Friday, January 13, 2012

Russian culture minister slams US claims to sacred Jewish books 

U.S. claims to the Schneerson library are provocative and spoil
cultural ties with Russia as the sacred Jewish books are the unalienable property of the country, Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev
said on Friday.
The Schneerson Library is a collection of books and religious
documents assembled by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement over two
centuries prior to World War II in Belarus. It is one of the main Jewish religious relics.
Part of the collection amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok
Schneerson was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Later, about
25,000 pages of manuscripts fell into the hands of the Nazis, and were
later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State
Military Archive. This part of Schneerson's Library is now kept in the
archive of Lenin's Library in Moscow.
The other part was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s.
Since 1991, the year of Schneerson's death, leaders of the
Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jewish movement have been trying to regain
possession of the library, saying that it was illegally held by the
Soviet authorities after the war.
In 1991, a court in Moscow agreed to turn over the library to Chabad. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the ruling was ignored. The Russian
government now says it wants to keep the archive for future scholars.
In 2010, a court in Washington confirmed the American Jewish
community's right to the library, but Russia called the court's decision illegitimate. In late 2011, a U.S. court ruled that Russia must return
about 12,00 books and 50,000 manuscripts from the library.
"The library forms part of the Russian library reserve and is
inalienable. The history of its claiming by U.S. plaintiffs appears to
us provocative," Avdeyev said at a press conference.
The request by U.S. plaintiffs "aims to spoil the bilateral relations between our countries and to undermine the political reset," the
culture minister said.
The complex legal dispute over Schneerson Library is causing Russian
art institutions to cancel scheduled loans of world-renowned artworks to U.S. art institutions. It has already turned into a full-scale
diplomatic feud between the United States and Russia.
"Only when the 2011 decision of the U.S. court is set aside will a dialogue become possible," Avdeev added.


Schneersohn died in 1994, not 1991.


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