04 June 2010
Kirsten Gillibrand, the US senator for New York, has asked the Obama administration to investigate reports of neglect and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Gillibrand, a Democrat, listed three examples, provided by Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg: Plans in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to expand a sports complex over an ancient Jewish burial place; reportedly unauthorized digging at a cemetery in Krakow, Poland; and ancient catacombs in Rabat, Malta left in disarray, with some remains removed.
"We must preserve these historic cemeteries and ensure they are neither neglected nor forgotten," Gillibrand said in a statement announcing that she was writing a letter about the matter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose Senate seat she inherited. "Moving or destroying these cemeteries would be an affront to family members of those buried there and would erase Jewish remnants from that time."
Officials at the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, an independent government agency that deals with Jewish properties in Europe among other issues, said they were aware of the cases and were pursuing them. Building at the Vilnius burial ground has been frozen for the time being after representations on behalf of the commission.
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