US Taxpayer-Funded Commission Mixed Up in Desecration of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery is Reported to Senate Oversight Committee


VILNIUS—A member of the United States Congress today provided to Defending History the PDF of the letter sent by Senator Ron Johnson, then (and current) chair of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, to Ms. Lesley Weiss, then (and current) chair of the taxpayer-funded “United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (USCPAHA). The letter concerned scarcely believable levels of corruption and wastage of taxpayer money. The 12 page PDF follows below (note the page-turning arrows in the upper left hand corner).

See New York Times articles here and here

Defending History has now written to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, asking for an investigation of the much higher levels of corruption now in play in connection with the project to plonk a 36 million dollar convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. After years of obfuscation and prevarication, USCPAHA has been demonstrated to be under the de facto influence of  the most corrupt branch of the Satmar hasidic sect that is involved with an alleged scam (detailed in a 2009 Wikileaks cable) to offer permissions for desecrating East European Jewish cemeteries in return for large payments, ostensibly for “supervision” of the building works undertaken. The scam, particularly shameful in view of the absence of descendants to fight for long-ago paid-for graves being left in peace being the direct result of the Holocaust (which claimed 96.4% of Lithuanian Jewry, the highest proportion in Europe), has been exposed by the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Defending History.

In its most recent post on the subject, on 20 February 2017, Defending History has identified USCPAHA member Herbert Block, reappointed in the dying days of the Obama administration in January 2017, as the lynchpin of the entire complex plot to legitimize the multi-million dollar construction on top of a cemetery while claiming to be “saving the cemetery.” The international plot line includes Monroe (New York), London, Vilnius, and Washington DC, among others. A later Defending History report, of 19 March 2017, looks into the alleged corruption at a Jewish property-based restitution program in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Mr. Block is also a member of the Board in what has been called “a breathtaking conflict of interest.” Moreover, the longtime director of the foundation that disburses millions (he stepped down once conflict-of-interest issues started to be mentioned) is married to the government operative who lavishly manages the London rabbis and arranges receptions by the country’s top leaders who allegedly offer pay-as-you-go authorizations to desecrate cemeteries under the guise of “supervision of works.”

Mr. Block also figures on a separate “Jewish Heritage Commission” of the Lithuanian government that observers consider to be dedicated mainly to deflecting attention from the old Vilna Jewish cemetery to local graveyards (he is still listed there though reporting that he changed his status from “member” to “observer” after conflict-of-interest exposure in Defending History). He also appears to be a personal devotee of the Satmar grandrabbi in Monroe (to whom he brought his son for photo-ops, in the midst of the Vilna cemetery saga). That grandrabbi, Aaron, is the American “grand-agent” of the London based “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” (CPJCE) which stands accused of issuing “rabbinic building permits on cemeteries” in instances where all the world’s rabbinic authorities forbid it. Most recently, their spokesman told an American publication that a decrepit Soviet ruin that now stands on the cemetery grounds is for the Lithuanian people “the Tower of London and the Statue of Liberty” and cannot come down. To make matters worse, the American branch of the CPJCE, called “Admas Kodesh” (Holy Earth), that operates under the aegis of this Satmar Rebbe in Monroe, New York, has launched a campaign of uncouth defamation against Professor Bernard Fryshman, the eminent scholar whose expertise and tenacity helped the United States Congress to pass internationally acclaimed legislation in 2014 recognizing the human rights aspect of minority cemeteries’ preservation worldwide.

It is our sincere hope that Senate oversight will undertake a rapid investigation of why a commission to preserve heritage has failed to stand up with the meekest word of support for preservation in the face of the financial and other corrupt incentives luring members to actually provide cover to those supporting (and seeking great profit from) a convention center project where thousands of revelers would cheer, dance, sing and use bars and toilets surrounded by thousands of graves of Vilna’s Jewish population from the period from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

In the meantime, close to 39,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Lithuanian government to find an alternative site for its new convention center project. The petition’s author is Ruta Bloshtein, an Orthodox Jew born and raised in the Lithuanian capital. But still no comment, and no mention of the petition, from the Washington commission tasked with “preservation” of just such heritage abroad.

Please use the arrows in the upper left-hand corner to turn the pages.

2015-08-10 RHJ to Weiss (Heritage Abroad) redacted


This entry was posted in "Admas Kodesh", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, 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), United States, USCPAHA (US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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