European rabbis held a protest and prayer vigil today in Brussels over a 600-year-old cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania that they say is being used for construction.
Construction of a residential and commercial complex recently began in an area of the former Snipiskes Cemetery the city sold to developers. The city government has claimed there are no graves under the area in question according to its research, but experts from the London-based Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) have repeatedly said that bodies were located under the ground in question.
CPJCE estimates that some 10,000 Jews have been buried in what was one of the region’s largest Jewish cemeteries.
In May, a task force including Jewish leaders and government officials met and reportedly agreed that construction would be halted until further surveying was done, but the CPJCE and the Brussels-based Council of European Rabbis (CER) say that instead, bulldozing and digging in the area has begun.
Some 100 Chasidic and Orthodox Jews held a prayer meeting and protest today outside of the European Commission about the purported desecration of the cemetery while a rabbinic delegation delivered a formal complaint at the office of the Lithuanian Permanent Representative to the European Union.
Among the delegation were Brussels chief rabbi Albert Guiguii, CER member Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of Manchester, England, and CPJCE executive director Rabbi Abraham Ginsberg.