The local Jewish community in Lithuania's northern city of Šiauliai, which plans to rebury recently-discovered remains of their ancestors, says it is facing resistance from the Jewish Community of Lithuania. The latter says it only wants to keep things in order and ensure that rites are performed by competent rabbis.
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

Sania Kerbel, chairman of the local Jewish community in Šiauliai county, told BNS Lithuania that the remains were dug out several months ago during the reconstruction of a heating main near a local cemetery. Following the examination, the Jewish community asked for the remains to be returned for them to be reburied in the same place pursuant to the Jewish tradition. Prosecutors and investigators agreed to return the remains to the community, Kerbel said.

"But the Jewish Community of Lithuania got involved for some reason, sent out letters to everyone, demanding that we don’t get the remains, that their rabbi will come as Šiauliai has no competence, despite us being a regional community. And everything took place in Šiauliai, our next of kin were buried. I find it hard to comprehend why they are trying to halt all of this, want to wait some days for some rabbi to come. We are not doing this by ourselves, we are consulting the Conference of European Rabbis," Kerbel told BNS Lithuania.

In his words, the remains are being brought from Vilnius to Šiauliai on Tuesday, and two rabbis from the Conference of European Rabbis are set to come from Riga who will perform the reburial rites in several hours.

"Why does the Jewish Community of Lithuania want to halt these things? Perhaps they have that big wish to control everything, to show that nothing can be done without them. It starts to resemble the Soviet times," Kerbel resented.

Faina Kukliansky, chair of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, says the community has a contract with the London-based international recognized organization, the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, which should take care of the reburial. In her words, the Jewish Community of Lithuania is trying "to maintain at least some normal order in Lithuania".

"Nobody is fighting them over the remains but we just want some order to exist. If these rabbis have worked for so many years here, we have no basis not to trust them. Therefore, the decision in principle to bring other rabbis to just cause some disagreement has no sense," Kukliansky told BNS Lithuania.

She said rabbis from the mentioned organization are coming to Lithuania next week and problems related to the burial of Jewish remains will also be discussed with them. Kukliansky also expressed her surprise at the fact that rabbis whose leadership demonstrates support for the Kremlin would be taking care of the reburial.

"It’s an unpleasant situation, as if Jews are fighting over bones in Šiauliai. But some order must exist, they might include the bones of my grandfather as well. Why should a rabbi from Moscow come to bury the remains of our people? There's Pinchas Goldschmidt who sits in Moscow, and Kalev Krelin who waved congratulating everyone on the New Year near the Kremlin. We are really not going to fight anyone. I will definitely not going to Šiauliai to take those remains," she said.

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