By early Friday, January 18, the Protestant Evangelical Church in central Vilnius (during Soviet times the Kronika movie theater) had completed the removal of stone stairs leading up to the entrance which were in fact Jewish headstones placed there by Soviet authorities.
This represents a victory in the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s long-term efforts to insure respect for the dead and the Jewish legacy in Lithuania.
Since 2013 the LJC has been cooperating actively with the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Vilnius Protestant Evangelical consistory (session, or governing council) to determine whether the stairs were in fact taken from Jewish cemeteries. It was determined Jewish headstones were used in the construction of the stairs, headstones taken from the old Jewish cemetery in the Užupis neighborhood of Vilnius. Since that determination, the LJC has been appealing constantly to the institutions involved for the stairs to be removed. A number of LJC members have been involved actively in making this happen, as have some Lithuanian public figures, including late professor and MEP Leonidas Donskis.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky thanks the Cultural Heritage Department and the consistory of the Protestant Evangelical Church for their shared concern in insuring the respect due to the historical Jewish community. The LJC would like to see this as an example of good cooperation which can be applied in other Jewish heritage conservation initiatives.