The Lithuanian Misadventures of Some Rabbis from London?

 This page is excerpted from our paper trail page on the old Vilna Jewish cemetery.



Showing the rabbis around

April 2015: The prime minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius (3rd from left) is joined by Jewish affairs expert Lina Saulėnaitė in persuading one (not very Litvak-looking) haredi delegation to effectively bless the development of a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the ruined old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius. The convention-blessers did not bother to inform any of Vilnius’s three rabbis of their visit or the meeting. Still from: TV video (at: Alternate video link

27 May 2009.  State Department cable from the United States ambassador in Lithuania refers to the CPJCE’s need for $100,000 for supervision of beautification and exploratory digging works at the Piramont/Snipiskes cemetery [this after completion of the two buildings on the site and assurances that no more would ever be built, and before any public talk of a convention center on the site].

8 July 2014.  Lithuania Tribune / ‘Jewish cemetery location in Vilnius put under state protection’ by BNS EN.

8 August 2014.  United States Congress: ‘Public Law 113-154: To amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the desecration
of cemeteries among the many forms of violations of the right to religious freedom’. Related information on the law’s enactment: The Yeshiva World News of 11 August 2014: ‘UJO of Williamsburg applauds President Obama for signing “The Protect Cemeteries Act”‘.

14 January 2015.  Government of the Republic of Lithuania, Seimas (Parliament): ‘Resolution on the composition of the Commission.

28 January 2015.  Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania: Directive on working group overseeing the new convention center as project of national importance.

12 February 2015.  Lithuania Tribune / ‘Soviet-era Vilnius Sports Palace to be reconstructed as congress centre’ by Elta EN.

8 April 2015.  Government of the Republic of Lithuania: Widely circulated set of documents confirming 14 January 2015 establishment of new commission to deal with Jewish cemeteries and other matters and details of commission’s maiden May 2015 meeting in Vilnius.

8 April 2015.  Defending History: ‘The Lithuanian government’s new commission on Lithuanian Jewish heritage’ [document].

14 April 2015.  Government of the Republic of Lithuania: ‘Prime Minister discusses with the Jewish Community conversion of Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace’.

15 April 2015.  Lithuania Tribune / ‘Jewish organizations and Lithuanian government agree on sensitive renovation in central Vilnius’ by BNS.

16 April 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania website: ‘Delegation from a European Jewish cemeteries committee in Vilnius’.

19 April 2015.  VIDEO: ‘Government planning to put millions in Palace of Sports’ [in Lithuanian: Už Sporto rūmus Vyriausybė užsimojo pakloti milijonus]. Alternate link.

1 May 2015.  Jewish Chronicle: ‘Lithuania to cooperate over Vilna Gaon grave site’ by Simon Rocker.

6 May 2015.  JPUdates: ‘Lithuanian PM meets Jewish leaders to discuss protection of cemeteries’ by Sol Rieger.

7 May 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania: ‘Government and Jewish reps agree how to safeguard cemeteries’ by BNS and Lietuvos rytas.

7 May 2015.  Government of the Republic of Lithuania: ‘The first meeting of the Commission for the Issues Concerning the Jewish History and Culture in Lithuania has been held’.

8 May 2015. / Lithuania Tribune: ‘Lithuanian government and Jewish community agree on plan to preserve Jewish heritage sites’ by BNS.

8 May 2015.  Der Blat [New York Haredi Yiddish weekly]: ‘The Committee for Rescue of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (Admath Kodesh) receives promise from Vilnius city council on guarding the sanctity of the Jewish cemetery […] New Commission is founded to safeguard the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves all across Lithuania’ [in Yiddish: “Váad lehatsólas bótey-álmin b’Eyrópe — Ádmas Kóydesh” krigt farshprékhung fun Vílner shtótrat íber shmíras kedúshas beys-hakháyim (….) Náye komísye gegríndet af úftsuhìtn di hunderter bòtey-kháyim un kìvrey-ákhim lengoys Líte]. NOTE: The article’s final column contains the following text (here translated):“In these days there is also the positive news of establishment of a new Commission comprising a group of secular organizations together with the Jewish communities of Lithuania which will set up a permanent guard for the many Jewish cemeteries and mass graves throughout Lithuania and will be officially recognized by the Lithuanian government as the Legitimate Representative of the Jewish cemeteries. It is likewise announced that any questions or problems that may arise in the Commission in the course of its work of safeguarding Jewish cemeteries shall duly be addressed to the Váad Lehatsólas Bótey Álmin [Admas Kodesh / CPJCE] whose clear Torah Judgment of Truth and practical support is of worldwide renown.”

19 May 2015.  Reuters: ‘Threats to Vilnius Jewish cemetery recur’ by PR Newswire.

20 May 2015.  Lo Tishkach (Thou Shalt Not Forget) Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (FB page): ‘Threats to Vilnius Jewish cemetery recur’.

26 May 2015.  Yoreh Deya [blog]: ‘A charlatan returned to the scene of the crime’ by Rabbi Eliyahu Caufman [in Hebrew: Hanokhel khazar limekom hapesha].

28 May 2015.  Hamodia: ‘Outcry over renewed threats to Vilna cemetery’ by Rafael Hoffman.

5 June 2015.  Lithuanian General Consulate in New York (Facebook): delegation of rabbis visiting at the Consulate.

7 June 2015.  JDN:  ‘The government of Lithuania will protect the Jewish cemetery in Vilna; delegation from “Sacred Earth” and Agudath Israel in the United States thanked the ambassador [of Lithuania]’ by Chaim Jacob Elenbogen [in Hebrew: Memshelet Lita tagen al bet ha-almin be-Vilna; Mishlakhat “Admat Kodesh” ve-Agudat Yisrael be-Artsot ha-Brit hodata lashagrir].

7 June 2015.  Letter from Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach (Jerusalem), dated 26 − 31 May 2015, is posted on Facebook by Gary Schlesinger.

8 June 2015. ‘Grave of the Gaon of Vilna has been rescued: Rabbis thanked the ambassador of Lithuania’ by Mendi Klein [in Hebrew: Kever haGra mi-Vilna nitsal: harabanim hodu leshagrir Lita].

8 June 2015. ‘Lithuanian Consul reaffirms pledge to guard Jewish cemeteries’ by Sol Rieger.

9 June 2015.  Lithuania Tribune / ‘Vilnius Sports Palace renovation deemed project of national importance’ by BNS.

10 June 2015.  Defending History: ‘Would this building project be pursued if the cemetery were the resting place of Christians?’ by Michael Maass.  Reposted by the Jewish Community of Lithuania.

14 June 2015.  Defending History: ‘Were rabbis, U.S. Jewish leaders, a U.S. gov. agency and the EU manipulated into supporting a $25,000,000 convention center on Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery?’ by Dovid Katz.

15 June 2015.  EJP / European Jewish Press: ‘Jewish groups alarmed at Lithuania’s plan to build a congress centre on site of former Jewish cemetery’.

15 June 2015. ‘Jewish rights group opposes European funding for convention center on site of Lithuanian Jewish cemetery’ by Eliezer Sherman.

25 June 2015.  The Times of Israel: ‘Dancing on Jewish Graves in Vilna’ by Pinchos Fridberg.

2 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Israel’s leading Litvak rabbis issue impassioned protest against convention center plans for the old Vilna Jewish cemetery’.

2 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Vilna Gaon Synagogue in Tel Aviv posts protest against Vilnius convention center plan for old Jewish Cemetery.

2 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada Protests Desecration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’.

15 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Asra Kadisha faults Lithuanian authorities for forming “Heritage Commission” to preserve cemeteries while “doing the opposite on the ground”’.

16 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Piramónt: But what was solemnly agreed back in 2009?’

21 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Open Letter to members of CPJCE in the UK: Do you really want a convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery?’

28 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Latest bizarre dissonance over Piramont’ (opinion).

28 July 2015.  Delfi / Lithuania Tribune: ‘Architects present visions for redevelopment of Žalgiris Stadium and Sports Palace in Vilnius’ by Ugnė Karalūnaitė.

28 July 2015.  Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania: Directive on replacement of the working group overseeing the new convention center and beautification of the Jewish cemetery [as PDF].

29 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘“Absolute Barbarism”: An Orthodox Jewish Resident of Vilnius Speaks Out on Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Cemetery’ by Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein. [Lithuanian original here].

30 July 2015.  Defending History: ‘Twelve leading heads of yeshivas call on Lithuania to halt Piramónt (Šnipiškės) cemetery desecration.

30 July 2015.  Hamodia: ‘Gedolei Roshei Yeshiva issue Kol Korei about threats to Vilnius

cemetery’ by Rafael Hoffman [+ Hebrew and English text versions of the document].

4 August 2015.  The Calvert Journal: ‘Architects put forward their visions for Vilnius Žalgiris Stadium and Sports Palace’ by Elise Morton.

4 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Vilnius professor of architectural and civil engineering speaks out on Sports Palace at the Old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish cemetery’ by Josifas Parasonis.

6 August 2015.  Jerusalem Post: ‘Lithuanian chief rabbi accuses government of deportation threat’ by Sam Sokol.

6 August 2015. ‘Lithuanian TSA officer tells chief rabbi he may never be allowed to re-enter country’ by Eliezer Sherman.

6 August 2015.  The Times of Israel: ‘Lithuania’s chief rabbi may face deportation’.

7 August 2015. Defending History: “A tale of two tweets”.

8 August 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania: ‘Head of LJC Faina Kukliansky on articles in foreign press about Chaim Burshtein’ by Faina Kukliansky.

9 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘A Latvian-American journalist in Riga reflects on a Jewish cemetery saga in Vilnius’ by Juris Kaža.

11 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Translation of the summer 2015 call by 12 Litvak rabbis in the US on Vilnius Jewish cemetery‘.

11 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Lithuania’s chief rabbi issues statement opposing convention center project at old Jewish cemetery’.

11 August 2015.  Jerusalem Post: ‘Anger flares over Lithuanian sports complex planned over Jewish graveyard’ by Sam Sokol.

12 August 2015.  Simon Wiesenthal Center / Operation Last Chance: ‘Wiesenthal Center issues statement on old jewish cemetery in Vilnius’ [Also in Defending History].

13 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘European Commission redirects cemetery inquiry to Lithuanian Finance Ministry, cites CPJCE’S “close cooperation”’.

13 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Lithuania’s Chief Rabbi cites evidence that non-Litvak London rabbis get paid for their “permissions” to desecrate Vilnius Jewish cemetery’.

13 August 2015.  Facebook: Statement by Rabbi Chaim Burstein [on 2009 US Embassy cable referring to payment of $100,000 to outside parties in connection with the old Jewish cemetery at Piramont] [in Russian].

13 August 2015. Defending History: ‘Jewish Community website posts response to Jerusalem Post article on Piramónt’.

13 August 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania: ‘About the anger on Šnipiškes cemetery and the Congress Centre project’.

14 August 2015.  JTA: Lithuania’s chief rabbi fired amid dispute over construction on former cemetery’.

14 August 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania: ‘LJC Chairwoman responds to attacks in Israeli press’ by Faina Kukliansky.

14 August 2015.  Jewish Community of Lithuania: ‘Report by Vilnius Jewish Religious Community on August 14, 2015′.

14 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Satmar Grand Rabbi and Rabbinical Court Call on Lithuanian Gov. to Abandon Convention Center in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’.

14 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Lithuania’s Chief Rabbi fired days after issuing statement opposing convention center in old Vilna Jewish cemetery’.

14 August 2015.  Defending  History: ‘What does the 27 May 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Vilnius tell us about the CPJCE, money and secrecy?

15 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Chairperson of Lithuanian Jewish Community issues statement after sack of chief rabbi’.

16 August 2015.  Jewish Heritage Europe: ‘Vilnius old Jewish cemetery dispute seems involved in chief rabbi’s dismissal’.

17 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘U.S. Author of Lithuanian Heritage comments on Vilnius cemetery convention center’ by Donna Druchunas’.

17 August 2015.  Lithuania Tribune / English ‘Lithuanian Jewish community to appoint new rabbi’ by BNS.

17 August 2015.  Jerusalem Post: ‘Lithuanian chief rabbi fired over cemetery dispute’ by Sam Sokol.

18 August 2015. ‘Lithuanian Jews dump chief rabbi for ‘lies’ as lengthy war over fate of ancient cemetery rages on’ by Steve.

21 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Motke Chabad weighs in on Vilnius debate’ by Motke Chabad.

23 August 2015. ‘Lituanie: Profanation du cimetière juif de Vilnius par les autorités pour construire un Centre de Congrès avec les fonds de l’Union européenne’ by Didier Bertin.

23 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘London “graveyard giveaway rabbis” issue statement that fails to mention convention center’.

23 August 2015.  CPJCE / Admas Kodesh (London): ‘Press release’.

23 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘Serge Klarsfeld calls on EU to desist from “structural funds” for the “Cemetery Convention Center” in Vilnius.

24 August 2015.  The Times of Israel [French edition]: ‘Profanation du cimetière juif de Vilnius – Lettre au Président de la Commission Européenne’ by Didier Bertin.

25 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘A New Yorker’s open letter to the vice president of the European Commission’ by Berel Fried.

25 August 2015.  Jerusalem Post: ‘Lithuanian PM: Sports complex in Jewish cemetery to be built with “proper respect”’ by Sam Sokol.

26 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘US rep of London rabbis involved with Vilnius cemetery fiasco boasts of photo-ops at the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad’.

26 August 2015.  Jerusalem Post: ‘Rabbinic delegation asks Lithuania to cancel planned conference center in Vilna cemetery’ by Sam Sokol.

27 August 2015.  Defending History: ‘But who is opposed to a convention center in the middle of the Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery?



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