LOS ANGELES AND JERUSALEM—The leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have appealed to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite to change the current plans of the government to build a convention center on the grounds of the ancient Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the heart of the Lithuanian capital.
In a letter sent late last night by Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Center’s Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and its Director of Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the leaders of the Wiesenthal Center emphasized the historic importance of the cemetery in which numerous outstanding rabbinic scholars were buried over several centuries and the danger the project posed to the future of Lithuanian-Jewish relations.
According to the letter sent by Hier, Cooper and Zuroff:
“…the cemetery at Piramónt was the burial site of many thousands of Jewish residents of the city of Vilnius for hundreds of years, among them many of Lithuanian Jewry’s most famous rabbinical scholars. These outstanding Torah luminaries were one of the main reasons that your capital was crowned the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’, a title that Lithuanians are proud of to this day.
“We fully understand and acknowledge that it was the Soviets who initially pillaged the cemetery, but the area upon which the convention center will be built is still full of Jewish graves. Thus any building project on this land will constitute a grave desecration of an ancient Jewish burial ground.
“We therefore urge you to change the location of the planned convention center, and spare the site of this ancient Jewish cemetery, a decision which we are certain will strengthen the good relations between Jews and Lithuanians and between Israel and your country.”