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 3 of 3)

Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the umbrella organization of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement, has fought for decades to retrieve the Schneerson Collection from Russia. In recent years, the lawsuits have strained already delicate relations between the United States and Russia.

Two years ago, a federal judge in Washington ruled that the collection had to be returned to Chabad. As a result, the Russian government told Russian museums to stop lending artwork to American institutions in case Chabad’s lawyers seized them.

This past January, Royce Lamberth, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, imposed a $50,000-a-day fine on the Russian government for each day that it does not return the collection.

The following month, Russia’s foreign ministry suggested that the Russian State Library sue the Library of Congress for the return of seven books from the Schneerson Library that it loaned to Washington during the mid-1990s.

A representative of the Library of Congress said that because the library had passed the seven tomes to Chabad in Brooklyn, “we have no further direct knowledge about the books.” The representative added, “The library has no comment about the potential litigation.”

Meanwhile, at the end of past year, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, a bill that imposed financial and travel restrictions on prominent Russians implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who died in a Moscow jail. In retaliation, Russia passed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

American officials have tried to distance themselves from the Chabad lawsuit, even appealing to Lamberth that fining Russia could be counterproductive to getting back the Schneerson Collection. But Russian diplomats, quoted by the Kremlin-backed Russia Today at the beginning of February, accused American officials of moving “sluggishly” on the issue.

That’s why it was significant that shortly after Putin suggested moving the Schneerson Library to Moscow’s Jewish museum, there was an apparent thaw in rhetoric coming from the Kremlin. Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, told the Interfax news agency February 25: “The problem [of the Schneerson Collection] does not lie in relations between Russia and the United States. It lies in relations between Russia and a Jewish community registered in the United States.”

Calls to leaders of Agudas Chasidei Chabad and to Boruch Shlomo Cunin, a Lubavitch rabbi who has been central to the effort to retrieve the Schneerson Collection, were not returned.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.