Lithuanian Tourism Chiefs Condemned for ‘Immoral’ PR Stunt in Ongoing Fight Over Jewish Cemetery

May 5, 2020

The head of Lithuania’s Jewish community has strongly condemned a government-sponsored publicity stunt that showed hundreds of chairs marked with fake 1,000-euro notes lined up outside a state-of-the-art convention center that is being constructed on top of a Jewish cemetery.
Simon Gurevich — chair of the Jewish community in the capital Vilnius — told local broadcaster LRT that the display staged by tourism agencies was “immoral,” as the chairs had been stacked “over the heads and bodies of the people who created the ‘Jerusalem of the North,'” invoking a term that was often used to describe Vilnius, then known as Vilna, before the Nazi Holocaust.
Jewish activists and human rights groups have spent the past three years opposing the government’s construction of the convention center on the site of the Old Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery, where thousands of  graves are buried beneath the surface.
Last Friday’s display at the site was organized by Lithuanian tourism chiefs as a mocking response to the continued delays in the construction of the convention center, with the fake cash intended to symbolize the amount of money allegedly being lost because of the continued protests of Jewish organizations and others.

An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives on Monday called for the extension of the United Nations...

According to Defending History — a specialist website that monitors and analyzes the official depiction in contemporary Lithuania of the country’s Jewish past  — Friday’s widely-reported display may have been the result of a photoshopping exercise, rather than an actual event.
One of the site’s reporters asked a contact at the Vilnius municipality “about whether the city’s permission had been given. The employee, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Of course it was virtual, photoshopped, but reported in the press release as being on the ground, in order to wind up the Jews so they will go crazy about their so-called cemetery.'”
Commented Defending History: “Whether on the ground or the web, this is one of the most disturbing manifestations of ‘elite antisemitism’ in Eastern Europe in recent times. Besides the humiliation of thousands of buried from the minority annihilated in the Holocaust, there is the classic antisemitic trope associating ‘Jews and banknotes,’ alongside the insinuation that only a convention center at this location can bring back the tourist industry after Covid-19.”
Local officials insist that there is no other appropriate site for the convention center, which is being presented as a major boon for the tourism and hospitality industry.
“We have been waiting for the Congress Center to be located in this place for many years, but in the face of the crisis, it is becoming critical for our sector,” Evalda Šiškauskienė, president of the Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association, told local news outlets over the weekend.
The Article was published in the Algemeiner

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Vice Presidents Jourová and Schinas speak at 4th meeting of Working Group on Antisemitism

On 8 December, Vice-President Věra Jourová and Vice-President Margaritis Schinas participated in the 4th meeting of the Working Group on combating antisemitism. Vice-President Schinas opened the meeting with remarks on stepping up the fight against antisemitism, while Vice-President Jourová will deliver closing remarks in the afternoon. The meeting was focused on the development of national strategies against antisemitism, the practical use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and fighting against antisemitic prejudices as part of civic orientation measures based on the EC Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion.
Values and Transparency Vice-President Věra Jourová said:  ‘It is more important than ever to think critically, to not believe immediately what you read and hear. Countering disinformation and promoting democracy are crucial principles to our democratic societies and to the functioning of the European Union.”
Vice President Schinas said: “In 2021 we will present with our first comprehensive EU strategy on combating antisemitism. Our message is clear: Europe is determined to win this fight. Europe is proud of its Jewish communities and stands by its Jewish communities.”
The European Commission created the ad-hoc Working Group on antisemitism within the existing high-level member states expert group on racism and xenophobia to help member states in the implementation of the Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe of 6 December 2018. More information on the Commission's work to tackle antisemitism can be found here.
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AFTER “HAMAS, HAMAS, JEWS TO THE GAS” CHANTS, DUTCH CHIEF RABBI AND MAYOR OF ARNHEM SET FOR FRANK, DIFFICULT BUT NECESSARY TOWN HALL MEETING WITH VITESSE FANS

After supporters of Arnhem based Vitesse football club were heard chanting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” ahead of a game against Amsterdam side Ajax last weekend, Dutch Chief Rabbi and European Jewish Association Chairman of the organisation’s committee for combatting anti-semitism Binyomin Jacobs and the Muslim Mayor of Arnhem Ahmed Marcouch are to hold a “town hall” meeting with Vitesse fans with the full support of the football club’s hierarchy.
The town hall meeting - whose date in coming days and details are being finalised - was arranged after Rabbi Jacobs got in touch with the Mayor immediately after the incident. Both agreed that words of condemnation were not enough, but that a constructive approach of engaging and holding a dialogue with supporters was needed.
Mayor Marcouch then contacted the Vitesse hierarchy to arrange a meeting with the supporters group.
Speaking today, Rabbi Jacobs said,
“Clearly the chants are abhorrent and disgusting. They are ignorant and a twin attack on Jews: on Israel and on the Holocaust. The natural reaction is to condemn in the strongest possible terms. We, of course, do so.
“But that on its own is not enough. We must be constructive, we must engage, we must educate so that those who chant what they think are throw-away lines in the spirit of rivalry, are fully aware of the weight of their words, of the damage and hurt that they cause.
The mayor and I, a Jew and a Muslim are fully aware of the dangers of ignorant prejudice. And we are also fully aware that boxing people in with condemnation can just entrench positions into “them and us”. This serves nobody’s interest. Our town hall meeting for which I am grateful to the Mayor for initiating, will be a frank, and we imagine difficult, exchange of views. But an entirely necessary one.”

COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.

For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl
Column NIW 38 GB
Sara wants to tell her husband something positive and something negative. What do you want to hear first, she asks him? Start with the good news, her husband replied. Well, Sara enthuses, your Lexus'airbags worked very well. After two weeks holiday of writing my diary, I also have something positive and something negative to say. I'll start with the negative. I had to go to England for a few days. The reason why is irrelevant, but I want to share the corona bombardment surrounding this trip. The ferry ticket was easily booked, but then the test circus started. I checked online which test is required to cross the sea. €130 PCR. Afterwards, the test of €39 turned out to be sufficient. I had to be at the test site at 11:05 am, preferable not earlier. I was there at 11:04, but had to queue until 12:15! Two days later, after lengthy paper statements about testing, whereabouts and quarantine, I was in London. Four times a day I got a call from the local authority asking how I was feeling and where I was. They also send inspectors to check us at the door every other day. And then back home again. I expected the return journey to be easy as I am Dutch and fully vaccinated. Mais non! I was bombed by text, WhatsApp and email by the Ferry company. I had to have an urgent reason, which officially falls under the exceptions, to be allowed to return home. My full vaccination was not recognized as I am entering Holland from England and I had to have a negative PCR test less than 24 hours old. The latter was a difficult one, because my ferry left at 11 p.m. So, I could only go to a test location the next morning, on the day of departure, but I would receive the results after 24 hours, not earlier. I was quite upset about it. It seemed like mission impossible. After a few days in England and five tests with negative results, I was back in Holland. At the border I was kindly welcomed by our Royal Military Police. I just had to show my ID. No test results and not even my app showing that I'm vaccinated. That friendly "welcome back to the Netherlands and have a nice" made me forget all threatening emails, text messages and WhatsApp’s in no time and therefore my quarantine after returning passed without any emotional problems. Which shows the importance of a few kind and
friendly words!

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