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December 04, 1992 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-04

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Delegation Tries
To Halt Construction

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New York (JTA) — Enraged
at the recent discovery that
an apartment building was
being constructed on the
grounds of the Jewish
cemetery in Pinsk, a Jewish
delegation traveled recently
to Belarus to call a halt to
the desecration.
Headed by Rabbi Hertz
Frankel, spokesman for
Athra Kadisha, the Society
for the Preservation of Jew-
ish Holy Sites, and a mem-
ber of the President's Corn-
mission for the Preservation
of America's Heritage
Abroad, the delegation in-
cluded Rabbi Avrohom
Schlesinger, chief Rabbi of
Geneva, Rabbi Yitzchok
Wolpin, chief Rabbi of
Belarus, Sholom Fried of
Vienna and Rabbis Aaron
Gertner and Shmuel Wein-
traub, of the Athra Kadisha
in Israel.
The group met with
Belarus Foreign Minister
Piotr Kravchenko, U.S. Am-
bassador to Belarus David
Schwartz and First Secre-
tary for the American Em-
bassy Jeffrey Glassman.
Rabbi Frankel reported
that he made it clear that
"the world Jewish commun-
ity was shocked to have un-
covered ongoing construc-
tion on the grounds of the
Jewish cemetery in Pinsk."
He continued, "After the
second World War and the
destruction of the major
Jewish community in
Belarus, we at least expected-
the government to honor and
respect the dead, to allow
them rest in peace and not in
The foreign minister re-
sponded, according to Rabbi
Frankel, that Belarus
understands the sensitivity
of the Jewish community to
the synagogues, cemeteries
and holy places in his coun-
try. He promised to review
the situation.
However, the day after the
meeting with the foreign
minister, the delegation
visited Pinsk and was "was
shocked to find that addi-
tional digging of the
cemetery site was performed
by heavy-duty earth equip-
ment in the last 48 hours."
The group held a meeting
with Pinsk Mayor Vladimir
Timoschenko and Pinsk city
council members. Through
an interpreter, Rabbi
Frankel urged the mayor to
"cease all construction on
the site of the cemetery, to

remove all the heavy earth-
moving equipment from the
cemetery and to stop and
desist from any future plans
of building a housing com-
plex on the grounds of the
The mayor and city council
did not make any firm com-
mitment to stop the
cemetery desecration, accor-
ding to Rabbi Frankel.
If Pinsk authorities do not
comply with the delegation's
request to protect the
cemetery, Rabbi Frankel
foresees protests on par with
those that took place in a
suburb of Hamburg earlier
this year when a shopping
mall was slated to be erected
on a Jewish cemetery site.
In March, Chasidic Jews
from around the world took
part in protests on the site of
the ancient burial ground,
some physically halting con-
struction by chaining them-
selves to bulldozers.
Negotiations with the con-
struction company and offi-
cials of Hamburg are still in

The delegation
visited Pinsk and
was shocked.

process, and Frankel says he
is "cautiously optimistic"
that the shopping mall will
be built upon stilts, protec-
ting the remains in what
was once the Ottensen
But Rabbi Frankel is not
so optimistic about protec-
ting Jewish cemeteries as
anti-Semitism heightens in
the former Soviet republics.
"Unfortunately this is
becoming a serious problem
in Belarus and Eastern
Europe," said Rabbi
Frankel. "With freedom
sometimes comes irrespon-
But Rabbi Frankel be-
lieves that Jews will not
allow the desecration to con-
tinue. He points to the large
numbers of American Jews
whose ancestors are from
"We hope they will all get
involved to stop this terrible
desecration," he said.
Rabbi Wolpin, chief rabbi
of Belarus, appealed to
American and world Jewish
leaders to continue the
pressure to save the Pinsk


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