Gillibrand seeks answers on neglect of Jewish cemeteries


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) asked the Obama administration to investigate reports of neglect and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Europe.

Gillibrand listed three examples, provided by Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg: Plans in Vilnius, Lithuania to expand a sports complex over a Jewish burial ground; reportedly unauthorized digging at a cemetery in Krakow, Poland; and ancient catacombs in Rabat, Malta left in disarray, with some remains removed.

"We must preserve these historic cemeteries and ensure they are neither neglected nor forgotten," Gillibrand said in a statement announcing that she was writing a letter about the matter to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state. "Moving or destroying these cemeteries would be an affront to family members of those buried there and would erase Jewish remnants from that time."

Officials at the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, an independent government agency that deals with Jewish properties in Europe among other issues, said they were aware of the cases and were pursuing them.

Building at the Vilnius burial ground has been frozen for now after representations on behalf of the commission.

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