Report: U.S. Court to Rule on Retrieval of Jewish Books Lost in Russia

Moscow's communist regime nationalized manuscript collection after last century's two worlds wars.

A U.S. federal has agreed to rule whether the Hasidic Chabad organization can retrieve Jewish manuscripts nationalized by Communist Russia last century, Army Radio reported on Thursday, despite the fact that Moscow has denied Washington's jurisdiction in the case.

Chabad had been pursuing the collection of Jewish manuscripts, lost in the period between last century's two world wars, in a Washington court for the last five years, encountering Russia's refusal, on account of the court's alleged lack of jurisdiction in the matter.

However, the court had agreed to discuss the case with only side present, a recently disclosed warrant has revealed.

The collection, estimated at 12,000 books, was lost when the fifth Lubavitcher Rabbi, Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, was forced to leave the city of Lubavitch during World War I, sending the books to one of his followers in Moscow.

After the war, the books were nationalized by the newly communist Russia, and later added to the country's National Library. The library also holds scores of Chabad archive papers, which were kept in Poland during World War II and moved to Russia after the war.

Brooklyn Rabbi Dov Levine, who was named by the fifth Lubavitcher Rabbi as one of the four messengers in charge of retrieving the lost manuscripts, said that Russian officials claimed at first that they weren't able to find the requested material.

Levine said that in 1984 he had provided the Russian archives with the original Lubavitch manuscript catalog, and that two years of searching had yielded no results.

The Chabad rabbi added that a delegation was eventually sent to the Russian archives, which succeeded in locating the collection, at which time negotiations for its retrieval began.