US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad

US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Now Pledging Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



THE PETITION  |  THE OLD VILNA CEMETERY  |  INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER ON THE CEMETERY  |  IN LITHUANIAN  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Herbert Block, a veteran member of the American government’s Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and chair of its committee on the old Vilnius Jewish cemetery, visited yesterday and today for two sessions with staff of the Defending History team here in the Lithuanian capital. Mr. Block is a well-known and beloved figure for the Lithuanian Jewish community, with whom he worked closely for many years (1999 to 2015), during his tenure as Assistant Executive Vice President of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “Joint”), where his work included coordinating successful efforts to achieve restitution that could enable the Jewish community’s survival for generations to come. At present, he is executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM). Previously Mr. Block served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the New York City Independent Budget Office (1996-1999) and was Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Relations at the federal Corporation for National and Community Service in  1994-1995.  He was Assistant to the Mayor of the City of New York from 1990 to 1993 and Special Assistant to the Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989. For years he has been a member of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) with specialization in the Baltic region and Poland.

Herb Block explained how hard he has been working behind the scenes to ensure the cemetery’s preservation, and pledged his firm personal commitment to work resolutely for the convention center project to be moved to another venue in town — away from Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery. 

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, It Pays to Defend History: Success Over the Years..., Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Now Pledging Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Herbert Block Issues Public Statement on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  USCPAHA  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  CEMETERIES

by Herbert Block

 

I have been involved in Jewish community, heritage and Holocaust-restitution issues in Lithuania for almost two decades, through various professional and personal capacities. While I have worked on these matters in other European countries, I have a special interest in and bond with these subjects as almost all my family came to America from Litvak areas. In the past few years I have spent a lot of time on the issue of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery in Šnipiškės (Piramónt) and the future plans for the Sports Palace building which has been on that site for decades. I met with many rabbis and community leaders with vastly different views and no meeting or photo should be interpreted as an endorsement of any position.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Herbert Block, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Comments Off on Herbert Block Issues Public Statement on Fate of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

US Taxpayer-Funded Commission Taken to Court in DC for Helping Vilnius Builders Desecrate City’s Old Jewish Cemetery



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  USCPAHA  | CPJCE

NEW YORK CITY—A New York Institute of Technology professor of physics, Prof. Bernard Fryshman, who is also one of the world’s major advocates for the preservation of endangered minority cemeteries (he helped the US Congress draft its 2014 resolution on the subject) has teamed up with Boruch Pines, a New York based descendant of many persons buried in the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnípeshok) district of modern Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Together, they filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 8 November 2018. Defending History has obtained a copy of the summons and complaint, available as PDF, and below immediately following this report.

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, CPJCE (London), Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Politics of Memory, US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Taxpayer-Funded Commission Taken to Court in DC for Helping Vilnius Builders Desecrate City’s Old Jewish Cemetery

Incredibly, US Taxpayer-Funded Commission is HURTING instead of HELPING the Cause!



CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  CEMETERIES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION

by Ruta Bloshtein

The following is the text of the petition update posted by Ms. Bloshtein on 4 January 2019 at the Change.org site of her petition to save the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, which has exceeded the 45,000 signature mark.

My Dear Friends,

Thanks to all of you who signed our petition, there have been various delays in the onset of works to erect a national convention center and large new annex on the site of a Soviet ruin that is right in the middle of our sacred Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, where the B’er Hagola Reb Moshe Rivkes; the Chayei Adam Reb Avrom Dantsig; Reb Menachem-Manes Chayes; Reb Boruch Romm, Reb Avrom the son of the Gaon of Vilna; Reb Yitzchok the father of Chaim of Volozhin lie buried, alongside many other thousands of Jewish citizens of Vilna (today’s Vilnius, capital of Lithuania) whose families duly paid for their plots in perpetuity. This would never happen if it were a Christian or Lithuanian national cemetery where nationally beloved figures found what was meant to be their place of rest.

Now, unfortunately, imminent danger lurks again, as the government’s own bank has just announced that building is again soon scheduled to start.

We must therefore redouble our polite and civil protests to ensure that this does not happen, that the government finds ANOTHER place for its new national convention center (that will be a pride, not a “shande” for our country), and that the cemetery can be lovingly restored as has been done in other European cities. I am sorry to report that in recent times one of the main obstacles has been the (US taxpayer funded!) “United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (known as “USCPAHA” for short) that exists to preserve endangered cemeteries, not to collude with foreign governments and their agents to help with excuses and cover-ups to destroy them!

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Christian-Jewish Issues, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein, United States, US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Incredibly, US Taxpayer-Funded Commission is HURTING instead of HELPING the Cause!

Democratically Elected Leadership of Vilnius Jewish Community Shows Consistent Moral Clarity on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’s Fate



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  CEMETERIES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION

VILNIUS—During the fiascos of recent formal visits to Lithuania by the chairperson of the US taxpayer-funded “Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (known for short as “USCPAHA”), a ubiquitous feature was the seemingly unending stream of photo-ops with leaders of the “official” state-sponsored Jewish community which has quite naturally supported government plans for a convention center and annex to be situated in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. What many foreign visitors do not understand is that this enterprise does not have democratically legitimate leadership. In the middle of the last leadership election, in spring 2017, the chairperson changed the rules to disenfranchise the three thousand Jewish citizens of Lithuania in favor of a “new system” whereby “associations alone” would vote, these being the chairperson’s own board of associates. When the Vilnius Jewish Community held a very public and democratic vote, the state-sponsored official community echoed antisemitic tropes that the current Jews are some kind of Russians who say they are Jews. In November of 2018, the courts ruled her election illegal, a remarkable public demonstration followed last spring, but then, after an array of legal ruses, some quite amusing, the appeals court last month legalized her election. But not-illlegal is not moral, and being “not illegal” is a rather poor standard for Jewish and democratic legitimacy in the  small and fragile post-Holocaust space. More and more people are calling for a simple solution: new and fair elections under the aegis of an outside ombudsman or polling organization, in which every Lithuanian Jewish citizen has one vote.

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Posted in Bold Citizens Speak Out, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Democratically Elected Leadership of Vilnius Jewish Community Shows Consistent Moral Clarity on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’s Fate

Did USCPAHA’s (and AZM’s, and GWF-LJHF’s) Point Man on Old Vilna Cemetery Flip Yet Again?



OPINION  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  | INTERNATIONAL PETITION  |  USCPAHA | HERBERT BLOCK’S POSITIONS ON THE SUBJECT  |  CPJCE  |  ADMAS KODESH

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Herbert Block, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Did USCPAHA’s (and AZM’s, and GWF-LJHF’s) Point Man on Old Vilna Cemetery Flip Yet Again?

London CPJCE and US Affiliate “Admas Kodesh” Misrepresent Rabbi Kanievsky’s Ruling to their (Naive?) Supporters



OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION

VILNIUS—The controversial London-based “grave selling rabbis” of the CPJCE, alongside its American “Admas Kodesh” branch, has posted on Twitter the recent sensational letter by the doyen of Litvak rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, writing for the vaunted rabbinical court of Bnai Brak, Israel. The edict, in a rabbinic Hebrew that is perhaps not easily read by most Twitter readers, rails against the  a convention center in the cemetery under “rabbinic supervision” (referring to the CPJCE’s project), and forbids the convention center project at the old Vilna Jewish cemetery of Piramónt at Shnípishok (Šnipiškės in today’s Vilnius), and demands the old Soviet ruin be left untouched, stressing that the site cannot, in its view, be used for anything but a cemetery.

The tweet, however, seeks to misinform these groups’ Twitter  readers as “supporting the almost 20 year struggle” (!) of these groups. Orwell indeed. The tweet also referenced the deeply controversial role of the US taxpayer supported USCPAHA. [UPDATE of 29 Sept. 2020: The Conference of European Rabbis has explicitly disqualified the CPJCE from further involvement in Vilnius.]

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Posted in "Admas Kodesh", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, CPJCE (London), Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on London CPJCE and US Affiliate “Admas Kodesh” Misrepresent Rabbi Kanievsky’s Ruling to their (Naive?) Supporters