The recent rabbinic declaration dated Av 5775 (16 July−15 August 2015) concerning the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius was released in parallel Hebrew and English texts (and appeared this way in the 30 July 2015 American edition of Hamodia; it was reported on in its 29 July online edition, and in a 30 July DH report). The document is prominently cited in a statement issued earlier today by the office of Lithuania’s chief rabbi.
The English text was in effect a short summary. The following is a draft translation of the original Hebrew text of the proclamation, the image of which follows below.
This major rabbinic declaration was signed by the twelve leading Lithuanian tradition (Litvak/Litvish) rabbis and yeshiva heads in the United States, who are among the world’s premier heirs of the religious tradition of Litvak (Lithuanian / Litvish / Misnagdic) religious Jewish culture.
Proclamation for Rescue and Outcry of Pain from the Elders of the Leaders of the Heads of Yeshivas of blessed long years, on the situation of the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, concerning which the authorities are plotting to renew a place of mirthful celebrations, God forbid.
With the help of Blessed God,
Month of Av 5775
We come in these lines to express our anxiety concerning rumors that are not good that have reached us concerning projects of the authorities in the Republic of Lithuania and the Municipality of Vilnius to renew use of the disused sports complex and entertainment building and “concert hall” that the Communists erected on the territory of the old cemetery in Vilna that had served for more than four hundred years as the only burial place in this great city of God, and where there lie interred many of the giants of Israel, in their generations, holy of on high, lofty souls, from whose waters we drink and whose words sustain our life. They are too many to be counted, and among them are the Be’eyr Hagoylo [Rabbi Moses Rivkes, 1590 — c. 1671)]; the family of the Gaon of Vilna; his outstanding students, including Zélmele of Valózhin [Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Valozhin (1856 — 1898)]; the Góen Yankev [Jacob of Vilna]; the Chaye Odom [Rabbi Abraham Danzig (1748 — 1820)], may their merit come to protect us.
Moreover, the authorities have allocated a vast fortune to renovate the abandoned and dilapidated buildings that are outdated, demonstrating that the projects will most certainly expand, God forbid, on the scope of injury to this sacred and ancient burial ground.
And how may we observe as holiness is desecrated, and remain silent in the face of turning a sacred and awesome place, such as this one, into a big center for good times and frivolity, entailing utter humiliation and desecration of the sacred. And it is simple and clear that all of the cemetery within all of its original boundaries retains its sanctity.
Already our master the great Rabbi Chaim Ozer [Grodzenski (1864-1940), among the last chief rabbis of Vilna] insisted firmly in his many missives rushing to saving the cemetery in Vilna, and determined that there is no room, no authority, for making any “compromises” on this central principle.
We therefore hereby call upon everyone, who is able to make any attempt to do whatever is possible to reach the ears of the authorities in Lithuania concerning the magnitude of the pain, and the outcry of the people of Israel concerning the shameful program to desecrate the holy place, for the pain is very great, and to ask them not to touch the cemetery and to restore its dignity to its former state. And blessed be they who make efforts to save this sacred cemetery, beloved of Israel, as it is written: “But to the saintly that are in the earth, the splendid ones, in whom is all My delight” [Psalms 16: 3]. And may the merit of those sacred ones of Vilna who lie in the earth intercede for good on behalf of all who do what they can to rescue the honor of their place of rest, and may we soon merit the rising of the dead and the coming of our righteous Messiah, Amen, so be it willed.
Rabbi Moshe Brown (Agudath Israel of West Lawrence); Rabbi Dovid Feinstein (Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America); Rabbi Reuven Feinstein (Yeshiva of Staten Island); Rabbi Aharon Feldman (Ner Israel Rabbinical College); Rabbi Moshe Green (Yeshiva D’Monsey Rabbinical College); Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz (Mirrer Yeshiva); Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller (Telshe [Telz / Telšiai] Yeshiva − Chicago); Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky (Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia); Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler (Beth Medrash Govoha − Lakewood, N.J.); Rabbi Yosef Rosenblum (Beth HaMedrash Shaarei Yosher); Rabbi Aaron M. Schechter (Rabbinical Academy Mesivta Chaim Berlin); Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel (Yeshiva Zichron Moshe)