Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1065
Title: AMERICAN RABBI CONTENDS LITHUANIAN PROPERTY

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04VILNIUS10652004-09-02 14:19:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001065 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/OHI, EUR/NB 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI CASC LH
SUBJECT: AMERICAN RABBI CONTENDS LITHUANIAN PROPERTY 
RESTITUTION NOT KOSHER 
 
REF: VILNIUS 937 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Escalating discord within Lithuania's 
Jewish community has surpassed the bounds of a religious 
dispute and threatens to become a fight over community 
property.  At the center of the dispute is Rabbi Sholom Ber 
Krinsky, an American citizen, who publicly contends that 
Jewish community leaders refuse him the title of Chief 
Rabbi in order to exclude him from the process by which 
Lithuania will restitute Jewish communal property. 
Privately Krinsky told us he faults the USG for supporting 
what he believes is a "corrupt and nontransparent" 
restitution process.  Krinsky and his supporters have 
challenged the authority of both the secular Jewish 
community leader and other rabbis.  Vilnius police are 
investigating allegations that Krinsky disturbed the peace 
at the synagogue in Vilnius; the synagogue remains closed. 
We continue to offer Krinsky consular assistance, while we 
resist Krinsky's efforts to entangle us in his dispute with 
Lithuania's Jewish community.  The USG continues to 
encourage the GOL to advance the restitution process and we 
remain confident that the process is transparent and fair. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
Krinsky: "It's All About Restitution" 
------------------------------------- 
¶2. (SBU) The Jewish Community of Lithuania, under the 
leadership of chairman Dr. Simonas Alperavicius and in 
coordination with an international committee of Jewish 
organizations, has been in protracted negotiations with the 
GOL to restitute former Jewish communal property seized 
during the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Lithuania. 
Research on restitutable property has slowed the GOL- 
supported process.  Controversy within the Jewish community 
has now spotlighted the restitution issue as Rabbi Sholom 
Ber Krinsky, an American citizen who heads the local branch 
of Chabad Lubavitch, has demanded to be included in the 
decision making process.  Publicly and privately Krinsky, 
who for most of 2004 has been unsuccessfully battling for 
recognition as the Chief Rabbi and leader of the Jewish 
religious community (reftel), now contends that his 
controversy is in fact about property restitution.  Krinsky 
claims that Alperavicius wants to exclude him from the 
restitution process, although he (Krinsky) is "the only 
person who has done anything to advance Jewish religious 
life in Lithuania during the last ten years."  Krinsky 
argues that he should have a position on the board of the 
foundation that will make decisions about who benefits from 
the GOL's restitution of property and claims that he 
personally should also be a beneficiary of the process. 
 
¶3. (SBU) The foundation board, as currently envisioned, 
will comprise six local representatives and six 
representatives from interested international groups.  From 
Lithuania, we expect the board to include the heads of the 
three largest religious communities of Vilnius, Kaunas, and 
Klaipeda, as well as three prominent members of the 
national Jewish Community of Lithuania (two from Vilnius 
and one from Siauliai).  Alperavicius will represent the 
Vilnius religious community.  Neither Krinsky nor Rabbi 
Chaim Burshtein, the country's other resident rabbi (hand- 
picked by Alperavicius), are Lithuanian citizens, and 
neither will have seats on the board.  Nonetheless, 
international and local interlocutors have assured us that 
Krinsky's Chabad Lubavitch will be eligible to receive 
property, as will all other Jewish institutions in 
Lithuania. 
 
Righteous Warrior or Criminal? 
------------------------------ 
¶4. (SBU) Krinsky and his followers have been waging a 
public campaign against Alperavicius since August 1, 
distributing anti-Alperavicius literature at many community 
events and taking out advertisements in local newspapers. 
Krinsky twice visited the Embassy within the last few 
weeks, seeking "political" support.  During an August 25 
meeting at the embassy, he became belligerent (for which he 
later apologized) and accused the USG of being "party to a 
crime" for "driving the restitution issue," which he 
described as "corrupt and nontransparent."  (NOTE: We had 
previously met with Krinsky to discuss property 
restitution, among other issues, on March 23.  Krinsky, at 
that time, never expressed concern about the process or 
plans for disbursing property.  END NOTE.) 
 
Criminal Allegations and Investigation 
-------------------------------------- 
¶5. (SBU) The MFA notified us by diplomatic note August 27 
that Vilnius police are conducting an investigation 
regarding allegations that Krinsky criminally disturbed the 
peace in an August 1 incident at the synagogue, and that 
Krinsky had asked that an Embassy representative 
participate during his questioning.  Krinsky had not 
informed us of this request during our meetings with him on 
either August 17 or August 26.  A consular representative 
will attend Krinsky's hearing, although we have made it 
clear to all parties that this consular official cannot act 
as a legal representative or advocate.  The charge of 
criminal disturbance of the peace carries a penalty of up 
to two years imprisonment. 
 
Other Consular Assistance 
------------------------- 
¶6. (SBU) Krinsky, his wife, and an associate ran afoul of 
private security guards who forcibly removed them from the 
synagogue at the conclusion of a concert on August 25. 
The following day, Krinsky informed us of his removal.  We 
provided him with lawyers and physicians lists.  We also 
encouraged Krinsky to file a police report if he felt his 
removal from the synagogue had been unlawful, and to 
contact us immediately if the police were unwilling to 
accept such a complaint.  Krinsky said that he would likely 
file a complaint but that he really considered this a 
political matter and was not at this time seeking consular 
assistance. 
 
Comment 
------- 
¶7. (SBU) The dispute within Lithuania's Jewish community 
does not appear headed for a rapid conclusion.  Attempts at 
international mediation have failed, and Alperavicius and 
Krinsky seem ready for a prolonged fight.  Krinsky's public 
activism -- repeatedly confronting his opposition in public 
fora -- provides fodder for continuing press coverage that 
often features the Jewish community, and the issue of 
property restitution, in a negative light.  Krinsky's 
allegations about corruption in the restitution process 
distort the truth on the ground and hurt the prospects for 
concluding government work on the matter.  While we don't 
discount the animosity between Alperavicius and Krinsky, 
the regional diversity of the board and participation of 
international institutions encourage us to trust that the 
restitution process will be transparent and fair. 
Restitution negotiations have essentially stalled until 
after the October elections. A new Government may be 
reluctant to tackle this issue if the controversy extends 
not only to the public, concerned about the cost of 
restitution and perceived special treatment of one ethnic 
community, but also to the interested parties. 
 
¶8. (SBU) Krinsky's American citizenship complicates the 
issue and the Embassy's role.  We will continue to offer 
consular assistance to Krinsky.  Without entering into the 
middle of a community dispute, we will also continue to 
encourage transparency and fairness in the restitution 
process. 
 
MULL