Below is an article which Howard Margol sent the tour group:

Jews close down Vilnius synagogue

Jews close down Vilnius synagogue as internal power struggle intensifies

Jews close down Vilnius synagogue as internal power struggle intensifies

By Lev Krichevsky

MOSCOW, June 2 (JTA)

Lithuanian Jews have done what the Communists never dared to do: close the
only synagogue in the country's capital.
The synagogue in Vilnius, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last
September, was shut last week by Simonas Alperavicius, the community's
president, because of a dispute over the post of chief rabbi of Lithuania's
small Jewish community.

Alperavicius told JTA the step was a temporary measure intended to "show
who is the master in the synagogue."

The closing of the Vilnius synagogue establishes Lithuania as the latest
battleground in a power struggle over who controls Jewish life in the
former Soviet Union - and who gets to represent Lithuanian Jewry in
negotiations with the government for the restitution of Jewish property.

The fight pits those aligned with Chabad-Lubavitch against other Lithuanian
Jewish officials. Battles between Chabad and non-Chabad Jews in Russia and
Ukraine occasionally have turned nasty, and if last week's incident is any
indication, the situation in Lithuania may be following suit.

Lithuania, which has a population of 3.5 million, is home to some 5,000 to
8,000 Jews.

Alperavicius closed the synagogue after fist-fighting broke out during
Shavuot services between two groups of worshipers who wanted to have the
other's rabbi removed from the shul. The service also was interrupted by
police, who were called in by one of the groups.

Community members said it is the first time since the Holocaust that the
synagogue has been closed.

"The Jewish community considered that the physical safety of worshipers
wasn't guaranteed and decided to close the synagogue," Alperavicius said in
a statement published this week in the community's newspaper.

Alperavicius supports Lithuania's recently appointed chief rabbi, Chaim
Burstein, an Israeli Orthodox rabbi and former Soviet refusenik. Burstein's
appointment was supported by some international Jewish bodies, including
the Conference of European Rabbis.

The other figure claiming the mantle of chief rabbi is Sholom Ber Krinsky,
a U.S.-born Chabad rabbi who has been Lithuania's only resident rabbi since
1994. Krinsky is widely credited for building a network of Jewish
institutions in post-Communist Lithuania.

Krinsky also is backed by Israel's Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger.

Alperavicius and his supporters said they objected to Krinsky's nomination
as chief rabbi because he belongs to a Chasidic group, while Lithuanian
Jewry historically has been known as a stronghold of opposition to

Krinsky says Alperavicius simply wants to maintain his power.

After the synagogue was closed, Burstein said, some Krinsky supporters came
to his home demanding that the synagogue be reopened. A scuffle resulted,
and Burstein said he was grabbed by the neck and suffered a minor injury.
Community officials who oppose Krinsky then filed complaints with the

Witnesses who support Krinsky said they never lifted a hand against
Burstein. Instead, they accused Burstein's people of resorting to physical
violence and committing what one party described as a "spiritual holocaust"
against the Jewish community.

"Even in the times of the Communist regime our synagogue was open. It was
only closed by the Nazis!" said an unsigned e-mail sent around town.

The power struggle in Vilnius broke out last year when the Alperavicius-led
Jewish community nominated Burstein as Lithuania's chief rabbi just as
Krinsky, a longtime local community rabbi, stepped up his effort to become
the officially recognized chief rabbi. The post previously was held by a
London-based rabbi who paid only occasional visits to this Baltic country.

The battle over the post also affects negotiations between international
Jewish groups and the Lithuanian government over the restitution of former
Jewish communal property.

Lithuania has not adopted restitution legislation to enable the Vilnius
Jewish community to receive dozens of properties seized by the Soviets when
Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Negotiations between the
World Jewish Restitution Organization and the Lithuanian government on the
matter have been under way for three years. At stake are at least 100
parcels of property, sources say.

Some say Krinsky wants to become Lithuania's official chief rabbi to ensure
that Chabad gets some property through the restitution process even though
Chabad owned little property in Lithuania before 1940. Without Krinsky as
an advocate, Chabad would have little chance of getting any property from
the government.

For its part, Chabad accuses Alperavicius and the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee of removing Krinsky from the board negotiating on
Lithuanian Jewry's behalf.

The JDC says Krinsky was never on the board, and that in any case the World
Jewish Restitution Organization is responsible for the board's composition.

Krinsky said the conflict surrounding the synagogue has been aggravated by
the JDC, which he charged pays for Burstein's salary.

"The Joint is dividing the community," Krinsky said. "Ten years we had
peace and tranquility, we built the infrastructure of Jewish life in
Lithuania. The Joint brought divisiveness to our community."

A JDC official in charge of Lithuania denied the accusations.

"We stand for the right of each community to decide who their leaders and
rabbis should be," said Andres Spokoiny, the Paris-based JDC country
director for the Baltic and Scandinavian states.

Spokoiny denied that the JDC is paying Burstein's salary.

"We are very concerned that the public fight inside the community is
damaging the fabric of Jewish life in Vilnius," Spokoiny said.

As long as the synagogue remains closed, services are being held at two
separate locations in town: one in Vilnius' Chabad center, the other in the
community center that houses Alperavicius' office. Chabad said some people
also have met to pray outside the locked synagogue.