770"  International Chabad Center in Brooklyn
770" International Chabad Center in BrooklynNati Shohat/Flash 90

An American court has rejected an appeal by the Russian government, upholding a court ruling that Russia must return thousands of books to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The thousands books which sit at the heart of the dispute are mainly found in the Lenin Library, in Moscow; and cataloged as the Schneerson Collection.

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington DC Circuit has ruled that Russia can finally no longer appeal the previous ruling and needs to return the books to the Chabad movement.

It was further ruled that every day that passes without the observance of the court ruling requires the Russians to pay fifty thousand dollars, and during the trial days the fine has already climbed to about $200 million.

An additional part of the ruling published today specifies that Chabad in the US can acquire the multitude of assets from Russia. In addition, there is a possibility for Chabad to request disclosure of assets from any company or bank that Chabad turns to. Russia may no longer appeal to this court ruling.

The Chabad Chassidim point out that the ruling took place on the fifth of Tevet, called in Chabad Chassidut 'Didan Netzach', a day when the US court ruled that there is no inheritance law like that of an ordinary person regarding the writings and books of Chabad Rebbe and that all the treasures of the library of the sixth rebbe of the Chabad Chassidut belong to the Chabad movement and to the organization of the Chabad Chassidim Association, and not to the family members.

The 'Schneerson Collection' affair is a fascinating one, that sweeps Russia and the United States into a mighty power struggle. At the heart of the affair is the library of the Lubavitcher Rebbe - the 'Library of the Chabad Chassidim Association', housed in a beautiful building near the World Chabad Center in New York 770. Today it numbers about a million rare manuscripts and objects from the greatest storks of all generations and is considered one of the most important Jewish libraries in the world.

The Rebbe himself as one whose own teachings are spread over about 250 books, was a scholar in the full sense of the word, he was involved in every detail related to his library. Another part of the library called the Schneerson Collection, which contains more than 12,000 books that are a collection of the holy books of the Fifth Rebbe of the Chabad House - the Rebbe Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, is still in captivity by the Russian authorities and is housed mostly in the Lenin Library in Moscow. Antiquities dealers managed to smuggle books from this collection out of the Lenin Library and try to trade in them, which puts the expensive collection in great danger.

During the decades-long legal battle, the Rebbe had sent two special delegations with the aim of redeeming the books from the Russians and returning them to his library, according to Behadrey Haredim.

The delegation consisted of four members recruited by the Rebbe himself and are considered senior Chabad leaders today. Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, and the director of the Rebbe's library, Rabbi Shalom Ber Levin.

Over the years, Israeli heads of state, Prime Ministers Shamir, Netanyahu and Olmert and even Presidents Herzog, Katsav and Peres also intervened in this affair. The Foreign Ministry warned that the issue is indeed Jewish but is not related to the State of Israel.

Chabad leaders stress that their main objective is to recover the books safely, and hope that the taxing of the court will not hinder this.