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US court postpones hearing on Schneerson collection

June 10, 2013, 21:23 UTC+3
The complainants said they might demand that Russian property in the U.S. be seized as compensation
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WASHINGTON, June 10 (Itar-Tass) - Washington’s district court has postponed a hearing on the Chabad movement’s lawsuit against Russia over the so-called Schneerson collection, which was scheduled for Monday, June 10.

The Chassids said in their appeal for the postponement that the attempts, made over the past several months by the U.S. Department of State with their support, to conduct inter-governmental talks with Russia have so far failed to led to a transfer of any part of the collection to the Chabad movement in the United States.

They said they would reserve the right to use the rulings in their favour that have already been made by court and press for their enforcement.

On January 16, 2013, the U.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 U.S. dollars daily to the Lubavitch movement until the so-called Schneerson Collection is returned to it.

The complainants said they might demand that Russian property in the U.S. be seized as compensation. The Russian authorities have replied by saying that Russia would take “strong countermeasures” against attempts to seize its property in the United States.

“The situation concerning the American federal court's ruling on the ‘Schneerson Collection’ is unacceptable,” the ministry said.

It described it as “legally null and void” and “contrary to international law”.

The Schneerson Library includes 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents, most of which are kept at the Russian State Military Archive. According to Vislov, the part of the collection that is kept at the Russian State Library consists of about 4,000-5,000 books and manuscripts.

Unlike the Russian State Library, the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA), where some of Yosef Schneerson’s documents are kept, has no books but documents that were taken out of Germany as trophy after the end of World War II. They were separate documents and were put together into 98 files in the archive and were called the “Schneerson Stock No. 706k. The majority of the documents are handwritten or typewritten documents mainly in Yiddish or Hebrew: letters, theological writings and photographs.

RGVA Director Vladimir Kuzelenkov said that the “Schneerson Stock” kept at the archive reflects the history of Russia and was created by a Russian citizen. Schneerson was born in tsarist Russia and was its subject and then a citizen of Russia.

Documents from the “Schneerson Stock” are open to the general public and nay person can read them if he 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.

The Russian authorities said the Schneerson collection would be available at a branch of the Russian State Library to be opened at Moscow’s Museum of Tolerance.

“A branch of the Russian State Library to be opened at the Museum of Tolerance will feature the Schneerson collection. In other words, it will be at the Russian State Library de jure and at the Museum of Tolerance de facto. Therefore the community can use it and the Chassids will get access to the books but we will not break the law. And making sure we do not break the law is very important for us,” the Russian president’s special representative for international cultural cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi said.

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