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Russia’s chief rabbi says transfer of Schneerson Library to Moscow museum wise decision

December 24, 2013, 1:01 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The rabbi recalled that the Jewish Museum had received by now about a half of the collection stored in the Russian State Library
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© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

MOSCOW, December 24, 0:39 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Jewish communities are pleased with the decision to transfer the Schneerson Library to the Jewish Museum of Tolerance in Moscow, Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia, said, summing up the results of the year at a news conference on Monday.

“We believe this was a correct and wise decision,” he said.

The rabbi recalled that the Jewish Museum had received by now about a half of the collection stored in the Russian State Library.

“We expect the transfer of the books to be completed in the next six months and to make them accessible to all, including researchers abroad,” Lazar said.

As many as 4,500 books remain in the Russia State Library so far. Prior to the transfer, the books are scanned and described in detail so that historians and archivists should have the opportunity to study the collection.

Legally, the collection will remain the property of the State Library but will actually be kept on the premises of the Jewish Museum.

Documents from the “Schneerson Stock” are open to the general public and any person can read them if he or she knows Yiddish or Hebrew. The documents can be read only in the reading room and are well protected.

The Schneerson library is a collection of 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, which movement was the centre of one of the braches 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.

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

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