As 2017 gets underway, Defending History is proud to honor three Vilnius personalities, this year all from its Orthodox Jewish community, who have stood up for cherished principles against powerful forces. In all cases, the principles defended pertain also to human rights more generally. Their courage and determination can serve as an example to all who defend human rights and history even when it is inconvenient and draws the ire of power-invested institutions that are often associated with state-supported entities.
The three honorees are, in alphabetical order, Ruta Bloshtein, Rabbi Kalev Krelin, and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky. On Facebook. See from previous years the Prophet Amos Human Rights Awards and the 2014 Person of the Year.
Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Bold Citizens Speak Out, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016)
Tagged Chabad Lithuania, Commission for the Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad., Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, CPJCE (London), Good Will Foundation (Lithuania), Jacob Piliansky, Jewish Restitution (Lithuania), Jews in Lithuania, Leon Kaplan, Lithuanian Jewish, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Ms Ruta Bloshtein, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Rabbi Kalev Krelin, Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, USCPAHA, Vilnius Jewish cemetery
NEW YORK—The Brooklyn based office of the international NGO Asra Kadisha that works to preserve Jewish cemeteries worldwide from desecration has released the following statement to coincide with the official visit to Israel of Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaitė. Titled “World Jewry Hopes that Lithuanian President’s Visit to Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem will Result in Government’s Cancellation of Development Plans on Vilnius Cemetery,” it calls on the president to cancel the mass desecration of the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital by a convention center where crowds would cheer, sing and drink surrounded by many thousands of Jewish graves. The old cemetery is in the Šnipiškės (Shnipishok) district, and is known in Vilna Yiddish culture as Piramónt. The Asra Kadisha statement reads as follows:
Posted in Appeals to the European Commission on Piramónt, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok)
Tagged Asra Kadisha, Dalie Grybauskaite, Jewish-Lithuanian issues, Piramont (Snipiskes), Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Rabbi Lazar Stern, Snipiskes Jewish cemetery, Yad Vashem
NEW YORK—Rabbi Lazar Stern, New York area chairman of the international religious Asra Kadisha organization that calls for preservation of threatened Jewish cemeteries, issued a statement today concerning the latest prima facie instance of desecration of the final resting place of dead Jewish citizens of Lithuania. This time the fracas concerns a Holocaust-era mass grave site in Šiauliai (Shavl), in northwestern Lithuania. Published in a number of media outlets, including Baltic News Service (BNS), News.lt, Gnome.es, the Asra Kadisha statement calls for an immediate halt to the ongoing excavations. These works rapidly resulted in lurid pictures of human remains and personal possessions (including shoes) with which these people were murdered, being splashed over a number of Lithuanian online publications, including 15min.lt; Etaplius.lt; Skrastas.lt; Snaujienos.lt. Asra Kadisha is Aramaic for “Holy Place” and refers here to the sanctity of human burial grounds.
UPDATE OF 16 JULY:
Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok)
Tagged Asra Kadisha, Holocaust in Lithuania, Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Jewish cemetery Snipiskes / Snipisek / Shnipishok / Piramont, mass grave in Siauliai (Shavl), Rabbi Chaim Burshtein
Rabbi Chaim Burshtein
VILNIUS—Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, chief rabbi of Lithuania (and of Vilnius) today issued a heartfelt appeal to both national government authorities, and to the municipal leadership of Šiauliai (known in Jewish history as Shavl), to call an immediate halt to the excavation of hundreds of victims’ remains from a Holocaust-era mass grave site uncovered during a highway construction project.
The discovery was widely reported in the Lithuanian and regional media, including the English-language Lithuania Tribune (English Delfi.lt). Various Lithuanian media outlets have reveled in publishing photos of skulls, bones and other remains from the mass grave being dismantled, sometimes including shoes and clothing (among others: 15min.lt; Etaplius.lt; Skrastas.lt; Snaujienos.lt).
The BNS (Baltic News Service) report quotes the official responsible archaeologist, Audronė Šapaitė on the decision reached (apparently without consultation with Jewish religious authorities): “It’s been decided to excavate the remains, do anthropological tests and then rebury them and also mark this place.”
UPDATE OF 16 JULY:
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.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Appeals to the European Commission on Piramónt, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, CPJCE (London), Double Games, EU, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Lithuania, Lithuanian Adventures of the Hon. Herbert Block (AK, AZM, (LG)CJH, CPJCE, GWF, USCPAHA, SATMAR/“AARON BRANCH", WJRO), Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory, United States, US State Dept Manipulated?, Yivo Manipulated?
Tagged American Heritage Abroad Commission, Andrew Baker, Antisemitism in Eastern Europe, Commission for the Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad., Herbert Block, Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, Jewish Heritage Research Center, Jewish Sites Survey, Jonathan Brent, Jules Fleischer, Lina Saulenaite, Lithuanian-Jewish relations, Michael Maass, preservation of jewish historic sites in Europe, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Rabbi Israel Isaac Kalmanovitz, Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik, Rabbi Tzvi Rotberg, Samuel Gruber, Samuel Gruber's Jewish Art & Monuments, US government + Vilna Jewish cemetery, Vilna Jewish cemeter Piramont, Vilnius Jewish cemetery Snipiskes, Yivo + Vilnius, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Yivo Lithuania
VILNIUS—The website of the Reformed Evangelical Church services this weekend advertised today’s Sunday service with a previously-made photo of pastors and worshippers posing for a photograph with their shoes pressing into the pilfered Jewish gravestones, some of which still have visible writing, of which the steps to the church are made. The church has still issued no public statement on its retention of the Soviet-era made-of-pilfered-Jewish-gravestones steps even after its much-celebrated reconstruction and restoration less than a decade ago.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Reformed Evangelical Church (Vilnius)
Tagged Chief rabbi of Lithuania, Christian-Jewish relations, Christianity in post-Soviet space, Evangelikų reformatų bažnyčia, Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, Jewish gravestones in Lithuania, Lithuania, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Reformed Evangelical Church in Lithuania