March 11, 2019, Vilnius
A complaint was filed with the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, calling for abandonment of the project to reconstruct a Soviet ruin that lies at the heart of the Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery along with a major annex. This comes after an international campaign pleading with the Lithuanian government to move the convention center project to another venue so that the cemetery, one of the most sacred to world Jewry, could be restored.
The democratically elected leaders of the Vilnius Jewish Community, representing the vast majority of Lithuanian’s small but vibrant Jewish community, have also called on the government to move the convention center to another venue. In 2015 the chief rabbi of Lithuania stated that no one has the rights to the graves of the great Israel sages in the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius. In 2016 Vilnius native and resident Rūta Bloštein initiated the petition "Please transfer the project of the new Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace from the old Jewish cemetery to another place".. In 2017 The President received a letter from twelve U.S. congressmen calling on the Lithuanian Government to refrain from adapting the building to use as conference center . Three U.S. senators and ten Israeli Parliament members added their letters of protest. These protests were joined by letters to the President of Lithuania by the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other holy sages throughout the world. All the actions of the international community were stubbornly ignored by the government and remained unanswered. Already this year, Turto bankas the state’s own property bank, plans to publish a lease for the Vilnius Congress Center, and previously organized a public discussion of the rental documents, in which the applicants also participated.
The court case is viewed as a bellwether for the rights of minority cemeteries, and cemeteries of populations decimated by genocide, to be left in peace according to the same humanistic principles by which majority population cemeteries are preserved and respected.