U.S. Court to Rule on Return of Jewish Books From Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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 documents, which were kept in Poland during World War II and transferred to Russia after the war.

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

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