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First 500 books from Schneerson library to be taken to Jewish Museum next week

June 07, 2013, 13:12 UTC+3

Under the effective rules books cannot leave the library without being scanned

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MOSCOW, June 7(Itar-Tass) - A book storage depot of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow is ready to house ancient Jewish books and manuscripts, known as the Schneerson Collection, the head of the public relations department at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Borukh Gorin, told Itar-Tass on Friday.

The first 500 books will be taken there from the Russian State Library already next week, he said.

“The Russian State Library recognized our conditions for storing the Schneerson collection as ideal. We have fulfilled all their requirements,” he said.

“Under the effective rules books cannot leave the library without being scanned,” he said adding that it will take around 30 days to scan 500-600 books.

Thus, until the end of the year the whole library of 4,500 volumes that show evident signs of belonging to the ancient collection will move to a new storage facility.

It will also take time and efforts to make the library’s inventory. “It is not easy. Experts study margin notes, pencil marks and underlining,” Gorin said.

The lack of the inventory list deprives historians and archivers of opportunities to study this collection.

“The problem is how to find this or that item. This was the main trouble for the Russian State Library - the collection has been housed at its territory for almost 100 years, but no inventory for the Schneerson library has been made so far,” he said.

Legally the collection remains the property of the Russian State Library, but in fact it will be housed in buildings owned by the Jewish Museum. The museum will also open a reading room where these books and manuscripts will be available for reading. At the end of 2012, when the museum was opened, experts have already been discussing an opportunity for taking the collection there.

In January 2013, Washington’s court handed down a verdict in the lawsuit filed by Agudas Chasidei Chabad, which requires the Russian government to pay a fine of $50,000 per day to the Lubavitch movement until the Schneerson Collection is returned to it. Moscow refused to do so saying this verdict was unjust. The Russian Foreign Ministry labeled the verdict as “gross violation of generally accepted norms and principles of the international law.”

The Schneerson library includes ancient Jewish books and manuscripts collected by Hasidic Rabbis. They led the Chabad movement in Lubavitchi, Belarus, in the territory of Russia’s modern Smolensk region. This movement was the centre of one of the branches of Hasidism.

The library was founded in the early 20th century by Lubavitcher Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson on the basis of the collection put together since 1772. It now holds 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents, including 381 manuscripts.

During World War I, Schneerson moved to Rostov-on-Don and sent a part of his library to Moscow for safekeeping. This part is now kept at the Russian State Library, and the other part was taken out of the country by Schneerson in 1927. Eventually, it fell into the hands of the Nazi. Schneerson himself moved to New York. After WWII, the Schneerson archive and other documents were taken from Germany to Moscow and are now kept at the Russian State Military Archives.

Schneerson died in 1950, leaving no instructions concerning the library.

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