Wiesenthal Center Appeals to Lithuanian President to Move Convention Center Planned for Site of Ancient Jewish Cemetery

May 18, 2017

Los Angeles and Jerusalem-The leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have appealed to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite (pictured) to change the current plans of the government to build a convention center on the grounds of the ancient Jewish cemetery at Piramont in the heart of the Lithuanian capital.

In a letter sent late last night by Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Center's Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and its Director of Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the leaders of the Wiesenthal Center emphasized the historic importance of the cemetery in which numerous outstanding rabbinic scholars were buried over several centuries and the danger the project posed to the future of Lithuanian-Jewish relations.

According to the letter sent by Hier, Cooper and Zuroff:

"…the cemetery at Piramont was the burial site of many thousands of Jewish residents of the city of Vilnius for hundreds of years, among them many of Lithuanian Jewry's most famous rabbinical scholars. These outstanding Torah luminaries were one of the main reasons that your capital was crowned the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania', a title that Lithuanians are proud of to this day.

"We fully understand and acknowledge that it was the Soviets who initially pillaged the cemetery, but the area upon which the convention center will be built is still full of Jewish graves. Thus any building project on this land will constitute a grave desecration of an ancient Jewish burial ground.

"We therefore urge you to change the location of the planned convention center, and spare the site of this ancient Jewish cemetery, a decision which we are certain will strengthen the good relations between Jews and Lithuanians and between Israel and your country."

For additional information please contact the Israel Office of the Wiesenthal Center: Tel: 972-2-563-1274 or Tel: 972-50-721-4156, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal and @EZuroff for news updates sent direct to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).