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Lithuanian Jewish community reopens Vilnius synagogue 2 days after contested closure


(JTA) — The Jewish Community of Lithuania reopened the only functioning synagogue in the capital Vilnius following an outcry over its decision two days earlier to close the house of worship due to unspecified threats.

The decision by the community’s chairwoman, Faina Kukliansky, to shut down the Choral Synagogue temporarily “did not lead to greater unity among the Jewish communities,” a statement posted Thursday on the community’s website read. It also said that Lithuania’s prime minister and president have given “assurances” on security following the closure Tuesday.

Along with the synagogue, the community’s headquarters also were announced as being shut down due to threatening phone calls and emails, Kukliansky said Tuesday. She did not say what the threats were. The statement on the synagogue’s reopening did not mention the other building shuttered.

The closures coincided with protests in Lithuania over a decision last month by the mayor of Vilnius to remove a plaque celebrating one alleged Nazi collaborator in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry and the renaming of a street for another.

In Lithuania, many view them as heroes for fighting communism.

Simon Gurevicius, chairman of the Jewish Community of Vilnius and leaders of five other communities from Kukliansky’s umbrella group had criticized the closure and questioned her mandate.

Threatening telephone calls or letters are “not a reason to close the synagogue or the community,” Gurevicius told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Jews are safe in Vilnius,” Gurevicius said, noting that anti-Semitic violence is very rare in the country despite a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric around the collaborators debate.

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