Rabbi Elchonon Baron, a Jewish activist who works towards furthering Jewish causes, sat down with blogger Jonathan Braun to discuss the Lithuanian government’s recent recognition of the Vilna Gaon’s 300th anniversary of the birth of Vilna Gaon Elijah ben Solomon Zalman. See Full Details about the Lithuanian government’s announcement.
On a sunny summer day in Jerusalem, as prayer attendees and visitors at the Western Wall donned masks to protect against the coronavirus, Rabbi Baron collected his thoughts.
He expressed his pleasure that the new and free Lithuanian government had finally recognized its joint history with the Jewish people and the contribution which the Jewish community had given to Lithuania and to the world, pointedly in the heritage promoted and developed by the Vilna Gaon and his disciples.
“However sadly,” said Rabbi Baron. “It is ironical that the same Lithuanian government which is giving that gesture of appreciation to the Jewish community, is also ignoring the rights of both the living Jewish descendants of Lithuania and the dead, by actively promoting a terrible desecration of the most important and largest Jewish cemetery in Lithuania (the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok) by planning to build the Vilnius Congress Centre (a conference centre), on the site of the same cemetery as the Vilna Gaon was buried and on which his family is still buried.”
Rabbi Baron is part of an action group which is spearheading a campaign to stop the construction of the conference centre (Vilnius Congress Centre) by the Lithuanian government. You can learn more about the campaign on the Save Vilna website.
In a separate move, an advocacy group efforts to stop the desecration of the Shnipishok Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, is gaining traction. See the video for more details about their goals and how Lithuanians can bring an end to the controversy.