The United States has reinforced its stance to the protection of the Shnipishok Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania. A spokesperson from the US State Department said: “The United States takes seriously our commitment to preserving the heritage of all our citizens.”
The US Embassy in Lithuania has made it a priority to urge the Lithuanian government to maintain an open and inclusive dialogue about the site, including the facility and the cemetery, and all future plans for the area.
The statement comes as a welcome step forward for the millions of US citizens who are connected or who have ancestors buried in the Shnipishok cemetery. Many are concerned that the plan to develop a conference center on the Sports Palace located in the heart of the cemetery, would be a desecration of the cemetery and a violation of Jewish law and culture. International Jewish groups voiced their opposition to the plan.
Earlier this year the Lithuanian government confirmed that the budget allocation for the development of the conference center for 2021 had been nixed. The decision was widely commended. However, the plan still remains on the drawing board of the developers Turtos bankas and the the Vilnius City Council.
The US State Department confirmed that the US Ambassador in Vilnius Ambassador Gilchrist, continued to work to protect the Jewish cemetery and ensure that rights of religious freedom were protected.
The State Department Spokesperson said: “Ambassador Gilchrist continues to convey this message at the highest levels of the Lithuanian government and understands why this matter is important to the relationship between the United States and Lithuania.”
The strong statement by the US State Department is a positive indication that the desecration from the proposed conference center plan can be avoided. It augers well for a positive relationship between the Jewish community and the government in Lithuania.
For more information about the Shnipishok Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania, watch the video by clicking on the following YouTube link: https://youtu.be/r6KP2slz5es