What should be done with the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius)? It should be restored. For this to happen, the Soviet ruin in its center should be taken down to ground level, with no further earthworks in the cemetery, ever. Let it forever remain a testimonial to the vibrancy of Jewish life in Vilna.
Two of Vilna’s greatest photographers and artists, Juozapas Kamarauskas (d. 1946) and Jan Bulhak (d. 1950) were mesmerized by Vilna’s Jewish sites, and especially by the Old Jewish Cemetery. They left us with an abundance of photographs and sketches of the Old Jewish Cemetery. Jewish scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries, residents of Vilna, recorded and published for posterity meticulous transcriptions of the texts of hundreds of epitaphs inscribed on the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery.
We have maps of the Old Jewish Cemetery that identify the precise locations of hundreds of the graves. Let the Old Jewish Cemetery be restored with trees.
A perfect model for us is the old Jewish cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany. Despite its being in the center of the modern city of Frankfurt, it has been restored magnificently and with dignity, and it blends in perfectly with the pulsating, modern city that surrounds it. It is an attraction for visitors from every part of the world and a vital blessing to real education about what was once there, then mostly destroyed, and is now restored.
What modern Vilnius does not need is yet another Soviet-era eyesore with a plaque that reads “Here resided the Old Jewish Cemetery of Vilna.”