Rabbi Chaim Burshtein’s call concerns a 30-foot-long staircase made out of Jewish headstones that leads to the main entrance of the church’s largest building in the Lithuanian capital.
The headstones were installed when Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union.
“We regret the deplorable state and destruction of the last remnants of the memory of Lithuanian Jewry,” Burshtein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
Lithuania, he added, “has many places built out of Jewish headstones. I think the authorities and the Jewish community need to perform thorough research and correct at least this historic wrong.”
The building, which was confiscated by the government during communist rule, was returned to the church after Lithuania’s independence and, following renovations, reopened in 2007.
“These headstones need to be removed and preserved,” Dovid Katz, a Yiddish scholar and member of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, told JTA. “It is very painful that, in Lithuania, which likes to boast about its commitment to preserving the memory of its once great Jewish community, churchgoers literally walk over Jewish headstones on their way to pray.”