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British Jews protest work near Vilnius cemetery

British Jewish leaders met with the Lithuanian ambassador to protest desecration of Vilnius’ Jewish cemetery.

The delegation of the umbrella Board of Deputies met with Lithuania’s Ambassador to Britain Vyguadas Usackas and his counsellor, Ernestas Grabazis.

The discussion centered on construction work at Vilnius’ 600-year-old Snipiskes cemetery, estimated to contain about 10,000 Jewish graves, including that of rabbinic authority and scholar the Vilna Gaon. It has been the focus of international protest from Jewish communities in Europe and the United States since construction began on a new office block in the city earlier this year in an area that encroaches on the cemetery grounds.

The cemetery is significant both to Vilnius’ 6,000-member Jewish community as well as to Jews throughout the world whose families originated from the city, which was known for centuries as the ‘Jerusalem’ of Lithuania because of its depth of Jewish culture, learning and heritage.

Usackas assured the delegation that the Lithuanian government is sympathetic to Jewish concerns and is seeking legal measures in order to overrule the decision of the municipality allowing building on the site.

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