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Lithuanian Government wins praise from CER, in quest to restore cemetery

Letter from Conference of European Rabbis to Lithuanian Government

Full Text

Regarding the old Jewish Cemetery of Šnipiškės in Vilnius, Lithuania I hereby would like to clarify, once again, after numerous publications, our position on the Jewish cemetery of Šnipiškės in Vilnius. The cemetery has been run by the Jewish people since it was purchased at full cost to be held in permanent ownership for the eternal rest of the deceased, which was sanctioned by the authorities. The cemetery must be managed in adherence to halachic rules, and its future may be determined only by someone who represents the Jewish people, that is, by expert rabbis or those appointed by them to speak on their behalf.

The Conference of European Rabbis represents and brings together hundreds of rabbis from across the continent and an overwhelming majority of European Jewish communities. It is subject to the authority of the great Torah scholars of Eretz Yisrael and supported by dozens of rabbinical organisations representing Judaism around the world.

Among them are the leaders of the Lithuanian Jewish world. Lithuania for the Jews is more than just a location. It epitomises intellectual heritage and a way of thinking and learning. The Lithuanian Jewry encompasses not only those originating from Lithuania, but also the entire world of yeshivot and rabbinical institutions inspired by this heritage worldwide. It includes Jews of all origins. Yet regarding the cemetery of Šnipiškės, our feelings are shared by all Jewish communities and denominations. Therefore, any other organisation intending to represent the stand of the Jewish people has no right to make such a claim if it goes against the opinion expressed by the majority of world rabbis and communities.

The CPJCE of London expresses only its own opinion, but not that of the Jewish world, and certainly not that of the Lithuanian Jewry. Prominent Torah scholars, who lead the yeshivot and preserve the Lithuanian Jewish heritage, still alive, still vibrant, still developing and producing new spiritual meanings rooted in Lithuanian soil, where it began to flourish, are the only ones entitled to determine the future of the Jewish cemetery on behalf of the entire people (needless to say, in cooperation with the Lithuanian government, unprecedentedly gracious and welcoming towards the Jews),

The Lithuanian government will surely honour the memory of the deceased by paying respect to their customs that have been handed down over generations, in collaboration with the spiritual and halachic leadership of world Jewry and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, but not with organisations that seek to crown themselves wrongfully and to clothe themselves in a mantle unsuitable for them.

We will be happy to make our position ever clearer on any platform that should be required.

On behalf of the Conference of European Rabbis,

Rabbi Moshe Lebel,

Rabbinic director


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