(November 8, 2020): An international Coalition consisting of Jewish leaders has condemned the issuance of a commemorative coin (by the outgoing government) in honor of the 300th birthday of the Vilna Gaon, displaying the decision to produce the coin, as a "rare display of cynicism."
Snipiskes in Vilnius, Lithuania, is the cemetery where the Gaon once lay, and continues to house the remains of the Gaon’s entire family, among other sages, scholars, and sacred people.
The press release by the Coalition states, "After enabling the construction of two large apartment complexes in the cemetery, the Lithuanian government continues to refuse to divulge the location of the remains of thousands of Jews exhumed during construction. The group reports efforts since 2005 to have the remains reburied."
The document makes reference to the outgoing Lithuanian government's plans of converting a Soviet built Sports Palace, which stands in the center of the cemetery. The outgoing government's plan was to build a massive Concert and Convention Center.
The international Coalition states that the development would "permanently desecrate the sacred site." Members of the Coalition, descendants of those buried here, and leading Rabbis have travelled to Lithuania to express strong opposition to this plan.
The Gaon of Vilna was a fervent advocate of the Dignity of the Dead and defender of the sanctity of the Snipiskes cemetery. From this perspective, the Lithuanian government’s issuance of this coin has become an act of contempt and derision of all that is holy to Jewish teaching and culture.
Descendants of the those Jewish families interned in the Shnipishok cemetery, have filed a class action suit in Lithuanian courts to stop the developers from building the conference center. Attorneys for the plaintiffs submitted expert evidence, certifying that the Sports Center is located in the cemetery and that the plantiffs ancestors are buried there. Many of the plaintiffs are direct descendants of the Vilna Gaon. The case reference is (lith. Dėl uždraudimo atlikti veiksmus sukeliančius realią žalos padarymo grėsmę ateityje) Nr. e2-625-918/2020 in the District Court of Vilnius City.
Human rights groups have expressed concern of the likelihood of a just outcome, as they believe that the Lithuanian court system is rigged. The next hearing is scheduled for November 24, 2020.
A newly elected Lithuanian government brings hope and anticipation that that the desecration of the cemetery can be avoided,that the missteps for which the previous government was responsible, can be rectified.
About this Article:
A Coalition of Jewish leaders has condemned the issuance of a commemorative coin (by the outgoing government) in honor of the 300th birthday of the Vilna Gaon, stating that the issuance has become an act of contempt and derision of all that is holy to Jewish teaching and culture.
About Save Vilna:
Save Vilna is an action group aimed at preventing Jewish cemetery desecration, antisemitism, human rights violations at the old cemetery in Shnipishok, Vilnius.
For more Information, Please visit https://www.savevilna.org/press
Website: Save Vilna
Writer: Paul Schneider
Email: [email protected]