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Lithuanian capital’s only synagogue closes temporarily after flurry of threats

“In this atmosphere of rising tension and incitement to more tension, [we do not] have the means to insure the safety of visitors, including Holocaust survivors and their families,” said Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish community.

The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, the only active one left in a city once home to more than 100 synagogues prior to the Holocaust. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, the only active one left in a city once home to more than 100 synagogues prior to the Holocaust. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The head of the Lithuanian Jewish community announced on Tuesday the closing of the Choral Synagogue, Vilnius’s only functioning synagogue and Jewish community center, for an “indeterminate period” after community members received threatening phone calls and letters.

“In this atmosphere of rising tension and incitement to more tension, neither the [Lithuania Jewish Center] nor the synagogue in Vilnius have the means to insure the safety of visitors, including Holocaust survivors and their families,” said Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish community.

“We underline the fact that up to the present time, we have not seen any reaction by any institution to the escalating discord. We would like to hear the opinion of the leaders of Lithuania and to hear a firm position on whether public propaganda in favor of honoring Holocaust perpetrators will continue to be tolerated in Lithuania,” she continued.

Kukliansky accused the government of allowing anti-Semitic comments made by political leaders to be “tolerated and go unpunished, which makes us wonder even more whether we are safe or not.” She then said future decisions about the synagogue and Jewish center will be made “based on the general atmosphere and the positions adopted and expressed by Lithuanian political leaders regarding these issues.”

“We would like to hear the opinion of the leaders of Lithuania and to hear a firm position on whether public propaganda in favor of honoring Holocaust perpetrators will continue to be tolerated in Lithuania,” she stated.

Kuklianksy also requested additional security for the Jewish cemetery in Vilnius to prevent it from being vandalized.

The fence of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Lithuania. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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