A Virtual Tour of Vilna’s Jewish Cemetery

Jan. 21 2016

Examining photographs of the Jewish cemetery in the city once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, Sid Leiman explains the historical context and discusses the great rabbinic figures buried there:

[T]he old Jewish cemetery was the first established in Vilna [modern-day Vilnius]. According to local Jewish tradition, it was founded in 1487. Modern scholars, based on extant documentary evidence, date the founding of the cemetery to 1593, but admit that an earlier date for its founding cannot be ruled out. The cemetery, still standing today (but denuded of its tombstones), lies just north of the center of the city of Vilna, across the Neris (formerly: Vilia) River, in the section of Vilna called Šnipiškes (Yiddish: Shnipishok). It is across the river from, and just opposite, one of Vilna’s most significant landmarks, Castle Hill with its Gediminas Tower.

The cemetery . . . was in use from the year it was founded until 1831, when it was officially closed by the municipal authorities. Although burials no longer were possible in the old Jewish cemetery, it became a pilgrimage site, and thousands of Jews visited annually the graves of the many righteous heroes and rabbis buried there, especially the graves of the “Righteous Convert” (Avraham ben Avraham, a/k/a Count Potocki, d. 1749), the Gaon of Vilna (Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, 1720-1797), and Avraham Danziger (author of the halakhic compendium Ḥayyey Adam, d. 1820). Such visits still took place even after World War II.

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More about: History & Ideas, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish history, Vilna, Vilna Gaon

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror