VILNIUS - The Lithuanian Government has announced that the proposal to develop a conference center on the Snipiskes Jewish cemetery has been suspended.
A statement from the Office of Chancellor Giedrė Balčytytė to Alpha.lt news portal stated: “The pandemic has changed the conference tourism market and environment. Accordingly, the Lithuanian government will look to other solutions."
Chairman of the Save Vilna Coalition, Mr. Dov Fried expressed appreciation and gratitude that the voice of objection to the international conference center, had been recognized. Opposition to the proposal has been widespread, since the plan’s conception in 2015.
The current Chair to the Lithuanian Jewish community, Ms. Faina Kukliansky and the Committee for the Preservation of the Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) had initially worked with the Lithuanian government, in an attempt to realize the vision of the VCC project.
In 2020 a high level rabbinical court and the Conference for European Rabbis both ruled that the VCC development is a violation of Jewish law and that participation in the project was forbidden. The CPJCE accepted these rulings and published the decision of the rabbinical court on its Twitter account. Ms. Kukliansky also had distanced herself from any support of the project in recent months, stating that she will not do anything that is contrary to Jewish law. See FULL REPORT.
Accordingly, a notice was served on Turto bankas, the executor of the project, communicating that any further development of the project was illegal, as it did not comply with a 2009 agreement. That 2009 agreement requires that the international and local Jewish community support the VCC project, a provision that was clearly lacking.
Members of the Jewish community are hopeful that in conforming with the announcement from the Chancellor, Seimas will move to repeal the 2015 resolution. Leading lawyers in constitutional law have stated that the 2015 resolution is unconstitutional, as it violates the Lithuanian constitution, human rights and freedom of religions provisions.
In the wake of the Chancellor’s announcement, American organizations communicated interest in working with Lithuanian interest groups to develop Holocaust educational programs that will promote the historical importance of the Snipiskes cemetery. Groups in Lithuania who have an interest in participating in such an educational program, are requested to contact Save Vilna.
Several leaders in the international Jewish community expressed hope that the Jewish community’s efforts to restore the Snipiskes Jewish community, can be conducted in the framework of a new era of cooperation and openness.
Precisely how to manage the Sports Palace has become a focal point of interest, due to the fact that it does not match the beautiful and expanding Vilnius skyline. Consensus appears to support an alternative version of the edifice, either in the way of its re-construction or removal, providing that it is conducted within the framework of Jewish law.
The possibility of developing a museum on the cemetery has been ruled out, as according to Jewish authorities the cemetery cannot be used for any other purpose, other than as a resting place for the deceased. The possibility of information booths on the outskirts of the cemetery is being considered.