London Rabbis who Reject Consensus of Litvak Rabbis Internationally
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PAPER TRAIL | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE
VILNIUS—Ms. Milda Dargužaitė, since December 2016 the highly respected Chancellor of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, on 2 June 2017 issued a written reply to Ruta Bloshtein, the Vilnius-born Orthodox Jew who last December initiated a petition on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnípishek). The petition asks the Lithuanian government to move the national convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, and to restore the historic burial ground which dates to the fifteenth century and contains the remains of many of the greatest Lithuanian Jewish scholars. There has been a massive international outcry against plans to cite a convention center in the heart of the old cemetery where revelers would cheer, clap, do politics, sing, drink at bars and use toilets surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves. Ms. Bloshtein’s petition has been signed by 40,000 people, and has been the subject of coverage in Algemeiner.com, Ami, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Journal, Tablet, and numerous other publications.
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE
VILNIUS—The following statement by Professor Shnayer (Sid) Leiman, appeared today in the respected American weekly Five Towns Jewish Times. It is a reaction to the comments by Lithuania’s top leaders, made after receiving a letter of protest from twelve United States congressmen concerning plans to site a projected new national convention center in the heart of the territory of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius). International opposition to “the convention center in the old Jewish cemetery” continues to mount.
DOCUMENTS | THE OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Following Defending History’s publication last weekend of the 28 July 2017 letter to the president of Lithuania signed by twelve United States congressmen, pleading for the new national convention center project to be moved away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), the news was reported by The Weekly of Vilnius, an elite diplomatic publication on Lithuanian affairs, and then by BNS (Baltic News Service, and in English via the Lithuania Tribune), which put it into the wider Baltic domain. Last Monday, 14 August, there were at least four panel discussions broadcast on Lithuanian TV and radio. The following are full English translations of each of these broadcasts, provided by DefendingHistory.com.
(1) LNK TV: News. With Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Faina Kukliansky, Rūta Leitanaitė, Daniel Lupschitz (Danielius Lupšicas), Deividas Matulionis, Romas Pakalnis, Donatas Stundis
New Hotel on Top of Old Jewish Cemetery in Wrocław? A Challenge for Poland’s Jewish-Interest Activists and London’s CPJCE
CEMETERIES | HUMAN RIGHTS | POLAND | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CPJCE | OPPOSITION TO VILNIUS CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | VILNIUS PETITION
WROCŁAW—It would be hard to find a better illustration of what is at stake in the current conflict over the fate of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania, than the partly analogous scenario playing out here in this western Polish city that was once the German Breslau (Yiddish Brésle), home to a major European Jewish community. The Gwarna Street Cemetery, just opposite the main railway station, was this city’s first Jewish cemetery, in active use from 1760 until 1856. Although closed for new burials in 1856, it was lovingly maintained, and remained open for visitors until World War II. Several thousand people were buried here.
Lithuania’s Prime Minister Bizarrely Claims that Conference Center on Old Jewish Cemetery will “Lift” Vilnius…
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE | MEDIA WATCH
VILNIUS—In comments reported today by the Lithuanian press service ELTA, the nation’s prime minister, Saulius Skvernelis has announced and hailed the decision to proceed with a national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery as one that “will lift the Lithuanian capital to a higher level of competitiveness in tourism.” He also notes that “the lack of a modern congress center in Vilnius is the main obstacle for the development of conference tourism in Lithuania,” not mentioning that there are numerous alternative sites for much more rapid and hassle-free construction of such a center.
OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES
by Sid Leiman
with photographs and input by Julius Norwilla
Not only the living turn to dust; the dead do so as well. So too the tombstones we erect in their memory. Some people merit having their tombstone stand for one generation; others merit having their tombstone stand for two generations. But in the end, it gradually sinks until it is swallowed up by the earth.
S. Y. Agnon, A City in Its Fullness
Chief Rabbi of Western Wall and and Holy Sites in Israel Calls on Lithuania’s President to Cancel Convention Center Project at Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
DOCUMENTS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CPJCE
JERUSALEM—The 1 February 2018 letter of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in Israel to the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, was released here today for publication. In it, the world-renowned rabbi who heads the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, pleads with the president of Lithuania to “cancel this plan to make this site a convention center.” He reminds her of the tens of thousands of Jews buried at the old Piramónt cemetery of Vilna, now in the Šnipiškės district of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. His letter follows the 7 January 2018 letter from the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, and the pleas of virtually all the world’s leading rabbis of Litvak heritage (and many others) over recent years, in addition to many people of good faith of all backgrounds.