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

(page 2 of 3)

The Schneerson Library is one-half of the so-called Schneerson Collection, which has been the subject of an acrimonious and drawn-out legal battle between Chabad and the Russian state.

The library consists of thousands of books amassed by the first five leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which was based throughout most of the 19th century in Lyubavichi, Russia. The Bolsheviks seized the library during the Russian Revolution and nationalized it.

The other half of the collection is the Schneerson archive — books and manuscripts and handwritten documents of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, who escaped Eastern Europe at the start of World War II. The archive was seized by the Nazis and then captured by the Red Army.

Chabad has sought for the library and archive to be returned as a single entity, but Gorin believes that this would be a mistake.

He said that Chabad in America ought to concentrate on seeking the return of the archive, given earlier precedents for the return of Nazi-looted property to its owners.

Russia has been much more reticent to release property seized by the Bolsheviks, especially overseas. In recent years, the Kremlin’s return of property to the Russian Orthodox Church, including churches, monasteries and religious items, has been highly controversial.

Gorin said that Putin’s suggestion for the articles seized by the Bolsheviks — to be housed in Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center — was a good compromise.

The $50 million museum, which opened to great fanfare last November, was bankrolled by oligarchs close to the Kremlin and is controlled by Chabad in Russia.

Gorin said that Putin’s statement came in response to a question from Viktor Vekselberg, one of Russia’s richest men and a prominent backer of Moscow’s Jewish museum, during Putin’s first visit there. Putin said that repatriating property seized by the Bolsheviks during and after the Russian Revolution to overseas organizations could open a “Pandora’s box,” given the massive volume of other properties the revolutionaries had nationalized. But he was open to the idea of the library being “placed on the center’s premises.”


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!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • 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.