STOP THE DESECRATION
OF TENS OF THOUSANDS
OF JEWISH GRAVES
Tens of thousands of Jews are buried in Vilna, including the holy graves of great Torah and Talmudic giants such as the family of the Gaon of Vilna, the "Chayei Adam, the "Beer Hagolah", and many more. A project to develop a concert and convention centre with entertainment facilities (know as the Vilnius Congress Centre project) in the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (in the Shnípishok district of Vilna) has been approved by the Lithuanian Government. The plan is a flagrant violation of Jewish custom and halacha (law). It has drawn the attention of leading Rabbis and international leaders, including the U.S. Government. There can be no construction of a convention centre on the illegally constructed Vilnius Concert and Sports Hall and ZERO USAGE of the grounds, for any purpose other than the cemetery.
Over the centuries, thousands of Jewish families honestly procured a perpetual resting place for their loved ones in this cemetery. The tragedy is that as a consequence of the Holocaust and the decimation of around 97% of Lithuania’s Jewry, those Jewish souls have no local descendants to take up their cause. Accordingly, a task force has been established to use all possible means to stop the desecration.
It was stolen from the Jewish community by the Nazis and then the Russians. In accordance with the legal right of ownership, the cemetery should be returned to the legitimate guardians of the deceased and their rightful heirs. To destroy this last remnant of Vilna’s Jewish history and culture will be an atrocity and human right violation of the highest order. Although the value of property and human rights were meaningless for the likes of Stalin and Hitler, it would be unbecoming for the Lithuanian government to act in a similar fashion. The Jewish community, rightful heirs and proponents of the Save Vilna initiative are fighting to protect the interests of the departed. They do not want the Vilnius Concert and Sports Hall (also known as the Sports Palace). They want that the property be returned to the legitimate guardians and heirs of the deceased. The cemetery is their heritage. It should be restored and allowed to be used for the purpose for which it was initially designated.
RESTING PLACE TO
“Vilna Gaon (April 23, 1720 – Vilnius October 9, 1797), a talmudist, halakhist, kabbalist and a leader of Jewry.”
The plans of the Lithuanian government to renovate the vacant Sport Palace on the cemetery grounds and turn it into a Convention Centre, undermines the memory of this Holy Place. Accordingly, leading professionals were commissioned to consider alternative options to restore the cemetery to a state which would befit the resting place of the departed.
OPTION 1: Restore the cemetery to its former glory.
OPTION 2: If Lithuanian Landmark law cannot be changed (precluding Option 1.)
NO CONSTRUCTION of a convention centre, on the illegally built palace Sports Palace
ZERO USAGE of the cemetery grounds
METZAIVOS (memorial stone markings) and DEDICATED PRAYER AREAS.
An architect's impression of the structure, (day/night versions) dedicated to the memory of the departed.
A leading New York architectural firm was commissioned to graphically render and depict an aesthetic conversion of the Sports Palace Building and surrounding area. Here we offer you their concept - a beautiful memorial, exclusively dedicated to the memory of the departed.
The envisaged stand-alone closed memorial structure and the entire cemetery area, will be set aside exclusively for prayer and to eulogize the souls of the holy people and their families buried there.
"The development of a conference and entertainment centre or any resemblance thereof, is not permitted according to Jewish law and is therefore unacceptable."
Additionally, a building which serves any secondary purpose outside the framework of a memorial, is contrary to the halacha (Jewish law). It negates the stance of leading Rabbis. It undermines the sentiments expressed by international leaders and it would be a flagrant desecration of tens of thousands of Jewish graves on this holy site.
"The forlorn, abandoned cemetery will finally be restored to the prestige it deserves."
We were commissioned to redesign an old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania and turn it into a monument. A large building had been built over it by the Soviet Union after World War II, and in the process of its construction, thousands of graves were desecrated, many of those graves belonging to prominent rabbis and leaders. This was an especially challenging project given the many restrictions on the site. We could not move any dirt as that would disrupt the graves, so site work was super limited. We could not dig any footings or install any wiring in the ground. Somehow we had to turn an eyesore and a desecration into a powerful monument by doing almost nothing.
We arranged the ground in a metaphorical gridded cemetery of two shades of gravel. We used soft white and grey tones, evocative of the tombstones that once inhabited the site. The gravel also allowed for low maintenance, year round groundcover for the expansive site. We then frosted the existing glass windows and added mirrored panels to the massive roof, reducing its appearance. During the day the roof reflects the sky and gridded ground. At night, the roof twinkles with the thousands of mini solar-powered lights planted at each corner of the ground grid.
The forlorn, abandoned cemetery will finally be restored to the prestige it deserves.