VILNIUS—The chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Faina Kukliansky, today released the following statement on the community’s website. It is reposted here in full in virtue of its references to the debate over plans for a $25,000,000 convention center project in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) in Vilnius.
Head of LJC Faina Kukliansky on Articles in Foreign Press about Chaim Burshtein
“He lives in Israel, not Lithuania. After purchasing a ticket Chaim Burshtein left Lithuania for Israel for his own reasons. We have no information that his departure was connected in any way with the Congress Center project which the Government plans to implement to both refurbish and commemorate the territory of the Jewish cemetery in Snipishnok. This project has the blessings of members of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. All of the Lithuanian government’s actions concerning this project are coordinated with the Conference of European Rabbis. No construction at all is taking place and the project is still under consideration. Rabbi Chaim Burstein is not a citizen of Lithuania and it is possible he does not have permanent residence in Lithuania. His family lives in Israel and therefore it is natural that the head of a family of many children spends the majority of his time there, with the performance of the duties of Rabbi in Lithuania taking second place and being somewhat sporadic.
“As we have come to know, a border official with the right to do so decided to check whether Chaim Burshtein, a citizen of a different country, had not overstayed the time allowed him under the Schengen Agreement. Because this sort of investigation takes some time, he began to react perhaps disproportionately, and began to spread unfounded accusations about his deportation, although he himself had purchased the ticket from Lithuania to Israel. Our guess is that this caused a reaction by Chaim Burshtein and he decided to characterize this routine check as an attempt to deport him, and shared this impression of his with people and reporters with whom he is acquainted.
“As far as we know, Chaim Burshtein does not have permission to live in Lithuania but does use the no-visa regime often in his travels. According to the Schengen Agreement, however, the no-visa regime is limited to 90 days per every 180 days. We can only imagine what would happen if someone tried to enter the United States without a visa and wrote about being deported. That would be true deportation, and without a visa they would even be allowed to leave Israel.”