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
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
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
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.