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Report That Ancient Jewish Cemetery in Vilna Was Levelled

A leading American Orthodox rabbi reported today that, at the request of the head of the Moscow Jewish community, the Soviet Ministry of Cults had sent a special commission to Radin, near Vilna, to investigate a report that the ancient Jewish cemetery there had been levelled. The Radin cemetery included the grave of the Chofetx Chaim. regarded as the greatest Talmudic scholar of modern times, who died in 1933.

Rabbi Pinhas Teitz, a former member of the Presidium of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, said be had learned about a letter from a Moscow source, reporting a visit to the Radin. cemetery recently and a discovery that a tractor had devastated the cemetery, leaving broken pieces of headstones and monuments strewn over the cemetery area. According to the letter, the grave of the Chofetz Chaim had disappeared. The devastation of the cemetery reportedly took place sometime between July 10 and 22, Rabbi Teitz said he had learned.

He said he made telephone contact yesterday with Ephraim Kaplun, head of the Moscow Jewish community, to inform him of the reported devastation of the Radin cemetery. Rabbi Teitz added that in two telephone calls to Moscow today, Kaplun informed him that he had visited the Ministry of Cults and that a Moscow University expert on Jewish history had explained to the Ministry the significance for Jews of the Chofetz Chaim and that Jews frequently visited the grave in respect to his memory.

Rabbi Teitz said Kaplun told him that the Ministry arranged to send a special commission to Radin to investigate the report and that a Ministry official had promised to do everything possible to rectify the destruction. The rabbi said he expected a report from Kaplun on the results of the commission’s visits this weekend. Rabbi Teitz said the Chofetz Chaim was the founder and dean of the Yeshiva of Radin, which he described as one of the leading Jewish seminaries of the world.

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