A recent declaration regarding Vilnius’ Snipisek Jewish cemetery by Lithuanian culture minister Saunas Birutis elicited concerns by two Jewish groups engaged in cemetery protection.
In a letter to the Lithuanian Ambassador to the US, Dr. Zygimantas Pasilionis, Asrah Kadisha’s Rabbi Lazer Stern and Dr. Bernard Fryshman of the Conference of Academicians for the Protection of Jewish cemeteries asked whether the Lithuanian government had retreated from its commitment to protect the cemetery.
The two pointed to the Birutis statement which spoke of this sacred site as a place where a “cemetery used to be”, and “division of land in the area or changing its boundaries”. They also noted that a number of inappropriate public events had taken place on the cemetery grounds since 2009.
In view of the above concerns, the Ambassador was also asked whether the Jewish community’s acceptance of the proposed boundaries of the cemetery and its Cultural Designation, had been a mistake.
Wikileak documents released in 2011 indicated that Asrah Kadisha and the Conference of Academicians were kept out of negotiations regarding the status of the cemetery. The two groups had argued for the return of the cemetery to Jewish hands, rather than the Cultural Heritage designation currently in place.