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Russian Jews await ruling on ancient Jewish books collection

October 22, 2013, 16:12 UTC+3
The collection was assembled by the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in what is now the Smolensk region of central Russia
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Photo ITAR-TASS

Photo ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, October 22 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Jewish organisations are ready to accept any decision of the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo) about the future of a collection of ancient Jewish books and manuscripts amassed in the early 20th century and now kept in the Russian State Military Archive.

The collection was assembled by the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in what is now the Smolensk region of central Russia. Schneerson died in 1950 without declaring his last will as to the library's future. Uncertainty has caused a dispute between Russia and the United States, where the Chabad movement claims the right to the library.

Now, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia press office, Borukh Gorin, has told Itar-Tass: “Yesterday, speaking to journalists, the lawyer of the U.S. Hasidic Jews darkly hinted that diplomats were negotiating an exchange,” though in legal developments, he said, a court had postponed litigation until December and no more detailed information was available.

“Should Russia and the U.S. reach a diplomatic compromise on this issue, we shall do nothing but welcome it,” Gorin said, adding that Jewish communities would accept any decision of the Russian Federation as the owner of the collection. Decisions in earlier events were to pass the collection to the Jewish Museum and the Tolerance Center in Moscow. The first 500 books were transferred there from the Russian State Library in June.

The collection's history had collector Schneerson move to Rostov-on-Don in the south of Russia in the First World War, turning in part of the library for storage in Moscow. He took another part abroad in 1927, ultimately seized by the Nazis, while Schneerson managed to leave for New York. After the Third Reich collapsed, Schneerson’s archive along with other spoils of war was transferred to Moscow and into the military archive.

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