Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Kislev 5765 - November 24, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Developments in Vilna's Jewish Community in the Past 15 Years

by Yated European Correspondent

In our issue of parshas Shlach, we published a report about the problems of the Vilna community in appointing a rabbi of its own choosing, rather than another person who was there longer but is not of the community's choosing. Now we are sorry to say that the situation has not resolved itself, and so we are presenting this fuller report of the situation, including the background and later developments. Ho'emes vehasholom ohavu. Once the Jewish community was able to resolve differences with its own resources. Now some elements feel that it is proper to appeal to outside parties, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to resolve things. People are concerned with getting their way, rather than with doing what is right, whatever that may be. Situations like this make us long for the time when the world will be filled with da'as Hashem, but we have to live in the present and push for the proper solutions.


The Vilna Jewish community began to organize by the end of the 1980s, as the Russian bear-hug loosened on the Baltic states.

In keeping with the tradition that existed in Vilna before World War II, the 27 existing Jewish organizations (War Veterans, Ghetto Survivors, Jewish Young Adults, the school, and the like) sent representatives to vote for the president of the community. Simon Alperowitz was unanimously elected as president of the Jewish community, and he also received the votes of the synagogue board to head the religious community. (The Lithuanian government insisted on the separation of ethnic bodies from religious bodies.)

By 1989, the secular Jewish community had founded a Sholom Aleichem (secular) school, organized social services and began to function like a pre-WWII Jewish European kehilla.

The general level of Jewry in Lithuania was very limited. Only 5,000 Jews lived in five cities in Lithuania, with the bulk (4,000) living in Vilna. The majority were elderly, and intermarriage was nearly 100 percent.

Mr. Alperowitz (a descendant of the Rashash, he says with much pride) tried to bring a spiritual leader to the community. In the beginning several English rabbis would come for a few days at a time.

A Decade of Lubavitch in Vilna

In 1994, Lubavitch expressed interest in sending a rabbi to Vilna, and Mr. Alperowitz agreed. Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky moved to Vilna, and established his own Chabad House. He prayed in the community's Taharat Hakodesh shul on Shabbos, and could not put together a minyan during the week. The community did not offer him a rabbinical contract.

During the ten years he was active in Vilna, Rabbi Krinsky founded a Jewish school, set up a kosher kitchen, and did other sundry Jewish outreach.

After ten years of activity, his school had only 30 children (7 of which were his own), and not one family had committed themselves to shemiras hamitzvos. A social worker involved for years with the community informed us that Rabbi Krinsky had sent two girls to a Lubavitch school in London, and mentioned that at most Rabbi Krinsky may have influenced one or two more Vilna Jews to become slightly observant.

Rabbi Krinsky's social services were paltry in comparison to that of the community: he sent 20 children to a Lubavitch camp in Estonia, while the secular community sent 450 children to their own camp. Rabbi Krinsky claimed to help 150 people with his soup kitchen, while the general community was helping 1,500 — including the same 150 helped by Rabbi Krinsky.

Even more problematic were the scandals that hovered over his enterprises. Rabbi Krinsky's soup kitchen was closed down because it served contaminated food. A scandal erupted when charges were made that he had stolen money from donors. Creditors took over the first floor of his Chabad Center to cover unpaid debts. (He is still embroiled in court cases over debts.) He collected money around the world to maintain the Jewish cemetery but never paid the $25,000 to the community which was his share in the maintenance.

Krinsky has less than 30 die-hard followers within the community, who are mostly beneficiaries of his food kitchen or other activities. Of these followers, none have accepted a Lubavitch way of life on themselves or can even be called religious.

Five years ago, the general community sent its first letter to the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) asking them to recommend a rav to lead their community.

About 3 or 4 years ago, Rabbi Krinsky suddenly claimed for himself the title "Lithuania's Chief Rabbi" in the Lithuanian and foreign press, and his own Internet website. Two years ago, he stepped up his campaign to be appointed the official chief rabbi of Lithuania. When the secular community refused to grant him the appointment, he began a campaign against Alperowitz and everyone who sided with the general community.

Referring to this, an article in the local Jewish newspaper Jerusalem of Lithuania writes (April-June 2004), "Rabbi Krinsky could not and should not have hoped to be given this position, for in Lithuania it is also a question of ethics: all Litvaks were and are followers of the Vilna Gaon, who was categorically opposed to chassidism. To permit the appointment today of a representative of the Chabad Lubavitch Chassidim as chief rabbi would be the equivalent of rejecting the Vilna Gaon and the memory of hundreds of thousands of his Jewish religious followers."

Attempt to Gain Control of the Community

As part of his attempt to arouse mistrust and to discredit the executive of the Lithuanian Jewish community in the eyes of the world Jewish community, Rabbi Krinsky sent slanderous letters regarding the activities of the Lithuanian Jewish community to Jewish donors in Europe, Israel, South Africa and USA.

For instance, Rabbi Krinsky arranged for his followers to send a letter to the Joint, demanding their assistance to force the general community to accept him as chief rabbi. The letter was signed by ten people. Of these, one of them was his driver, two were people who worked in Rabbi Krinsky's school, and two had been dismissed from the Jewish community school and accepted by Rabbi Krinsky to his school.

Rabbi Krinsky also wrote to the Lithuanian government, asking them to appoint him as chief rabbi, a tactic which has been used by Lubavitch shlichim in other countries. Rabbi Krinsky also arranged for Israeli Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has close ties to Lubavitch chassidim, to write a letter asking the Lithuanian government to appoint him.

It didn't work in Lithuania. The government openly rebuffed his initiative, and insisted that the community exercise its own prerogative and hire their own spiritual leaders. Rabbi Krinsky tried other legal avenues, including appealing to the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice. All government authorities insisted that the community had the right to choose its own spiritual leaders.

The general Jewish community then turned to the Conference of European Rabbis and asked them to recommend a rabbi for their community. But when they suggested that the community hire Rabbi Krinsky, with whom they had cooperated on numerous community affairs, the response was an outright refusal.

Rabbi Krinsky then came up with an innovative idea. On Feb. 29, 2004, he made a meeting of 30 of his followers within the community and declared that they were the religious Jewish community of Lithuania. An "election" was held in which they proclaimed him chief rabbi. Documents of this pseudo-election were sent for registry to the Ministry of Justice.

But here, too, the Lithuanian authorities squashed the putsch, insisting once again that only the general Jewish community could decide who its spiritual leaders were. What Rabbi Krinsky had done, explained one relief worker from an international organization who was following developments, was akin to several Reform Jews getting together to decide who will lead the Satmar chassidim. It was in fact worse since Rabbi Krinsky was trying to get the government to interfere in the community's prerogative to chose its own leaders, a dangerous precedent for other countries.

On the same day that Rabbi Krinsky was maneuvering the takeover, 400 members of the general Jewish community affixed their signatures in a petition against him.

A New Rav Arrives in Vilna

Rabbi Krinsky's efforts to become the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania took a violent turn when, after a long search for a rabbi, representatives of the five Jewish communities of Shavel, Memel, Ponovezh, Kovno and Vilna met together in March, 2004 and decided to hire Rav Chaim Burstein as the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania. His candidacy for the position in Vilna was recognized by the Conference of European Rabbis.

Rav Burstein was born in St. Petersburg over 30 years ago. He had a fleeting experience with Lubavitch chassidim in his home town when he began studying Judaism, but ultimately rejected their brand of Judaism. A refusenik for seven years, he was imprisoned twice for his activities.

Rav Burstein studied in Yeshivas Shvus Ami in Jerusalem, and continued in Kolel. He was head of the Beersheva Russian community for a period, after which he took a position as rav in St. Petersburg.

Shortly after Rav Burstein took office in Vilna in April, Rabbi Krinsky initiated a campaign of hooliganism against him. Every time Rav Burstein went to the bimah in the shul, Rabbi Krinsky's followers began howling, clapping hands, stamping feet, and shouting insults ("Doberman!") at him. This barrage of invective was slung at Rav Burstein continuously, getting more and more violent, until eventually one day Rabbi Krinsky's followers shoved Rav Burstein off the bimah. Rabbi Krinsky himself participated in the invective against Rav Burstein.

Things came to a head last Shavuos, when Rabbi Krinsky's followers attacked Rav Burstein on the bimah. The traditional custom for hundreds of years in Vilna is to read Megillas Rus on the first day of Shavuos. However, when the congregation began to do so, Rabbi Krinsky and several of his followers began to yell and disrupt the services because Lubavitch reads Megillas Rus on the second day of Shavuos. Later, when Rabbi Burstein rose to deliver his sermon, they again began yelling.

Community members who were present called the police. The police came, but were afraid to take action. They hung their heads and asked in disbelief,"Jews are fighting each other — what do they expect us to do?" The authorities were wary of taking action, lest TV crews show up and film Lithuanian policemen beating up Jews in their own shul.

It was impossible to carry on prayers in the shul. For the second day of Shavuos, the community decided to conduct prayers in Rav Burstein's apartment half a block away on Pylimo street. Rabbi Krinsky and his followers crashed the prayers in Rav Burstein's house, and began to pummel him. Police were called again.

The Shul is Closed Down

After that scandalous event, the community directorate decided to close down the shul to prevent further ugly scenes. On the few occasions when they opened the shul for special events, Rabbi Krinsky showed up with his people and hijacked the affair. They would not let local Jews pray in peace, so the community was forced to keep the shul closed. Community members complained that even during the Communist era, that shul had remained open. No one could come up with a solution to the Lubavitch hooliganism.

The Lithuanian authorities said publicly that the community was in the right, and Rabbi Krinsky has to respect its decision. However, the authorities refused to get involved more than that.

Having no choice, the community hired security guards and gave them instructions not to let Rabbi Krinsky in. Rabbi Krinsky forced his way in, and a melee broke out in which the guards grabbed him and threw him out.

Rabbi Krinsky was quoted in the Russian press after this, "I feel like I went through a Nazi selection." As far as the community was concerned, this was unforgivable. All of Vilna's elderly Jews had suffered through the Holocaust and were extremely sensitive of the mere mention of it. They were family and friends of the 230,000 Lithuanian Jews who had been mercilessly slaughtered by the Nazis. Glick, the gabbai who had locked Krinsky out, had himself lived through the Kovno ghetto, Dachau and Auschwitz, and Rabbi Krinsky compares them to the Nazis in front of the goyim!

Rabbi Krinsky had video photographers on site who were filming the entire fray. Today he shows the film to prove how he was victimized by the members of the community. The film doesn't mention that he had attacked the officially elected rabbi ten times before.

Rabbi Krinsky is an expert in generating media publicity. On several Shabbosim, he held demonstrations outside the shul with picketers holding signs "Open our Synagogue" in Lithuanian and English. In an interview with a BNS correspondent which was conducted on Shabbos, he whined, "Alperowitz's people acted like hooligans, creating a scandal in the synagogue."

To a TV crew and Lietuvos Rytas reporters he gave lurid descriptions of the local community's gangster tactics against him.

The community has filed a lawsuit to remove Rabbi Krinsky and his followers from the synagogue yard where they have been holding an around-the-clock vigil. His chances to win such a lawsuit are negligible.

The Question of Restitution

The undertone behind the scandal is that Rabbi Krinsky wants to be chief rabbi so he can get his hands on the huge amount of Jewish property that was confiscated during and after the war and may be returned to the Jewish community. Restitution is a complex matter with enormous ramifications for the Lithuanian government. According to some estimates, half of Vilna, particularly the expensive prime downtown area, was once owned by Jews.

A joint committee has already been formed between the World Jewish Restitution Organization and Vilna's community executive to handle restitution issues with the Lithuanian government. Lithuania is expected to adopt restitution legislation which will enable the Vilna Jewish community to receive dozens of properties seized by the Soviets when Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.

Lithuania is the poorest country in the European Union. Many tens of thousands of Lithuanians are now living in former Jewish homes and institutions and their eviction from their homes could arouse public resentment to worrisome directions. The Lithuanian government has been making cautious baby-steps towards returning Jewish property to the local Jewish community, but is wary of arousing the ire of its citizens and setting precedents that might draw claims from Jews all over the world.

The constant claims by Rabbi Krinsky to the local media that the Vilna Jewish community is battling him over restitution of Jewish property has already aroused rancor among the locals.

We clarified the exact position of the Jewish community over restitution with an international relief worker whose organization is active in Vilna.

He told us that the least credible claim which Rabbi Krinsky could make is that Mr. Alperowitz is not appointing him as rabbi so he can take all the property for himself. According to Lithuanian law, the Jewish community is eligible for restitution even without a rabbinical figurehead.

The organized Jewish community can not only claim former Jewish property, but it already has. Some time ago, the Austrian embassy — which is located in a former synagogue in Vilna's Old City — paid the community $300,000 for the legal transfer of rights for the property. The Jewish community used that money to help shore up its social programs and community institutions.

The JDC official stressed that while the community doesn't need a rabbi to get property, the opposite is true: Rabbi Krinsky needs to be hired by the community if he is to get any property. This is for the simple reason that Lubavitch had no property in Lithuania before the war to which they are eligible for restitution. Lubavitch was not at all active in Lithuania in those days.

"This is utter deceit, accusing the community of what he himself is doing," the official said in disdain. He deplored the fact that Rabbi Krinsky is a smooth speaker and a native English speaker, which facilitates his PR efforts with the foreign media, while the local community members are mostly elderly, and not versed in English.

Lubavitch's Agenda in Gaining the Chief Rabbinate

In discussions with representatives of various international Jewish organizations, likely reasons why Rabbi Krinsky refuses to give up hopes of being appointed chief rabbi of Lithuania were suggested. There is, of course, the immense honor of being a country's chief rabbi. There is also perhaps a motive of achieving communal success in the very bastion of the Vilna Gaon. But, as the general Jewish community suspects and as we explained above, overriding these motives is the issue of gaining control of valuable Jewish property.

It is also important to realize that Lithuania is one of the few places in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) where a Lubavitch chossid is not the chief rabbi. In Riga, Rabbi Glazman, a Lubavitch chossid, shares an uneasy dual rabbinate with Rav Aryeh Becker, an ex-Lubavitch chossid. In Moscow, Rabbi Berel Lazar arranged a putsch with President Putin to elbow aside Rabbi Adolph Shayovich in favor of Rabbi Lazar's appointment as Chief Rabbi of Russia. In the Ukraine, Rav Chaikin was whisked over from Brussels to be elected "Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine" by the local Lubavitch rabbis over the longstanding chief rabbi of Kiev, Rav Yaakov Bleich. The chief rabbi of Kazakhstan is Rav Shaya Cohen, also a Lubavitch chossid.

In light of all these Lubavitch successes, Rav Krinsky may feel he cannot do less than his colleagues, no matter what tactics are required to accomplish it.

World Lubavitch's Attitude to Krinsky

Shocked by Krinsky's violent tactics, the Vilna community wrote to Lubavitch headquarters hoping they would take action to restrain their representative. They never received a reply.

One astute observer of the scene told the Yated, "Lubavitch is in a real fix over Krinsky. On one hand, Lubavitch doesn't want to lose a battle and they have a clear strategy to have their shlichim become chief rabbis. On the other hand, they're embarrassed by his behavior.

"A further problem is that Krinsky's uncle is Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, one of the heads of Lubavitch in New York, and no one wants to tangle with him."

The JDC arranged for a meeting with the Lubavitch leadership, which included Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky of New York and Rabbi Berel Lazar of Moscow, with the expectation that they would rein Rabbi Krinsky in. But the most that the high-ranking Lubavitch leadership would tell the JDC was, "We'll try to calm Rabbi Krinsky down."

No one would admit to having effective authority over Rabbi Krinsky, even though Rabbi Lazar could have cut off Krinsky's funding and Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky could have recalled his nephew to New York. The Chabad representatives told the JDC that Rabbi Krinsky's appointment was made by the Rebbe and therefore they can't remove him or cut his funding.

The meetings with the Lubavitch leadership reached a stalemate because no one would take responsibility for Rabbi Krinsky's actions.

An official of a Jewish aid organization told us, "I believe Rabbi Lazar is upset with Rabbi Krinsky because of the huge scandal that has developed around him. Rabbi Lazar has been taking over communities in Russia diplomatically and quietly, and is aiming for the day when the Jewish world will suddenly wake up and discover that the Russian empire is totally monopolized by Lubavitch. What Rabbi Krinsky is doing is disabusing people of their sentimental ideas of the dedicated Lubavitch shliach, and exposing Lubavitch's political agenda."

Why the Vilna Community is Paralyzed

A relief official explained the complex issues besetting the community which have prevented them from taking more effective action against Rabbi Krinsky.

The community members feel they are a small cog opposite the massive, well-greased machine of Lubavitch. Lubavitch can call on thousands of shlichim around the world and the political ties they have tethered over five decades to apply pressure internationally. In contrast, the Vilna Jewish community is mostly old, poor and lacking influence.

Rabbi Burstein, too, is unable to fight effectively for his cause. He is an educator who is only interested in teaching his community, and is not well-connected to powerful rabbinical circles in Israel, Europe or the U.S.

When the local community hired security guards to keep Rabbi Krinsky out of shul, Rabbi Krinsky turned that into an opportunity for publicizing shocking scenes of violence against him which were transmitted around the world. Whatever the community does, is skillfully manipulated by Rabbi Krinsky against them to serve his interests.

Lithuanian government officials who know the issue say unequivocally that the community is right. But for the majority of the Lithuanian populace who are unacquainted with the issues and couldn't care less, Rabbi Krinsky's PR tactics have brought many to conclude that this is an internal battle in which both sides have justifiable claims.

The ongoing reports in the newspapers about the violence exploding in the Jewish community has reinforced the locals' traditional antisemitism. People smirk, "If Jews can't get along with each other, how do they expect us to tolerate them?"

International relief officials expressed the worry that after a decade of the Jewish community making impressive advances in receiving recognition and compensation after decades of oppression, the Krinsky affair may undermine and discredit the entire leadership and community structure. If Alperowitz tries to denounce an antisemitic article in a mainstream newspaper, the editors can now say, "Who is Alperowitz to talk? He's the hooligan who is fighting his own rabbi."

The ramifications may yet be more dire. So far the Lithuanian government has been cooperating with the Jewish community on issues of restitution because of international pressure. But the authorities could easily take advantage of the assault against the local community by Rabbi Krinsky to push aside the issue with, "We can't give back property if the Jews are fighting among themselves. After they sort it out, we'll talk."

Due to all these issues, the community is virtually paralyzed from taking forceful action against Rabbi Krinsky.

Latest Developments During the Yomim Noraim

The Vilna synagogue remained closed throughout the summer. Every week, Krinsky staged protests and demonstrations to generate ongoing media support.

At the approach of the Yomim Noraim, three proposals were made to Rabbi Krinsky and Rav Burstein. Either they would both stay out and a rabbi chosen by both would lead the services, or both rabbis would attend the synagogue quietly and a rabbi chosen mutually would lead the services, or the two would take turns leading the services.

While Rav Burstein agreed to all proposals, Rabbi Krinsky rejected them all.

Rabbi Krinsky said he did not take these proposals seriously because this would have amounted to him giving in to the "brutal force" activated against him.

"There is no reason to change the status quo," declared Rabbi Krinsky, referring to his claim that he is Lithuania's chief rabbi. He insisted that the only ones who want the change are "a few individuals and organizations who want to gain control over restitution funds."

With much regret, the community decided to keep the synagogue closed on Yom Tov and hold services instead on the third floor of the kehilla building which doubles as a synagogue. This was the only alternative to having police and students stand guard outside the synagogue to keep Rabbi Krinsky out, in which case Rabbi Krinsky could be relied upon to again generate a violent scene and have it filmed by international media.

While the general community prayed in the kehilla building, Rabbi Krinsky prayed in front of the synagogue's yard with his followers.

Outsider Comment

Rabbi Abba Dunner, the executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, told us about the situation in Vilna:

"I find it very sad that in so many places where there is a Lubavitch rabbi, we are unable to get them to cooperate with the local rabbi and work for the common cause.

"We are appalled at the demonstration of hooliganism that is going on in Vilna. If they want to settle a problem, there are certainly other ways to do it. Their current behavior is unprecedented in the rabbinical world."

A representative of an international Jewish organization told us, "Vilna is a new escalation of Lubavitch against the mainstream community. This is the first time in the FSU that the government had to be called in to stop the aggression. It's an absolute disgrace.

"I wouldn't say that Lubavitch has actually destroyed a kehilla before, but they're destroying Vilna today. We've never seen this kind of battle before. What happened in Vilna is turning people off from Judaism."

Letters were written by the president of the Jewish Student Organization in Vilna, CER personnel and rabbis of nearby communities condemning Rabbi Krinsky's actions and supporting the local community.

Ramifications of Lubavitch Actions in Vilna

The behavior of Rabbi Krinsky has lit a red light in the eyes of Jewish philanthropic organizations and Jewish communities around the world.

The JDC gives Lubavitch shlichim four million dollars a year around the world and is willing to fund their activities to bring Judaism to far-flung Jewish communities. But the recent developments are bringing them to reevaluate the role of Lubavitch.

An official from another international relief organization told us, "The problem with Lubavitch is that there is a policy of monopolizing Jewish life and taking over central institutions, which causes resentment in communities all over. I see it happening in Russia and the Ukraine.

"What happened in Vilna is a case of `If you want us, good, but if not, we will force ourselves on you.' People hear what happened in Vilna and ask themselves, `What if Lubavitch comes here?' If I am the president of a small community in Germany and I heard what happened in Vilna, I won't let Lubavitch in. I'd be afraid.

"In some places they do it bluntly, like in Prague where they tried to depose the acting rav. In Vienna, Lubavitch organized a large congress without coordinating it with the local community. The community was incensed — they spoke with the government in the name of the Jewish community, as if the local Jewish community doesn't exist. The local community there almost went berserk — especially in Austria where relations with the government are extremely delicate.

"It's in Lubavitch's own interest to build their own communities and get along with everyone else instead of trying to take over the existing communities. If Rabbi Krinsky wants something, this is not the way to get it. He's alienating the little support he has. He's shooting his own foot. If I were him, I'd try to get some kind of position and be happy with that. But as time goes by, the community is less and less inclined to go for a compromise."

The official mentions that 3-4 leaders of middle-sized Jewish communities in Europe (between 3-7,000 Jews) in Germany and Central Europe have already told him that they are wary of the Lubavitch shliach in their town.

"Until now, Lubavitch shlichim were viewed positively — friendly, devoted, almost in a romantic way — by most Jewish communities. Lubavitch often got a foothold in local communities because they would tell the locals, `I'll bring my own money. I won't cost you a cent.' And the locals said to themselves, `Why not? What do we have to lose?' The scandal in Vilna has finally given local Jewish leaders the answer to `What do we have to lose?' "

The JDC asked us to print this statement:

"JDC has not brought or paid Rabbi Burstein. JDC is non- denominational and JDC respects the right of every Jewish community to select and choose their leaders and spiritual authorities through legal and legitimate channels. We have no say whatsoever on who the rabbi should be.

"The reason JDC is being attacked in the world press is because Krinsky expects us to cut our funding to the community as a way of putting pressure on the community to take him as chief rabbi. JDC will not withhold food packages from poor people to force the community to hire Krinsky.

"We will work with Krinsky or anyone else as we did in the past, provided that he respects the standards of services that JDC offers in terms of transparency, accountability, etc.

"Krinsky claims that the JDC has been instrumental in removing him from the restitution committee jointly set up between the World Jewish Restitution Organization and the local community. The Joint has no say whatsoever in who sits on that committee. It's a decision of the WJRO and the local community."

The Parties Involved in the Vilna Power Struggle Speak Up

This correspondent spoke to a number of people involved.

Lubavitch Chossid Visiting Vilna

A young Lubavitch chossid studying in a Lubavitch institution in France who had come to Vilna to provide reinforcement for Rabbi Krinsky, volunteered Rabbi Krinsky's side of the story.

These are his words:

"Alperowitz somehow has taken charge of the religious community. Ten years ago, he pushed the Lithuanian government to give money and buildings which had been taken away from Jews. The government said we only give back to a religious community. So he invited Krinsky to come and open up a religious community.

"He [Krinsky] opened up a yeshiva and a soup kitchen. He makes sedorim in cities around Lithuania. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, he brings bochurim to lead the prayers with a translator all over Lithuania.

"So when they began to give back money, Alperowitz felt that Krinsky was a threat because he wanted the money for himself.

"[Alperowitz] brought a new rabbi and posted guards in front of shul to only allow certain Jews to come in. He kept out 150 people and they are very angry. He began to check out people before letting them into the shul compound. Now they locked the door and are not letting people in. Most people are behind Rav Krinsky — obviously, if they only permit 30 people to come in and leave out 150.

"The other rabbi dragged the Lubavitch rabbi out of shul and hit him. He fell back on something. It's not true that Chabad got physical.

"Alperowitz lets crosses be brought to the cemetery. He's totally non-religious and barely comes to the synagogue. It will be a bad thing to let Alperowitz take over."

Mr. Alperowitz Condemned Rabbi Krinsky Unmincingly

"We owe nothing to Lubavitch. They didn't come specially to us [Vilna] because Lubavitch goes everywhere whether invited or not.

"Jews in Lita are misnagdim. We follow the Vilna Gaon. We say you can do whatever you want, but don't try to change us. Rabbi Krinsky tried to change our davening to Nusach Ari (the Lubavitch nusach). He brought in his siddurim and told us we have to daven Nusach Ari. He calls out what page to follow only according to the siddur of Nusach Ari.

"When Rav Burstein appears, [Krinsky] has women in the Ezras Noshim start screaming.

"We had a group come from Bar Ilan University with Chief Rabbi Metzger in May. Rav Burstein wanted to speak a few words in honor of him. Krinsky's group made noise and clapped. It was like a circus here. Chief Rabbi Metzger was humiliated and he bowed his head.

"Our problem is that Krinsky can't hear that Rav Burstein is the rav. He wants to be the rav. Krinsky claims he's the chief rabbi, but only when all the kehillos join and decide together can we appoint a chief rabbi. Krinsky calls himself a chief rabbi, signs his name that way, and proclaims it in the newspaper — but who is he?

"Krinsky told me to my face, `You'll yet see that I'll be chief rabbi here.'

"We tried to reach a compromise — a delegation of American rabbonim were visiting and we asked them to speak with Krinsky. He refused to come.

"The problem is that we're all old people, and he's a young person — 34 years old. How can we fight against him?

"He was interviewed in the Russian press and told them, `I feel that I went through a Nazi selection . . . ' Our gabbai Glick who locked Krinsky out went through Dachau and Auschwitz and the Kovno ghetto, but Krinsky says that Glick is making a selection like a Nazi!! This is mi'us! Mi'us! 250,000 Jews lived in Lita before the war, and 94 percent were wiped out. People here are extremely sensitive. They all went through the Holocaust, and now he compares them to Nazis — Mi'us!

"Lubavitch is arousing much antisemitic sentiment in Lithuania, because Krinsky claims in the press that the community wants all the possessions of the former Litvish Jewish community. He is an American and a Lubavitch chossid and he has no claims here. From the 250,000 Jews who lived here before the war, maybe there were 100 Lubavitch chassidim. He claims the fight with him is all over money.

"We didn't want to do things with force; we like to dialogue. But there's no one to talk with. I didn't close the shul myself; the committee decided.

"I have faith it will end well."

Jerusalem of Lithuania

The community newspaper, called Jerusalem of Lithuania, published in its April-June 2004 edition:

"Krinsky's claims to the role of Lithuania's chief rabbi is based on somewhat deeper and more significant reasons than those of hollow self-praise . . . The sole lawful heir to religious-based ownership is the Jewish misnagdim religious community, so in order to open the way to restitution of religious property, Krinsky needed to get rid of the misnagdim community . . .

"Using threats, coercion and sabotage, Krinsky's group is trying to force Burstein to renounce his post and leave Lithuania; the group is also trying to show the misnagdim and Lithuania's Jewish community its power, and its deep contempt for tradition and for people — to frighten and force them to stand aside, to ensure that Krinsky be elected chief rabbi at any cost...

"For many years, the Lithuanian Jewish Community helped Krinsky, graciously and in every possible way; he was entrusted with celebrating traditional festivities and with carrying out joint projects for the good of the entire community. Such collaboration had certain positive results, and it could have gone on, had Krinsky continued working for the well-being of the community of all Lithuania's Jews, and not sought insidious goals...

"But will the Lithuanian Jewish community want to continue any kind of collaboration with someone working against it?"

Rabbi Burstein Remarks

"I knew I would have problems with Lubavitch because everywhere they try to grab control of the community, but I didn't realize the extent of it.

"A soup kitchen is more or less all they have done here. If you make a soup kitchen in London, does that give you the right to take over Buckingham Palace? For every person Lubavitch attracted to Judaism, they pushed off 30 people.

"The only way we can succeed in winning Jews over for Judaism is by teaching living Torah which Lubavitch can't do. The proof is the thousands of Russian bnei Torah who have joined mainstream religious Jewry today. Show me what Lubavitch has produced which is even comparable.

"We would like to be separate from them. Let them stay in their synagogue and we'll stay in ours, and then we'll have peace. Why are they making a jihad against us?

"People here are to a certain extent interested in learning about Judaism. They never heard the rational voice of Torah, just Lubavitch `campaigns' which don't build a Jew, and only provide ethnic identification at best.

"Rabbi Krinsky gets a lot of money from Moscow to fund his activities. The Lithuanian government doesn't like the influence from Russia and wants to keep it away.

"It's impossible to talk with the person in charge of Lubavitch here. He wants only control, so there's no point in dialogue and we don't see any solution.

"Mr. Alperowitz is not observant but he appreciates Judaism. He wants people to have religious services and be Jewish."

Highlights of Lubavitch's Website in Lithuania

1) In Yom Kippur Speech Burstein Calls for Lubavitch to Leave Vilnius

The holiness of Yom Kippur was shattered when Rabbi Krinsky was reading the Torah (as he had been doing for the past ten years) Rabbi Chaim Burstein started yelling repeatedly, "I forbid you to read the Torah". He then took another Torah and started reading it loudly while Rabbi Krinsky was in middle of reading the Torah. During the Mincha service, Burstein seized the pulpit and called for the expulsion of Lubavitch from Vilnius...

"The services were beautiful and reflected the sanctity of the day, until Rabbi Burstein shattered the oasis of Shalom that existed since the beginning of Yom Kippur. Lubavitch has a long history in Vilnius. Chassidim have been living in our city for over two centuries going back to the founder of Lubavitch, the Alter Rebbe, who had many followers here in Vilnius. We don't believe that there is any place for provocations of this sort, especially in a shul on Yom Kippur" said Miriam Levina, a member of the community.

4) August 25, 2004, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Forcibly Removed From Synagogue

Rabbi Shalom Krinsky and his wife Rebbetzin Nechama Dina Krinsky were attacked and forcibly removed from the historic Vilnius Synagogue after a concert held as part of the Litvak Congress. Mrs. Krinsky was injured slightly in her back. Rabbi Krinsky stated, "It is a sad day for all of us when violence and intimidation are used".

6) Jewish Lithuania * Pylimo g. 39 * Vilnius, 03214 * Lithuania * 370-5-215-0388

[The site lists the community synagogue on Pylimo street as Rabbi Krinsky's shul, but the phone number is at his office in the Lubavitch House.]

Let me give you a short synopsis of what is happening:

The local secular community backed by the JDC-The Joint Distribution Committee - which is funded by the Jewish Federation system, is attempting to take control of the religious community so they can monopolize the restitution funds. The Secular Community, backed by overseas Jewish organizations, has attempted to seize control of the only synagogue, import another rabbi so they can have total control of the Religious community, and thereby have the total power over the money. Read the details on our website.

To accomplish their goal they are using violence and intimidation. Watch the video of their actions. There have been meetings with the leadership of the JDC in New York, but to no avail. Sadly the only way we can effect a change in their policy is by public-grass roots pressure. Your help is crucial. They get most of their money from local communities through the local Federations campaigns. You can help in a variety of ways...


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