The 2023 ‘Working Group’ on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

But Who Will Now Tend to the Fate of the Vilnius Sports Palace?


 


OPINION  | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES  |  CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER

by Andrius Kulikauskas

What is there now and what could be restored: Clockwise from top left: The Soviet eyesore today; three details from paintings by Alfred Holler (1888–1954) at the current exhibit ‘Outsiders Look at Vilnius’ at the National Art Gallery in Vilnius. Photos: Andrius Kulikauskas.

After several phone calls, I learned that First Deputy Chancellor of the Government of Lithuania, Rolandas Kriščiūnas, is responsible for organizing the Commission which will develop the vision for the future of the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace and the Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Šnipiškės) which this building desecrates. On April 6, 2023, I wrote him with my concerns that the Commission include some of the local Litvaks who had opposed the conversion of this building into a congress center and who now oppose its conversion into a Jewish memorial or museum.

I have yet to receive a reply.

Here is my letter, translated from Lithuanian into English:

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Posted in Andrius Kulikauskas, Antisemitism & Bias, Bold Citizens Speak Out, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on But Who Will Now Tend to the Fate of the Vilnius Sports Palace?

Please Email Lithuania’s Prime Minister to Do Away with the Soviet Building Desecrating Vilnius’s Oldest Jewish Cemetery



OPINION  | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES  |  CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER

by Andrius Kulikauskas

In 2020, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė struck funding and thereby ended plans to convert the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace into a congress center. The Soviets had desecrated the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) by constructing and utilizing this building there. 53,000 people signed Ruta Bloshtein’s petition asking Lithuania’s leaders not to desecrate it further. Many people from around the world wrote letters which convinced the Prime Minister to strike funding.

In 2022, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a Commission to develop a vision whereby the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace would be repurposed as a Jewish memorial and museum.  Unfortunately, no compromise can make this building compatible with the cemetery it desecrates.  Sadly, the Commission has yet to include any of the local Litvaks who opposed use of the building.  International support is needed that their voices be heard.

On April 6th, as a member of Gerbkime kapines (Respect Cemeteries), I wrote to First Deputy Chancellor Rolandas Kriščiūnas to raise my concerns about this lack of representation.  Sadly, he has been slow to reply.

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Posted in Andrius Kulikauskas, Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Please Email Lithuania’s Prime Minister to Do Away with the Soviet Building Desecrating Vilnius’s Oldest Jewish Cemetery

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Announces Members of New Commission on Fate of Hated Soviet Ruin in Heart of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery



OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER

VILNIUS—Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė was highly praised by Defending History for her bold and historic August 2021 cancellation of the “convention center in the Jewish cemetery” project that had been causing Lithuania’s stature so much unnecessary damage (see Šimonytė section). It had been supported by corrupt politicians, money-hungry builders and contractors, a corrupt group of London “grave sellers” (the CPJCE), and an array of “Useful Jewish Idiots” who have repeatedly betrayed the living remnants of Lithuanian Jewry over decades, via what some describe as an acquired addiction to honors, photo-ops, grants, junkets, medals, translations of their writings, and assorted other catnip products. One of them was even a veteran of a 2007-2008 commission who helped provide “American Jewish cover” for the “two green buildings” (combined residence and business) on the cemetery site that are surrounded by graves on all four sides to this day (more exactly: he was brought in after construction of the first to help smooth the way for the second; he did utter some general sentiments of protest in a New York Yiddish newspaper but refused the editor’s permission for his piece to appear in the paper’s English supplement “because I’m going to be there soon”).

Missing from the commission (the PM’s advisors really missed an opportunity here) are the three Lithuanian-citizen, Lithuania-resident heroes of the story who steadfast work over years saved their country from the future humiliation of an American president refusing to set foot in a “convention center in the Jewish cemetery” — Ruta Bloshtein (author of the international petition), Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, and Julius Norwilla.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lithuania’s Prime Minister Announces Members of New Commission on Fate of Hated Soviet Ruin in Heart of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery

Will Working Group Have Courage to Just Say No to New Wave of Building & Profit from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery? And — a Tale of Two Green Buildings



OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER

Is this what “Jewish cemetery restoration in Holocaust-stricken Europe” looks like? For details of the results here of new builds and refurbishments on Jewish cemeteries, click on the image. As the buildings on the cemetery were going up, there was a long parade of government (and builders’) assurances that the dignity of the cemetery would never be violated there. Photo by William Pahl for DefendingHistory.com

by Dovid Katz

On the 4th of May this year, Defending History published the official document issued by the Office of the Prime Minister of Lithuania announcing the members appointed to the latest commission (“Working Group”) on the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the historic Shnípishok district, today’s Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius). In the accompanying Opinion piece, the DH community expressed the view that “Never before has a state commission been empaneled on such a ‘Water is wet’ question. Of course the capital’s last Soviet eyesore (and symbol of brutal foreign domination) should be demolished and the 500 year old Vilna Jewish Cemetery restored. […] The argument that it can’t be touched because its preservation status is sacred and immutable to the end of time is an insult to modern democratic Lithuania and all who hold her dear.”

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Will Working Group Have Courage to Just Say No to New Wave of Building & Profit from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery? And — a Tale of Two Green Buildings

Are Members of the ‘International Working Group’ Being Tragically Misinformed on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery?



OPINION | VILNIUS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | CEMETERIES | LITVAK AFFAIRS

by Julius Norwilla (Vilnius)

Like my fellow campaigners, over the years, in opposition to the project to plonk a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (via refurbishment of a hated Soviet “Sports Palace” dump that should have long ago been demolished), I felt nothing but relief and the need to express congratulations back in the summer of 2021 when our prime minister wisely cancelled the project. Over two years later, there is again fear, among Jews, Lithuanians, and many around the world who respect the right of the dead to lie in peace (verily a part of Human Rights), even when they are members of a minority. When the buried belong to a nation’s ethnic majority, there are usual no serious efforts to situate conference centers surrounded by subterranean graves (even when the above-ground gravestones have long disappeared).

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Other Soviet structures in Vilnius: “landmark status” withdrawn & rapidly knocked down

Members of the latest (& current) international commission

Saga of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Julius Norwilla, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Vilnius | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Are Members of the ‘International Working Group’ Being Tragically Misinformed on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery?

Text of 2020 Litvak Rabbinic Decision on Old Vilna Cemetery and Powerful Statement of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER)



DOCUMENTS | VILNIUS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | CEMETERIES | LITVAK AFFAIRS | HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—In view of diverse characterizations circulating regarding the content of the judgment on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Snípishok/Šnipiškės district), handed down by Litvak Jewry’s highest international rabbinic authority, on 9 February 2020 (14 Shvat 5780), signed also by the late and revered Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (1928-2022) of blessed memory, Defending History is providing the original documents of the certified English translation released by the court, as well as the Hebrew original. This was followed below by the Conference of European Rabbis’ solemn repudiation of any role for the London-based CPJCE, issued on 29 Sept. 2020, after years of documentation of allegedly corrupt activities in the alleged de facto sale of East European cemeteries with which they have no historic ties of any kind.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Documents, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Vilnius | Comments Off on Text of 2020 Litvak Rabbinic Decision on Old Vilna Cemetery and Powerful Statement of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER)

Ruta Bloshtein, Author of Successful Petition, Calls on Jewish Orthodox Members of ‘Cemetery Commission’ to Stand Up for Preservation and Restoration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | VILNIUS | CEMETERIES | LITVAK AFFAIRS

Ruta Bloshtein

VILNIUSRuta Bloshtein, author of the Change.org petition that garnered over 50,000 signatures and played a major role in the internationally praised 2021 cancellation by Lithuania’s prime minister of the project to turn the Soviet-era “Sports Palace” (Sporto rumai) ruin into a national congress center, today released for publication her 25 October letter to the Jewish Orthodox members appointed — in an apparent effort to confer legitimacy — to the current “working group” (commission) established, many believe, to rubber stamp a  state (and Turto Bankas) project to renovate (rather than demolish) the Soviet eyesore that sits in the middle of the cemetery. Without even mentioning the view that hated Soviet ruin should be removed, official commission minutes include an array of future conference-center, museum, memorial and other public space aspirations, including business (and builders’) interests’ visuals, but not including a hint of the extant visuals in support of cemetery preservation and restoration.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Vilnius | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Ruta Bloshtein, Author of Successful Petition, Calls on Jewish Orthodox Members of ‘Cemetery Commission’ to Stand Up for Preservation and Restoration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

A Masterclass in Orwellian Discourse: The Vilnius Cemetery Commission Minutes of 26 October 2023



OPINION | DOCUMENTS | 2023 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERSCEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | HUMAN RIGHTS

by Dovid Katz

This week’s release of the official minutes, in Lithuanian and in English, of the 26 October 2023 meeting of the current international “Working Group” (list of members) established to advise on the future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok district, today’s Šnipiškės) contain some passages, in the view of this journal, worthy of George Orwell. Here are some samples from the official English language text (the entirety of which appears below, and is available in PDF format). Each quote in bold text is followed by some commentary.

“The objective is to honour and commemorate the centuries-long history of Lithuanian Jews and the Šnipiškės cemetery.”

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Documents, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on A Masterclass in Orwellian Discourse: The Vilnius Cemetery Commission Minutes of 26 October 2023

Four Leading Lithuanian-tradition (Litvak, Litvish) Heads of Yeshivas in U.S. and Israel Issue Edict on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



DOCUMENTS2023 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—On the eve of today’s scheduled meeting here of the international “Working Group” or commission assembled by the prime minister of Lithuania’s office, comprising distinguished international figures, to determine the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in Shnípishok (in the Šnipiškės district of this thriving EU capital), four of the world’s leading Heads of Lithuanian Yeshivas together issued an edict making clear the status of the cemetery in Jewish law. For reference and background, see annotated minutes of the last Working Group meeting, and, in reverse chronological order, other very recent developments.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Comments Off on Four Leading Lithuanian-tradition (Litvak, Litvish) Heads of Yeshivas in U.S. and Israel Issue Edict on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Rabbi Elchonon Baron Adds Powerful Voice to International Appeals to ‘Working Group’ to Abandon Refurbishment of Hated Soviet Ruin and Restore the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



DOCUMENTS | OPINION2023 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRSHUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Shortly before yesterday’s meeting in Vilnius of the Lithuanian prime minister’s Working Group (commission) on the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramont in the Shnípishok district (today’s Snipiskes section of modern Vilnius), the commission’s members received the text of the rabbinic edict signed by four of the world’s greatest Lithuanian-tradition (Litvak, Litvish) heads of yeshivas around the world, making clear that no museum, memorial center or other functional building may ever be set up or operate on hallowed Jewish cemetery grounds.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Rabbi Elchonon Baron, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Rabbi Elchonon Baron Adds Powerful Voice to International Appeals to ‘Working Group’ to Abandon Refurbishment of Hated Soviet Ruin and Restore the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

A ‘Shameful’ Public Letter by Five Vilnius Architects: Would They Be Saying This About a Christian Lithuanian Cemetery of 500 Years’ Vintage?



DOCUMENTS | OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Five eminent Vilnius architects have released to the public domain a letter to the mayor of Vilnius expressing their passionate views on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok section, today’s Šnipiškės in beautiful, modern Vilnius). Many thousands of Vilna Jewish citizens still lie buried in the cemetery, though the Soviets pilfered all the gravestones and constructed the hated “Sports Palace” (long a derelict, dangerous ruin) in its center, followed by construction of “the two green buildings” under Lithuanian sovereignty early in the twenty-first century.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Documents, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Vilnius | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A ‘Shameful’ Public Letter by Five Vilnius Architects: Would They Be Saying This About a Christian Lithuanian Cemetery of 500 Years’ Vintage?

Two Statements by Prof. Sid Leiman, To Date Only Member of Commission on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery to Resist ‘Directed Foregone Conclusion’



DOCUMENTS | 2023 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | HUMAN RIGHTS

The office of Professor Sid Leiman, a member of the Commission (or “Working Group”) established in 2023 to advise Lithuania’s prime minister on the future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, today released for the public record two statements, both of 28 November 2023. One is his letter to Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, which itself forwarded to the PM his earlier letter of the same date to fellow Commission members. The two attachments, one in Hebrew and one in English, were both published at the time by Defending History. They are the Hebrew and the English version of the call by four leading heads of Lithuanian heritage yeshivas around the world. In short order, a fifth head of a Lithuanian yeshiva wrote separately for the record.


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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Documents, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Sid (Shnayer) Leiman, The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Comments Off on Two Statements by Prof. Sid Leiman, To Date Only Member of Commission on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery to Resist ‘Directed Foregone Conclusion’

Historic Statements by Prof. Sid Leiman Clarify Need to Dismantle Soviet Eyesore & Restore Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



DOCUMENTS | 2023 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE” LONDON GRAVE TRADERS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AFFAIRSHUMAN RIGHTS

The office of Professor Sid Leiman, a member of the Commission (or “Working Group”) established in 2023 to advise Lithuania’s prime minister on the future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, today followed up on yesterday’s release of his Nov. 2023 letters (to fellow Commission members and to the prime minister of Lithuania) with a further release, below, of (1) an excerpt from his Oct. 2023 paper presented to the Commission, and (2) his statement issued today confirming his view that the Commission’s final report of Feb. 2024 fails to rise to the occasion.  Defending History’s take.


(1) Excerpt from Prof. Leiman’s 22 Oct. 2023 paper circulated to members of the commission:

 

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Historic Statements by Prof. Sid Leiman Clarify Need to Dismantle Soviet Eyesore & Restore Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Updates from Lithuania’s Liveliest Cemetery



 OPINION2023-2024 “WORKING GROUP” ON VILNA CEMETERY | WHO ARE THE MEMBERS?OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER | THE “CPJCE”  | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | HUMAN RIGHTS

Letter of Moral Capitulation” from Three Rabbinic Organizations?

Tale of Two Visions — for Lithuania’s most sacred Jewish site, the Old Vilna Cemetery, where many thousands still lie buried

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), The 2023 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery | Comments Off on Updates from Lithuania’s Liveliest Cemetery