Rabbi S. J. Feffer, Scholar (and Descendant) of Gaon of Vilna, Condemns Project to Defile Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery — Cites Ensnaring of Conference of European Rabbis (CER) & Bnei Brak’s Beth Din


Rabbi S. J. Feffer

VILNIUSRabbi S. J. Feffer, a part-of-the-year resident in Vilnius for some three decades, is best known locally for his free-of-charge (and no-tickets-needed) Passover seders and other holidays, always open to Vilneans of all backgrounds. His events are considered to be forums of intercommunity friendship and harmony, characterized by authentic Litvak Jewish Orthodox practice with equally warm welcome to folks of any and all persuasions. He is also known as an independent voice for Jewish heritage preservation, and against corruption in high places. Internationally, the rabbi, a descendant of close family of the Gaon of Vilna, is best known as part of the editing team for dozens of published volumes containing the works of the Gaon (Elijah of Vilna, 1720-1797).

Some of the works of the Gaon of Vilna co-edited and co-published by Rabbi S.J. Feffer (imprint: Mechon HaGra)

Rabbi Feffer spoke to Defending History today on video for the record, and asked that his views be made public.

Extraordinary modern saga of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery

Rabbi Feffer’s follow-up video addresses the widespread shock at recent actions of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) and their public invoking, and allegedly ensnaring in mischief an unsuspecting Bnei Brak rabbinical court, and its revered dean, Rabbi Sariel Rosenberg (who four years ago penned a decree with the opposite conclusion). All this in purported support of constructing a museum cum memorial event center with large auditoriums, state-of-the art exhibits, electricity, plumbing and toilets, and security apparatus for large crowds in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. Details are leaking of secret deals between the Lithuanian government supported Good Will Foundation (GWF) and the CER, allegedly brokered by a deeply controversial representative of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Rabbi Feffer’s voice joins those of Professor Sid Leiman; Rabbi Elchonon Baron (head of the Baranovich Yeshiva in Jerusalem); and those of Lithuanian heritage yeshiva heads Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch (Yeshiva Slobodka, Bnei Brak), Rabbi Reuven Feinstein (Yeshiva of Staten Island, N.Y.), Rabbi Osher Eliyahu Kalmanowitz (Mirrer Yeshiva, N.Y.) & Rabbi Elya Baer Wachtfogel (Yeshiva Zichron Moshe, South Fallsburg, N.Y.); an Orthodox coalition announced in Yated Ne’eman.

Appeals to the Working Group before its conclusion came from (among others) Rabbi Elchonon BaronRuta Bloshtein, Dovid Katz, Andrius Kulikauskas, and Julius Norwilla.

Indeed, before that late 2022 financial deal, the CER had itself, back in 2020, issued a firm written statement with an opposite conclusion. But in 2023, it came to the rescue of the builders, contractors, and politicians, and indeed the nationalist establishment that does not want a restored Jewish cemetery in central Vilnius, by carefully appointing prominent (and compliant and pliable) Orthodox Jews from Israel and the United States to the new “Working Group” (list of members; minutes released; the final report, being the “undated and unstamped document released” discussed by Rabbi Faffer in the video).

But the dramatic hand of Jewish history came into play when just one member of the entire Working Group, Professor Sid Leiman, dissented, in a series of bold statements that instantly entered the proud annals of Vilna Jewish history for their integrity, dignity, and loyalty to the thousands buried in the Vilna cemetery, whose families purchased their plots in perpetuity, and who have no local descendants, in the wake of the Holocaust, to defend their graves. Professor Leiman is widely considered to be the leading historian of the cemetery, who has provided a template for restoration, including many hundreds of gravestones and cemetery houselets, whose precise texts are preserved in photographs and transcriptions.

As for the current business- and politics- driven “solution” of converting the Soviet ruin into a functioning mass-use institution, it is significant to pause and take into account that no such museum or memorial event center functions in any Jewish cemetery on the planet.

Thousands of extant graves (not stones) surround the hated Soviet ruin constructed in the cemetery by the Soviet regime. In Jewish law, those of the kohanic (priestly biblical) lineage (including many with surnames Cohen, Kagan, Kahan(a), Katz, Mishcon, Rappaport, among others) are not even allowed to enter such grounds.

It might in years to come be more than a curiosity that future visitors from faraway lands would feel unable to attend an event in the museum and memorial center being planned for the heart of what was, what is, and what for the Jewish religion and culture will forever be the precious Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, currently of half a millennium’s vintage.


Follow-up video on “shocking” role of the Conference of European Rabbis and the Bnei Brak Rabbinical Court:

This entry was posted in 2023-2024 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, 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), Rabbi S. J. Feffer and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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