12 August 2010, 10:52
Russia won't give Schneerson library to American Hasids
Moscow, August 12, Interfax - The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the decision by a federal judge in Washington that historical books and documents, known as the Schneerson collection, should be returned to the U.S.-based Chabad Lubavitch movement is illegal.
"The Schneerson library has never belonged to Chabad. It never left Russia and was nationalized because there were no legal heirs in the Schneerson family. The 'return' of these books to the U.S. is not an issue in principle," the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department of Information and Press said in the comments posted on its website.
"On the contrary, it is American Hasids who must return to Russia seven books from the same collection that they lent from the Russian State Library in 1994 through the U.S. Congress library for two months and have withheld illegally for 16 years now."
"The non-governmental religious organization of American Hasids called Agudas Hasidei Chabad based in the New York district of Brooklyn spent more than 15 years demanding on unclear grounds that Russia should 'return' to the U.S. the so-called Schneerson library, a collection of books on Judaism, which had for centuries been collected in the Smolensk province by the family of the Russian Empire subjects, the Schneerson rabbis," the Department said.
By law, "it would be logical, if the U.S. court, mindful of the immunity of the Russian Federation and its property against the jurisdiction of a foreign court, ruled that this matter is outside its jurisdiction and any claims by plaintiffs must be dealt with exclusively at Russian courts," the ministry said. "By the way, no one is depriving American Hasids of this opportunity," it said.
"Unfortunately, the U.S. judge made an unlawful decision, which cannot be enforced in Russia, as a matter of fact. There is no agreement between Russia and the U.S. on mutual recognition and enforcement of civil judgments," the statement said.
It was reported that on August 6 a federal judge in Washington ruled that Hasids had proved the legality of their claims to ancient Jewish books and manuscripts which, by his definition, are kept at the Russian State Library and the Russian Military Archive "illegally."
Part of the collection gathered by Lubavitch Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson was nationalized by Bolsheviks in 1918 and ended up at the Russian National Lenin Library. The remainder was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson who emigrated in 1930s.
About 25,000 pages of manuscripts got into the hands of the Nazi and were found later by the Red Army, which handed them over to the Russian State Military Archive. Lubavitch Hasids have sought the restitution of the Schneerson collection since the late 1980s. According to some reports, first Russian President Boris Yeltsin promised to James Baker, State Secretary in the George Bush Sr. administration, to return the sacred documents to Hasids.