MUNICH, SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 - Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Jewish Rabbis (CER) today issued a statement through Twitter, confirming that the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) has been stripped of its authority to act on behalf of the European Jewish community.
Rabbi Goldschmidt’s announcement follows a wave of opposition by leading Jewish authorities and international organizations against the CPJCE. These authorities include the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Rabbi Nissim Korelitz, the Orthodox Union, the Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada, U.S. Senators and Congressmen and many more. According to Jewish law it is forbidden to use a cemetery for any other purpose, other than as a resting place for the deceased.
The announcement by Rabbi Goldschmidt is a significant milestone in efforts by activists to terminate the development of a conference center on the Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, as the plan for the conference center hung on approval by the CPJCE.
Because the cemetery has been declared a protected site, any development needs to be approved by a bona fide Jewish authority. Accordingly, the Lithuanian government, the Vilnius City Council and Turto Bankas (a state property bank), moved to rubber stamp their development initiative by securing quasi-approval by the CPJCE. Reports show that a ribbon cutting ceremony and agreement by the CPJCE to participate in the development, raised eyebrows in the international Jewish community.
The announcement by Rabbi Goldschmidt, which strips the CPJCE of any authority to act on behalf of the European Jewish community, effectively renders their “approval” worthless and the development of the conference center unlawful. The ruling by the CER, forbids the CPJCE from making any representations or communications with the Lithuanian government relating to the Shnipishok cemetery.
Other groups, besides the coalition which is being spearheaded by Rabbi Elchonon Baron, are also active in aggressive attempts to stop development and the construction of the conference center. A video representing Jewish descendants of the deceased buried in the Shnipishok cemetery, makes a heart-felt plea to terminate plans for the conference center.