JOHANNESBURG - In a communication to the President of Lithuania, Gitana Nauseda, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, urged the President to reconsider and abandon its plan to construct a conference center on a Jewish cemetery in Vilnius.
In his very personal letter the Chief Rabbi shares that his ancestry roots were founded in Lithuania, stating: "I write to you with a deep personal connection to the heritage of Lithuanian Jews. Many South African Jews are descended from Lithuania, including my own great grandparents."
In the letter which was penned in September 2019, Rabbi Goldstein verifies, "As is well known, in 1971, under Soviet domination, a Sports Palace was built over a section of the Old Jewish Cemetery."
Rabbi Goldstein calls for a change in venue of the proposed Congress Center project saying, "Surely there are other appropriate sites in Vilnius for the construction of a convention center and Concert Hall that will not involve the desecration of a historical site, one of the few remaining Jewish sites in Vilnius to have survived the Holocaust."
Rabbi Goldstein confirms international opposition to the conference center by world Jewry. "In 2015, the Deans of the leading transplanted Lithuanian Talmudic academies in the Unites States and Israel, all of them distinguished rabbis and scholars of Lithuanian descent, issued a ban against any further desecration of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius. They indicated that Jewish law forbids the construction of any public facility over a Jewish cemetery. They called upon the Lithuanian government to restore the dignity of the Old Jewish Cemetery to its former state."
The Chief Rabbi's letter has been ignored.