The only functioning synagogue in Lithuania’s capital shuts down over security concerns


(JTA) — The Jewish Community of Lithuania temporarily closed the only functioning synagogue of the capital Vilnius, citing security issues that may be connected to a debate about the honoring of Nazi collaborators.

“The Lithuanian Jewish Community has received threatening telephone calls and letters in recent days,” Faina Kukliansky, the chairwoman of the community, wrote in a statement Tuesday. It was a “painful but unavoidable decision” to close Choral Synagogue in Vilnius along with the headquarters of the Jewish community, which is also a Jewish community center.

The shutdowns are without precedent in Lithuania since its independence from Russia in 1990.

Last month Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius ordered the removal of a controversial plaque in central Vilnius that honored Jonas Noreika, a collaborator with Nazi authorities, allegedly also in the murder of local Jews, who is celebrated posthumously in Lithuania as a hero for fighting communism.

The municipality last month also voted to rename a street that had been named for another collaborator, Kazys Škirpa, who called for Jews to be driven out of Lithuania. The decisions provoked protests and outrage in nationalist circles.

Anti-Semitic attacks are very rare in Lithuania.

The Choral Synagogue has been at the center of several controversies and fights between Kukliansky’s community and the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the country, Rabbi Sholem Ber Krinsky, and his congregants.

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