OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE
VILNIUS—The following statement by Vilnius native and resident Ruta Bloshtein, an active member of the city’s religious Jewish community, appeared today as an update to her international petition, which has just approached the 40,000 signature mark. Her update was issued as 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.
August 14, 2017
Greetings from Vilna (Vilnius), Lithuania. I hope you are genuinely enjoying a wonderful summer! I write with updates in our struggle to prevent the destruction of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery and its desecration by the planned national convention center. Thanks to all of YOU who have signed our petition and helped in our work, the “gezeira” (bad decree) has been postponed for a few years and now the talk is of the new convention center opening in 2021 instead of 2018. But we must redouble our efforts NOW because building work is now again scheduled to start any day now!
(1) Thanks in great part to YOUR raising of awareness, TWELVE United States Congressmen just sent a powerful letter to the president of Lithuania. For the details and a facsimile of the letter please see:
(2) Within minutes of Baltic News Service (BNS) here reporting on the letter earlier today, there came a barrage of replies from the president, the foreign minister, a top advisor to the prime minister, and deputy director of the Cultural Heritage Dept. In the middle of August, they swung into action immediately! They claim that the Soviet eyesore that sits in the middle of the holy cemetery is some kind of protected national treasure (in a country where we all hate the Soviet eyesores that marred our landscape before our national independence!). See:
(3) These replies also make reference to the shameful collaboration of a small group of London rabbis (the “CPJCE”), proven to be less than proper, who actually take big fees for their “supervision and permissions” as shown by Wikileaks (see: http://defendinghistory.com/london-cpjce-spokesman-proclaims-a-soviet-ruin-in-vilnius-to-be-lithuanias-london-tower-and-its-statue-of-liberty/86666). These London rabbis, amazingly, IGNORE the unanimous voice of all the greatest rabonim who have spoken out all around the world with such sharp moral clarity and Jewish ethical authority. See:
The government officials who rushed to shout down our pleas today also make reference to the current “official” leadership of the Jewish community who is, most Jewish people here feel, illegally clinging to power after incredibly rigging our recent community elections See:
There is no mention of the democratically elected Vilnius Jewish Community, with its 21-member elected council, which represents the 2,200 Jews of Vilnius, constituting the overwhelming majority of Jewish people alive in the country today.
The rapid shoutdowns from our current government leaders cannot compare to YOU, the 40,000 signatories of our petition, and compared to the great roster of rabbis, leaders and Jewish and Christian personalities and institutions, and good people, right here in Lithuania, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have pleaded with the Lithuanian government to just move the convention center elsewhere, including all the great Lithuanian (Litvish) tradition rabbis internationally. See:
Most recently, a noble Christian citizen of Lithuania, deeply disturbed that this could be happening, produced posters in English, Lithuanian and Yiddish. See:
So, I call out again for your help!
First, please can we now rapidly work together to achieve 10,000 more signatures to bring the petition to 50,000 signatures? Please contact your local synagogues, schools, interfaith organizations and media to spread the word about our petition.
Second, please contact your elected officials to urge them to join these 12 congressmen in expressing their concern to the leaders of our country and very importantly, to release their letters to the public domain.
If we continue to stand together, we will, with G-d’s help, absolutely succeed. Thank you and G-d bless you!
Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein (Vilnius)