Jewish Orthodox rabbis visiting Lithuania on August 26 have inquired about the government's and the Vilnius municipality's plans of renovating the former Sports Palace building in the territory of a Jewish cemetery ( the old Jewish cemetery known as Piramont - TLT).
Vilnius' Sport Palace
© DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Faina Kukliansky, the chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, said the seven Rabbis from the United States and Israel asked Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius whether the planned renovation would not violate the requirements of Judaism.

"The rabbis stated their request to preserve the memory of the Jews who have been buried in Šnipiškės. It seems to me that the Vilnius municipality, the government and the Jewish Community of Lithuania share the same goals, therefore, I see no reasons for a conflict or some different stances – we all want the same," Kukliansky told BNS after the meeting.

Later on Tuesday, the rabbis intend to discuss the matter with Government Vice-Chancellor Rimantas Vaitkus, the government's press service told BNS.

In Kukliansky's words, the Jewish religious leaders came to Vilnius at their own initiative to find out more “about the not entirely precise information” about the planned work. The renovation plans have been criticized by Chaim Burstein who had been sacked from the post of Lithuania's chief rabbi.

The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) says that the dialogue with the Lithuanian government is proceeding in a positive manner and has helped to preserve more Jewish burial sites.

Vaidotas Aleksius, the head of the Property Bank, told BNS on Tuesday that the bank was "close to reaching an agreement" in the negotiations on purchase of the Sports Palace with the bankruptcy administrator of Ūkio Bankas (Economy Bank) and Šiaulių Bankas subsidiary that own the building and the land around it. In his words, the next phase of the talks is scheduled for early September. According to earlier reports, the bankruptcy administrator seeks to receive at least 9 million euros for the 14,700 sq. meter palace with additional buildings and the land.

In the end of June, the government listed the reconstruction project as an important one, which should enable institutions to make project-related decisions on the fast track. The finished centre should be leased to a selected operator for 10 years
The Jewish cemetery existed in the territory close to the Vilnius centre in 1500-1800s.

The over ground part of the cemetery was razed to the ground during the Soviet rule. During the construction of the Sports and Concert Palace in 1970s, many of the graves were destroyed along with any visible boundaries of the cemetery, while the existence of the cemetery was swept under the carpet.

The boundaries were approved in 2009, a parking area was consequently removed from the territory.

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