The Rosh Yeshiva of the esteemed Yeshiva Ponevezh, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein Shlit”a has added his name to the broad list of signatures that are opposing the Lithuanian government’s plan to construct a conference center on the grounds of the Shnipishok cemetery in Vilna, Lithuania.
The yeshiva has over three thousand students, including those of affiliated institutions, and is considered one the leading Litvish yeshivas in Israel. Founded in 1908, the yeshiva was originally located in city of Panevėžys (Ponevezh), Lithuania prior to the Holocaust.
The plan to construct the conference centre in Vlna has been met with fierce opposition from Jewish communities across the globe. Leading Rabbis, community leaders and experts in halacha (Jewish Law) including HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a have ruled that "the construction and operation of a conference centre on a Jewish cemetery, constitutes desecration and is forbidden."
There is no provision or exception for accommodating the conference centre proposal,” said Rabbi Elchonan Baron, who’s father of blessed memory was a student at the Mir Yeshiva in Kovna and who escaped from the Nazis y-sh”u, to Shanghai, with almost the entire yeshiva during World War II.
Leading experts have confirmed that the construction of the conference centre also violates provisions in the Geneva Convention and and EU Charter of Human Rights. Accordingly, the Lithuanian government may face sanctions from the EU and other government agencies for human rights violations. Mr. Dov Fried together with a group of international activists, are leading an initiative to halt the actions of the Lithuanian government. This includes a class action suit on behalf of descendants of the deceased, who are buried in the cemetery and who amount to several hundred in number. "The number of descendants of the deceased living today, is estimated to be in the millions,” said Mr. Fried.
An expert panel has ruled that construction of a conference centre on a Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania is illegal. See the full story.
Separately, the White House has slammed the desecration of the cemetery. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order against anti-Semitism. An independent poll has established that the majority of Lithuanians oppose the construction of the conference centre. Evangelicals who represent by todays estimates, approximately 1 billion in number, are threatening to boycott tourism in Lithuania. This would result in the loss thousands of Lithuanian jobs and take a heavy toll on the economy.