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International Coalition condemned issuance of coin in honor of Vilna Gaon


An artist's impression of the Vilna Gaon (General Domain)

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." (See full text below.)


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.


The newly elected 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.





Full Text of Press Release:


November 27, 2020


Gaon Commemorative Coin: Contempt and Derision


An international coalition of groups and individuals working to save the Snipiskes Jewish

Cemetery in Vilnius Lithuania described the issuance of a commemorative coin in honor of the 300" birthday of the Gaon of Vilna as a ‘rare display of cynicism.’


Snipiskes 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. 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.


Currently, the Lithuanian government intends to convert a Soviet built Sports Palace standing in the cemetery to a massive Concert and Convention Center which will 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.


The following members of the Coalition have agreed to make themselves available to members of the press. (Affiliations are for identification only.)


Rabbi Zev Friedman

Rosh Mesivta, Rambam Mesivta

roshmesivta@rambam.org


Kenneth E. Pinczower

Attorney at Law

kepinczower@gmail.com


Bernard Fryshman, Ph.D.

New York Institute of Technology

bfryshma@nyit.edu


Rabbi Lazar Stern

Asra Kadisha

akmelech@gmail.com


Rabbi David Niederman

United Jewish Organizations

dniederman@unitedjewish.org


Moishe Zakheim, CPA

Morris J. Zakheim & Co., LLP

zakheimandco@aol.com


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