NEW YORK CITY—Dr. Bernard Fryshman, physics professor at the New York Institute of Technology here, today published a new article concerning the imminent danger to thousands of Jewish graves in Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery upon which a huge $25,000,000 convention center, structured to yield hundreds of millions for property developers is about to be erected, where revelers will clap, sing and use toilets surrounded by the graves of Vilna Jewry paid for, on the understanding of possession in perpetuity, by untold thousands of families between the late fifteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Protestant and Catholic ethicists have noted that such would never be the disrespect shown a cemetery full of Christian (or majority ethnicity) scholars in a great capital city of Europe. Last summer, Lithuania’s chief rabbi was rapidly fired by the Jewish community’s lay-leader-cum-private-attorney, after he spoke against the convention center project. His replacement has yet to speak out for the record; in the interim the search for a new chief rabbi was the subject of latter day Vilna folklore).
On Prof. Fryshman’s initiative, the International Religious Freedom Act was in 2014 amended by the United States Congress to include assaults against cemeteries of minorities anywhere in the world.
The plans to allow a convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, known as Piramónt, situated in today’s Šnipiškės district, have drawn shock and condemnation from rabbinic and secular Jewish, and other, leaders around the world, including Vilna’s oldest native-born Holocaust survivor, a Latvian-American journalist, a Vilnius kosher-food supervisor, among those locally who have joined virtually all the top Litvak (Lithuanian-origin/tradition) rabbinic leaders internationally in asking for the convention center to be relocated.The world’s top scholar of the Vilna cemetery’s history, Prof. Sidney Leiman, has explained Jewish law and lore as well as providing detailed reconstructions of the major inscriptions that could be used in a good-well restoration of the grounds as a permanent cemetery cum memorial ground for the Jews of the city once known as “Jerusalem of Lithuania.” Vilnius’s long term privately based Litvak rabbi, Rabbi S.J. Feffer, was one of the first last year to issue a rabbinic edict against disturbing the old cemetery, and was quoted by JTA.
“Most shocking is a statement signed by Rabbi Yeshaya Schlesinger and Rabbi Abraham Ginsberg of the CPJCE that […] the CPJCE approves and endorses the ‘Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports conversion to Congress Center 2016 Plan B’ and wish this venture every success.” — Dr. Bernard Fryshman (July 2016)
In today’s article, Professor Fryshman mentions by name the mysteriously silent US taxpayer funded “US Commission for the Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad” and the London based CPJCE. That organization (the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe) was exposed last year by both the Jerusalem Post and JTA as having received secret payments for their “supervision” (see also section on the CPJCE). based on Wikileaks documents. The strange antics of the US Commission for the Preservation of the American Heritage abroad over the cemetery have been followed in detail by Defending History. It has been involved in unrelated scandals over the last year.
“We will persist in trying to stop this project. But if [Heaven forbid] it carries through, there is ample shame and lots of blame to be shared.” — Dr. Bernard Fryshman (July 2016)