NEW YORK (VINnews) — Chabad site COLlive reports that US District Judge Royce Lambert has granted them another victory in their ongoing battle to retrieve its valuable Schneerson library from the Russian government. Lambert ruled that the Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States is entitled to seize financial assets of the Russian government being held in the USA.
In 2013 Lambert slapped Russia with a contempt of court fine of 50,000$ a day for refusing an earlier order to return the archive to Lubavitch’s world headquarters. In Friday’s ruling, Lambert wrote a 51-page explanation why he would not allow Russia to appeal his previous ruling since the time for diplomacy has passed in this case and the only viable solution is to place economic sanctions on Russia.
The current ruling will allow Chabad to seize up to $180 million of Russian assets. Chabad previously issued subpoenas on Tenex-USA, a Maryland-based corporation owned by Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom.
Steven Lieberman, who represented Chabad pro-bono, told COLlive Friday that “for years, Chabad has been seeking to identify assets belonging to the Russian Federation for the purpose of returning the stolen Chabad collection.” He added that thanks to Lambert’s decisive ruling, “Chabad will be able to get the information it needs to identify and ultimately seize Russian assets. This ruling brings us one step closer to obtaining the return of the Russian collection.”
The Schneerson collection, a collection of old books and manuscripts belonging to the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, was seized by the Bolshevik government in 1918. The rebbe had placed them in storage in Moscow as he fled the advancing German army, but when he requested them back in 1922, the government refused to give them and has since claimed that they are a national treasure. The Russians are suing the US to return 7 books loaned to the Library of Congress in the 1990s but returned to Chabad and not to the Russians.
The Russians did invite a Chabad librarian to Moscow to pick out the books that had belonged to the Schneerson family. He selected the 4,651 books, which were moved from the Russian State Library to the special Schneerson Collection at the recently opened Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow. However all the manuscripts, documents, letters and photographs which the Rebbe left when he fled the Nazis and which landed in the hands of the Red Army are currently kept at the Russian State Military Historical Archive in Moscow. The Russians refuse to return both the manuscripts and the books to Chabad in the USA.
“Freeing these books and returning them to their rightful owners is an important cause to the Jewish people,” Lieberman said, adding that “It’s an obligation like freeing a captive person. These books contain the souls of the Rebbes whose works are reflected in them.”