Russian and American Chabad Arms Split Over Schneerson Library

Putin's Proposal Aims To End Long, Bitter Legal Battle

It Belongs Here: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with chief rabbi Berel Lazar, left, and Alexander Boroda at a new Jewish museum in Moscow.
Getty Images
It Belongs Here: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with chief rabbi Berel Lazar, left, and Alexander Boroda at a new Jewish museum in Moscow.

By Paul Berger

Published March 03, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin for solving a bitter, decades-long legal battle over the late Lubavitcher Rebbe’s library, long held in Moscow, has pitted Russia’s Chabad-Lubavitch community against its U.S. brethren.

Nathan Lewin, the lawyer spearheading the Brooklyn-based Chabad movement’s lawsuit against the Russian state, dismissed Putin’s February 19 suggestion to keep the collection in a Chabad-controlled Jewish library in Moscow. “Chabad is the rightful owner of the collection, and its return to the United States is the only acceptable outcome that is consistent with the clear directives of the [deceased] Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,” Lewin said in a statement.”

But in an interview with the Forward, Boruch Gorin, a spokesman in Russia for Chabad’s Federation of Jewish Communities, criticized Lewin’s dismissal as “aggressive.” Alluding to anti-Semitism that could be stoked by the Chabad lawsuit, Gorin called Lewin’s dismissal of Putin’s proposed compromise “dangerous [for] the future of the Jewish community in Russia.”

“To answer simply ‘no’ — that looks very strange and, let’s say, not too friendly to Russian Jews,” Gorin said.

Chabad’s followers see the Schneerson Library, a collection of books amassed by the early rabbinic leaders of the Chabad Hasidic movement, as integral to the movement’s religious and spiritual foundation.

Gorin said that Putin’s gesture was the first instance since the collapse of the Soviet Union in which a Russian leader has stated publicly that he is “ready to compromise” on the Schneerson Library.

“I think it’s a very important thing, and we believe it is not only a mistake, but a tragic mistake, not to understand that,” Gorin said.

He said that Berel Lazar, Chabad’s chief rabbi in Russia, has written to Chabad leaders in the United States, urging a face-to-face meeting in America to discuss the matter.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.