Lithuania to co-operate over Vilna Gaon grave site


Lithuania is to erect a monument to mark the site of a historic Jewish cemetery that was once the resting place of the Vilna Gaon.

Representatives of the London-based Committee of the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries recently met Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius to discuss the future of the old Shnipishok cemetery.

The Gaon, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, acknowledged as one of the greatest talmudists, was buried there after his death in 1797.

But when the Soviets built over the site after the War, the remains of the Gaon were reinterred in the Saltonishku cemetery in Vilnius.

A disused sports hall stands over part of the Shnipishok site, which the Lithuanians want to convert into a classical musical auditorium. The plan involves the construction of an annex.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, from the committee, said: "Where they want to place the annex shouldn't be a problem, because there aren't any graves there."

But the area will be checked by ground-penetrating radar to make sure this is the case.

Rabbi Gluck said that the Lithuanians' willingness to consult marked "a tremendous change for the better. It is a very positive attitude, which is clearly different from Lithuania in the past".

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