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.
The extraordinary perceived need to trample old Jewish gravestones to go to church in twenty-first century Vilnius was first reported by Defending History in 2013. In addition to the Hebrew writing on some being visible there is the testimony of the city’s top specialist, Genrich Agranovski, on the whereabouts of the gravestones from the two great cemeteries that the Soviets destroyed after the war. This year, however, the continued abuse of the gravestones was noticed by a reporter from JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) whose report was widely republished. It included a quotation from the chief rabbi of Lithuania, Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, who raised the issue on his own Facebook page in February 2015. Rabbi Burshtein’s quotes in the JTA article include this observation:
“We regret the deplorable state and destruction of the last remnants of the memory of Lithuanian Jewry.”
— Chief Rabbi of Lithuania Chaim Burshtein
Riga-based Wall Street Journal journalist Juris Kaža has posted this comment:
“The first thing the pastor of the church should have done, once Lithuania was fully independent, was to call the rabbi of the nearest synagogue and say: Let’s get together, find any stonemasons or construction workers in our congregations and jointly remove and conserve the ‘steps’ and build something temporary so folks can get in and out of church.”