OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—Deans (rosh-yeshivas, Heb. roshei-yeshiva) of three of the world’s greatest Lithuanian tradition (Litvak) yeshivas, located in the United States and Israel, all proud to bear the Yiddish names of the Lithuanian cities from which they hail, today released a letter to Ingrida Šimonytė, prime minister of Lithuania, expressing admiration and gratitude for her recent suspension of the project to situate a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok/Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), where thousands would cheer, sing and revel surrounded by multitudes of graves going back over half a millennium.
The project has, in some eyes, tarnished Lithuania’s image over the last seven years, eliciting considerable local and international opposition. Today’s public congratulations from three of the top Lithuanian yeshiva deans, who carry on the traditions of the Gaon of Vilna and numerous other Lithuanian rabbinic luminaries, is widely seen, in the broader context, to help Lithuania rapidly surmount recent setbacks and embark on a new era of Lithuanian-Jewish (and more generally, crosscultural) harmony in the run-up to international celebration of the 700th birthday of the founding of Vilnius (Vilna, Vílne, Wilno) coming up in 2023.
The following English text is a translation from the Hebrew original.
Letter of Greeting from the Deans of the Lithuanian Talmudic Academies to the Prime Minister of Lithuania
Second Day of the Penitential Prayers 5781
Her Excellency Ingrida Šimonytė, Prime Minister of Lithuania:
We were delighted to hear the recent tidings coming from you and your government regarding the indefinite suspension of the building project that was to have been constructed on the ancient and important Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery in the center of Vilnius.
May this major courageous decision that prevents the destruction of the final resting place of tens of thousands of deceased people buried in this cemetery, amongst them the Great and Righteous of Israel, bring the Almighty’s blessing to the entire State of Lithuania, its government and she who stands at its head.
May it be the Almighty’s will that this courageous and decisive step be the first in the new cooperation between the Jewish and Lithuanian peoples, the path to further practical measures and the restoration of the entire area of the cemetery to its spiritual owners from amongst the Jewish people so as to bring about its complete rehabilitation. This will certainly lead to the success and prosperity of Vilnius and of the Republic of Lithuania.
With blessings for the New Year,
Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh (Panevėžys) Talmudic Academy and President of the Council of Torah Sages of the Holy Land
Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka (Vilijampolė) Talmudic Academy and Member of the Council of Torah Sages of the Holy Land
Rabbi Aaron Dovid Goldberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Telz (Telshe / Telšiai) Talmudic Academy in Cleveland, and Member of the Council of Torah Sages of the United States of America