OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY |OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
by Ruta Bloshtein (Vilnius)
This article appeared in Lithuanian on the website of the official Jewish Community of Lithuania. After the site’s editor refused to publish an English version on the site’s extensive English-language section, the author released this text for publication here. See also Ms. Bloshtein’s recent article in New York’s Algemeiner Journal. She is the author of the international petition concerning the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery.
In his article “On the Reconstruction of the Palace of Sports on the Old Vilnius Šnipiškės (Piramont) Jewish Cemetery into the New Congress Center” (“Dėl Sporto rūmų rekonstrukcijos ant esančių senųjų Vilniaus žydų Šnipiškių (Piramonto) kapinių į naują Kongresų centrą”), published on the Lithuanian Jewish Community website on December 12, 2019, the author expresses his concern over the possibility of the cemetery being desecrated for the third time if the decision to demolish the building of the Palace of Sports was made.
The author calls the suggestion to restore the cemetery a “delirious fantasy”—in effect a slur against the suggestion by highly esteemed Professor Sid Leiman, who has spent many years researching the history, plans, and epitaphs of the Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Cemetery in great detail.
“In the end, is there a difference between this project and the Soviet one? Their outcome is one and the same: dancing on the bones of our ancestors.”
“We should not hide behind the masks of Jewish sanctity, patriotism, and guardianship of the Jewish tradition,” says the author to all 46,600 people who signed the protest petition, to dozens of leaders of the great Litvak yeshivas in the USA and Israel, to the Central Rabbinical Congress of the US and Canada, to Members of the US Congress and Senate, to Members of the Knesset, to local Jews and Lithuanians, and to many others who have officially expressed their concern in their letters to the President of Lithuania, the Prime Minister, and Mayor of Vilnius.
Professors Josif Parasonis and Pinchos Fridberg, mentioned by the author, have distanced themselves from this article. The meaning of their statements on the fate of the Palace of Sports has been torn out of its context and presented in a distorted manner.
According to the author, the only way to ensure the preservation of the Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery is to raise Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports for a new life (State Enterprise Turto Bankas joyfully presents this project as the “resurrection” of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports!).
Hence, in the author’s opinion, the best way to preserve the cemetery is to attract as many tourists as possible to its territory and amaze them with delights of international festivals; not to create the adequate atmosphere of solemnity and respect to the buried but, on the contrary, gather crowds of clueless guests for a never-ending celebration on top of Vilna’s Jewish graves.
In the end, is there a difference between this project and the Soviet one? Their outcome is one and the same: dancing on the bones of our ancestors.