A Jewish cemetery in 1922, in present-day Žirmūnai, Vilnius.Wikimedia
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Lithuania Wants to Build on Vilna’s Jewish Cemetery. A New Documentary Explains Why This Is a Travesty.

Nearly 40,000 have signed a petition calling on the government to relocate its planned convention center to a different location

Yair Rosenberg
April 27, 2017
A Jewish cemetery in 1922, in present-day Žirmūnai, Vilnius.Wikimedia

In January, I wrote about Lithuania’s plan to construct a $25 million convention center over the site of the historic Jewish cemetery in Vilnius (formerly, Vilna) and the alliance of local Jews and prominent historians who had mobilized to stop it.

Before the Holocaust, Jews of all ideologies and backgrounds constituted half of Vilna’s population, but today they comprise less than 1 percent of it. As the cemetery is one of the last remaining testimonies to the city’s storied Jewish past, a group of scholars and locals rose to its defense. They drafted a petition that called on the Lithuanian government to relocate the center elsewhere in Vilna. Within weeks, the letter had garnered nearly 40,000 signatures, ultimately forcing a pause in the plans for construction.

Now, the cemetery’s advocates have released a short documentary. Featuring Dr. Shnayer Leiman—a veteran of Oxford, Harvard, and Yale, where he directed the school’s Jewish studies program—the film explains the historic significance of the Vilna burial ground and the importance of preserving it.

You can watch it in full below:

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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