Rabbi Files New Suit To Halt Belzec Project


Determined to stop construction of a "desecrating" sunken walkway through Poland’s Belzec concentration camp, activist Rabbi Avi Weiss filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the American Jewish Committee, this time naming himself as a co-plaintiff.

But AJCommittee executive director David Harris labeled the lawsuit "frivolous" and defended the walkway, or "trench," as part of a necessary $4 million permanent memorial to the nearly half-million Jewish victims buried in mass graves at the death camp.

Rabbi Weiss’ legal maneuver comes a week after his attorney Steve Lieberman withdrew a federal lawsuit because the plaintiff, a New Jersey Holocaust survivor, took ill.

The rabbi has been waging a one-man campaign against the 600-foot-long, 30-foot deep walkway, one aspect of the Belzec memorial co-sponsored by Poland and the AJCommittee, which took over the project last year from the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Rabbi Weiss contends the walkway violates Jewish law because it will disturb ashes and bones of Holocaust victims. The rabbi said he lost seven members of his family at Belzec. Co-plaintiff Rosa Sacharin of Glasgow "believes her brother was murdered in Belzec," according to the complaint.

The AJCommittee said rabbinical authorities in Europe and Israel "have given their full approval to the memorial design," specifically Orthodox British expert Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger. Rabbi Weiss claims Rabbi Schlesinger was misled about the walkway, but Rabbi Schlesinger told The Jewish Week Wednesday: "I was fully informed about the project and at no point was misled or misinformed. The project should be advanced without any postponement or delay."

Warsaw Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said the walkway is 75 percent finished.