VILNIUS - It was the season of change - coronavirus, #blacklivesmatter movement and hurricanes. The onset of a number of events which came from left field.
For the international Jewish community there was another event, which was hitting close to home. It was something which hit the heart of every living Jew. It was the decision by the Lithuanian government to build a conference centre, on the grounds of a 500-year cemetery. International groups and interfaith leaders rallied in support to protect the cemetery and prevent the construction. The White House expressed its strong opposition to the desecration. Legal experts from across the globe have verified that the construction constitutes a violation of the Geneva Convention and EU Charter of Human Rights.
As some of the dust settles, one group propels forward in its campaign to secure the termination of the government’s decision to construct the conference centre. The organization consists of political practitioners, businessmen and interfaith leaders, all vehemently opposed to the government’s initiative. They call themselves “Save Vilna.” These activists are working 24 hours a day to bring a halt to the Lithuanian government’s plan. They will leave no stone unturned. Their energy knows no bounds.
Amongst this group, hidden within the layers of determination that reverberates amongst every living member, is one soul who will not rest until the government’s plan is diffused. He has dedicated his entire life to serve the Jewish community. At heart he is Lithuanian in every sense of the word. He walks the walk and talks the talk with the cherished memories of his ancestors. They are Lithuanians that lived and breathed Jewish life in Vilnius. He is Reb Dov Fried. This is a man who deeply cares about Lithuanian culture, someone who is committed to preserving the spirit of the country.
A spokesperson for the group confirmed that the Save Vilna campaign has expended significant resources in drawing up plans for the cemetery in Shnipishok, to beautify the plot of land. Tourist guides say that this piece of real estate could become the Jewel of Vilna, a place where Jews internationally come together and pay their respects.
One thing is certain, if Reb Dov Fried has his way, Lithuania will be better for it.