Ruta Bloshtein, Author of Successful Petition, Calls on Jewish Orthodox Members of ‘Cemetery Commission’ to Stand Up for Preservation and Restoration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery




OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | VILNIUS | CEMETERIES | LITVAK AFFAIRS

Ruta Bloshtein

VILNIUSRuta Bloshtein, author of the Change.org petition that garnered over 50,000 signatures and played a major role in the internationally praised 2021 cancellation by Lithuania’s prime minister of the project to turn the Soviet-era “Sports Palace” (Sporto rumai) ruin into a national congress center, today released for publication her 25 October letter to the Jewish Orthodox members appointed — in an apparent effort to confer legitimacy — to the current “working group” (commission) established, many believe, to rubber stamp a  state (and Turto Bankas) project to renovate (rather than demolish) the Soviet eyesore that sits in the middle of the cemetery. Without even mentioning the view that hated Soviet ruin should be removed, official commission minutes include an array of future conference-center, museum, memorial and other public space aspirations, including business (and builders’) interests’ visuals, but not including a hint of the extant visuals in support of cemetery preservation and restoration.

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Hebrew text; English version

Instead of the multimillion-euro project leading to a “congress center” it will lead to a more multi-use “conference and event center and museum” — surrounded by subterranean Jewish graves on all four sides. If it came off, this would be the world’s first destruction of a Jewish cemetery by “honoring” it with a building with electric cables and sewage, supposedly with the agreement of the Orthodox and traditional Jewish world, and the Litvak world more widely, by way of a possibly manipulated commission. By implication, the final section of Ms. Bloshtein’s now public letter can serve as a warning about countless other Jewish cemeteries on the Eastern European ground zero of the Holocaust which would then stand to be destroyed and desecrated by the “successful Vilnius model” of finding “agreeable Jews” to serve as rubber stamps on state commissions in return, not seldom, for lavish trips, photo-ops, translations, research assistance, grants, medals, memberships in lofty commissions, and assorted other honors.

A sizable chunk of the sacred Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, of more than half a millennium’s vintage, which was destroyed by “the two green buildings” erected around a decade and a half ago with government blessing, now home to dozens of businesses (despite a litany of promises that their use would be restricted to cemetery-appropriate activities). Like the Soviet ruin in its center, the buildings are surrounded by extant Jewish graves.

For background: list of current commission members; recent coverage, reverse-chronologically, by scrolling down DH’s section on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery.

Ms. Bloshtein, Vilnius born and a Vilnius resident, is often considered the central personality in the city’s small but influential Lithuanian-tradition (Litvak) circle of Orthodox (observant) Jews. The text of her letter, published here with her blessing, is followed by an English version approved by the author.


ב″ה, י′ בחשון תשפ″ד.

כולי תקוה שלא אעלה בכם כעס על אשר אני פונה אליכם בענין העתיד של בית הקברות הישן דווילנא הידוע כפיראמונט באזור שניפישאק (שניפישקס). אני רוצה לקוות כי היתה לכבודכם ההזדמנות בעבר לקרוא את העצומה שלי בענין הכואב הזה, ואף לחתום עליה:

https://www.change.org/p/please-move-new-vilnius-convention-center-project-away-from-the-old-jewish-cemetery

עכשיו ″מצאו″ תחבולות וקונצים חדשים, איך להשאיר ולשפץ את בניין הקונגרסים, מוזיאונים, ועוד הרבה דברים דומים המתוכננים להיות נוספים בעתיד.

בקשתי הדחופה עכשיו, בכל לשון של בקשה, היא להרים קול זעקה נגד כל תכנית להשאיר לשפץ ולפאר את החורבה המכוערת והשנואה אשר נבנתה על ידי הסובייטים באמצע בית הקברות הישן והקדוש שלנו יהודי העיר ווילנא, אשר בנוה דרך התרסה להכעיס ולפגוע ברגשות היהודים.

כל החלטה שלא תהא על ידי אנשים משוחדים, או אנשים שאינם יודעים לשאול, אשר מטרתם הגלויה או הנסתרת היא קבלת טובות הנאה ומיני כיבודים, או טובות כספיות מצד השלטון, תקוותי הגדולה היא כי כל היהודים שומרי המצוות הנמנים על הוועד, יתנגדו אליה במלוא התוקף והחומרה ובמחאה מוחלטת ובלתי מתפשרת, בעל פה וכמובן אף בקול קורא בכתב, למען יעמדו הדברים למשמרת כדי שבעוד מאה שנים לא יכתב כי ″עולם התורה″ הסכים עם שיפוץ בניין אנטישמי אשר נבנה על ידי הסובייטים באמצע בית הקברות הישן בווילנא…

כמו כן חשוב ביותר כי הממשלה הליטאית תדע כי אף יהודי כהן המקיים מצוות לעולם לא יוכל להיכנס לכנסים ואירועים בתוך בית קברות. העצומות והמחאות נגד תוכניות הפגיעה בבית הקברות רק יתגברו ויתחדשו לאורך השנים הבאות, חילול בית הקברות יביא על ממשלת ליטא בושה חרפה וכלימה בעיני יהודי העולם ובעיני העולם כולו, גם אם כהיום יש למהלכי הממשלה תמיכה על ידי קבוצות יהודים משוחדים העומדים כעת לימינם.

אשמח לקבל את פניכם פה בעיר ווילנא.

בדרך ארץ ובכל לשון של בקשה, 

רוטה (רייזקע) בלאָשטיין, ווילנא, ליטא.


 

English version approved by the author:

With the Almighty’s blessings, 10 Cheshvan 5784 [25 October 2023]

I sincerely hope that I do not offend you by appealing to you in the matter of the future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery known as Piramónt in the Shnípishok (Šnipiškės) section. I would like to  hope that you have had the opportunity in the past to read my petition on this painful issue and perhaps even to sign it: https://www.change.org/p/please-move-new-vilnius-convention-center-project-away-from-the-old-jewish-cemetery.

But now, alas, new ruses and tricks have been found for retaining and renovating the building for conferences, museums, and all manner of similar things that are planned to be added in the future.

My urgent request, now, imploring and beseeching you, is to raise an outcry against any program for retaining, renovating and beautifying the ugly, hated Soviet ruin that was built by the Soviets in the middle of the ancient and sacred cemetery belonging to us, the Jews of Vilna. Indeed, they built it there as a provocation, to enrage and cause huge pain to the feelings of the Jews.

Whatever decisions there may be that arise from persons who are effectively bribed, or are such that by their ignorance of Jewish law do not even know what to be asking, whose public or hidden purpose is a showering of rewards, pleasures and various honors, or other kinds of prizes, on the part of the authorities, it is my great hope that all of the Orthodox Jews appointed to the commission, will oppose them with full force, with adherence to the adamance of our law, and with decisive and uncompromised protest, verbally, and also of course, in the form of a statement of protest in writing, in order that these things of our times should remain as a watchtower for generations. Let it not be written a hundred years hence that the “Torah world” agreed to the renovation of this antisemitic building that was built by the Soviets in the very heart of the Old Jewish Cemetery of Vilna…

Moreover, it is of the utmost significance that the Lithuanian government be made aware that no Orthodox Jew who is a kohen would ever be able to enter conferences and events within a cemetery. In addition, the petitions and the protests against this program of causing so much pain in the cemetery will only wax stronger. It will arise anew for all of the years to come. The desecration of the cemetery would bring to the government of Lithuania shame and ignominy and disgrace in the eyes of world Jewry and in the eyes of all the world, even if the government’s moves are today supported by effectively bribed Jewish groups who act as enablers.

It will be a pleasure to welcome you here in the city of Vilna.

With respect, and beseeching and imploring you,

Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein, Vilna, Lithuania.


 

 

 

This entry was posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Ruta (Reyzke) Bloshtein, The 2023-2024 'Working Group' on the Future of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, Vilnius and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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