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.
In addition, they released a PDF of yet another letter from the prime minister’s office that likewise fails to mention the main issue: the Cemetery Convention Center (CCC), as it is rapidly becoming known.
The project has been condemned by all other rabbis who have cared to speak out, including the greatest living Litvak rabbinical heads of yeshivas in the United States and in Israel, as part of a growing chorus of international opposition to the desecration of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. For more background, see our editor’s open letter to the London group and the paper trail to date (which includes the 2009 Wikileaks cable which refers to the need for $100,000 in rabbinical supervision fees).
Lithuania’s own chief rabbi was recently dismissed because of his opposition to the cemetery desecration plans. During their April visit, the Londoners did not even bother to notify any of the three resident rabbis in Vilnius of the multi-million dollars project for which they were being recruited as de-facto friendly supervisors. What do they say now about the dismissal of their rabbinic colleague? This issue too is omitted from their full-page press release.
Readers who wish to follow what is actually in play, under the auspices of the Lithuanian government and associated property developers, are invited to look at the purple-coded entries on the paper trail page. The prime minister has even spoken proudly of the hotel and parking lots to be added once the convention center is complete. The European Commission is well aware of the multi-million euro grants slated for the project from EU structural funds and major international protests are being planned.