Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Eastern European Authorities Show Interest in Restoration of Jewish Cemeteries
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Reports of the upcoming visit by delegations from all over the Jewish world to former Torah sites and aged Lithuanian cemeteries are generating considerable interest.

Since the discovery of the grave of Rabbenu Yisroel Salanter zt"l, a committee has been planning a high-ranking delegation to the site to erect a new tombstone. Rabbonim and public figures have asked the planning committee to use this important event as a springboard to create interest in the restoration of Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania, Russia and Belarus. Many great luminaries of past generations -- from whose light the Torah world still benefits -- are interred in these cemeteries, many of which are on the verge of extinction, Rachmono litzlan. Only widespread public awareness and immediate activity can preserve and mark the graves of the gedolei Yisroel.

The route of the planned visit has been extended, so that in addition to attending the erection of a tombstone at the grave of HaRav Yisroel Salanter in Kaliningrad, the delegation will visit Minsk, Volozhin, Radin, Vilna, Kovna, Kelm and other former places of Torah, as well as cemeteries still in existence.

The delegation will include gedolei haTorah and yir'oh from all over the Torah world, as well as roshei yeshiva, mashgichim, rabbonim and morei horo'oh from Israel, Europe and the United States, many of whom have already assured their participation in this historic event.

International activists who deal regularly with grave restoration have told the local authorities in Eastern Europe that this unique visit will have wide repercussions. As a result, positive changes are evident in the approach of the authorities, who are now much more willing to respond to demands from the Jewish world. Of course, many more efforts must be made until the plans actually materialize.

Contacts with prominent leaders in the American government that had began to crystallize a number of years ago with the discovery of the appalling state of the Koenigsberg cemetery are continuing. Rabbi Chaim Boruch Gluck, of the New York Police Department and the Post Authority, who is also the chareidi representative in the Special Committee of the American Government for the Preservation of Historical Sites in Europe, reported to top ranking officials in Washington about the delegation, as well as their efforts to arouse public interest in the need to save the cemeteries from extinction.

Three years ago, Rabbi Gluck served as the American government representative during the visit of the rabbonim and the mashgichim to Koenigsberg. He gave the mayor of Kaliningrad a personal gift from President Clinton in appreciation of his efforts to help save the cemetery and the grave of HaRav Yisroel Salanter. Rabbi Gluck also facilitated the signing of a pact between the American government representative and the local government of Kaliningrad. Its purpose was "preservation of issues of importance for both sides," and guarantee of the continuation of matters of the cemetery.

Rabbi Gluck is continuing to keep the Bush government informed of the plans for the forthcoming visit. The visit is viewed as an unprecedented step in efforts to rescue the cemeteries in Lithuania.

Meetings were held last week between the coordinating committee and organizers of the trip from Israel, Europe and the United States to plan the composition of the delegations and the schedule of the historical visit. Experts say that the visit is likely to effect a significant change in the ancient cemeteries as well as in the authorities' approach to the issue of saving the cemeteries from extinction.


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