A Plea to Protect Kivrei Yisrael at the Shnípishok Cemetery in Vilna

This past week, Dirshu went on a mission to Eastern Europe, together with Gedolei Roshei Yeshivos from Eretz Yisrael, France, England, North America, and South America, to celebrate the completion of the second cycle of “Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.” The primary focus of the mission was to be mechazek limud and ameilus baTorah throughout the globe, and to derive chizuk from tefillah at kivrei tzadikim.

After witnessing firsthand the negligible state of various kevorim, and the desecration of mekomos hakdoshim throughout Lithuania, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, decided to use the power of the assembled Gedolei Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbonim, including HaGaon HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, shlit”a, Rosh Beis Din Tzedek of Bnei Brak, founded by his father-in-law HaGaon HaRav Nissim Karelitz, zt”l, to take action and protest an unthinkable plan of the Lithuanian government.

The 15th century Vilna Piramónt Cemetery (in the “Shnípishok” district), established by the Gedolei Vilna, was the burial place of many gedolei olam including the Chaya Adam, and was fully functional until 1831. In 1949, the Soviets destroyed it, building a stadium on its holy ground, followed by the Lithuanians, who expanded the desecration by building a sports and entertainment complex on the site in 1971, ignoring the protests and pleas of the international Jewish community.

The Lithuanians are now planning to build an office and shopping center alongside the abandoned sports complex, but the international Jewish community is determined to fight the plan. Last Friday, the group traveled to the site, demonstrating against the plans.

HaRav Rosenberg began the demonstration, leading the assembled in tehillim. He reiterated the importance of preserving our mekomos hakedoshim, honoring the great leaders of klal Yisroel, whose guidance and leadership we still follow today.

Rabbi Reuven Ohana, Chief Rabbi of Marseille, France, and member of the European Coalition of Rabbis addressed the assembled, “This place is our connection to our fathers and grandfathers,” he pleaded. “Everything we stand for, and everything we are continuing to study and believe, has roots in this holy ground. We need to make sure to preserve whatever is left.”

Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel, international Jewish Lecturer and historian also addressed the media. “In the Vilnius of old, they did not let the Jews live,” he said. “Now, they don’t even let them die! We are committed to uphold the sanctity of this place, and we plead with the government of Lithuania to immediately revoke the plans and keep this hallowed ground intact!”

The protest and activism come on the heels of the formation of The Congressional Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values, which has expressed interest in assisting in the vital cause. To date, the bill calling for the redevelopment of the cemetery site has been delayed twice and is now up for review by an international committee of Jewish Historic places.

The Jewish nation continues to hope and pray that the plans are canceled, and the kedusha of the Shnípishok cemetery remains as is.

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