30 June 2022, 11:37
Lavrov thanks the Jewish Museum of Moscow for carefully preserving the memory of important pages of history
Moscow, June 30, Interfax - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his admiration for the exposition of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, especially noting the storage conditions of the famous Schneerson collection of books.
During the visit to the museum, the head of Russian diplomacy thanked the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda and his associates for carefully preserving the memory "of important pages of our history, of a part of our multinational and multi-confessional people, which still plays an important role in the history of modern Russia."
Lavrov received special satisfaction from the way the reading room is equipped, where the "Schneerson collection", which is fully digitized and accessible to anyone, is stored.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia has a special interest in this topic. 18 years ago, in 2004, in the USA, the Chabad organization claimed the rights to this collection, although it has never left the territory of our country, and filed a lawsuit. The American court had already "coveted someone else's" and issued a ruling according to which this collection must be urgently transferred to the United States, otherwise penalty money will "drip". Outrageous behavior," Lavrov said.
According to him, all Russia's efforts "to explain the need to preserve this treasure where it was created, ran into a wall of misunderstanding: the State Department and the US administration did not want to do this." At the same time, back in 1994, seven exhibits from the "Schneerson collection", transferred "by interlibrary subscription" to the Library of Congress of the United States, were seized, the minister noted, adding that "even then there was a desire to take someone else's."
Lavrov drew attention to the large attendance of the Jewish Museum and wished health to all its employees. "From the point of view of the huge contribution of the Jewish people to the culture, history, development of our country, ensuring its security, its scientific and technical achievements, this museum is deeply admired," the minister concluded.
The Schneerson Library comprises 12,000 books and 25,000 documents. This is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts compiled by the Hasidic rabbis in Russian Empire late in the 19th century. Part of the collection was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and eventually joined the collection of the Lenin Library (now the Russian State Library). Schneerson managed to take the other part of the collection out of the Soviet Union while emigrating in the 1930s.
The New York-based Chabad-Lubavitch religious community has been seeking the Schneerson collection's handover since late 1980s. In August 2010, a federal judge in Washington, Royce Lamberth, ruled that the Hasidim proved the legitimacy of their claims to the ancient Jewish books and manuscripts, which, in his definition, were kept at the Russian State Library and the Russian Military Archive illegally. The Russian Foreign Ministry challenged the judgment.
It was reported on January 17, 2013, that a U.S. district court in Washington had ruled to oblige Russia to pay $50,000 a day as a fine until the Schneerson collection is returned to Chabad-Lubavitch.
The Schneerson book collection's transfer to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, within which the Russian State Library opened its branch, started at Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal in 2013. The library provided all the necessary conditions for accommodating the collection, and all those wishing received access to it.
A Russian court ruling that took effect in July 2014 obliges the Library of Congress to return to Russia seven books from the Schneerson collection, which Moscow lent to the Library of Congress on an interlibrary loan in 1994 at the U.S.' request.
Having received the books, the Congress passed them to the Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library. When the return deadline expired, the U.S. asked Russia for extending the loan term. The Russian State Library granted such extensions at the Culture Ministry's permission in 1995-1996. The Hasidim community proposed in 2000 that the books be exchanged for others and offered a list of such books to choose from, but Russia did not agree.