Russia’s Interfax news agency reports:
Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Center for Tolerance will receive its first 500 books from theSchneerson library in June, the public relations chief of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), Boruch /Gorin, said.
“I think that before the end of the year all the 4,500 books will be handed over,” Gorin told the Interfax-Religion.
Currently books in the Schneerson collection, which is stored at the Russian State Library, are being inventoried and scanned before being moved to the Jewish Museum. Between 500 and 700 books would be scanned monthly, Gorin said.
When the 4,500 book end up at the museum, experts will get down to studying books that may be part of the Schneerson collection but have not yet been identified as such. This work was likely to start next year, Gorin said.
He added that books that have not been confirmed as belonging to the collection but have indications of this might be as numerous as those that have been confirmed as part of it and might run into thousands.
Recently, the Schneerson library issue was raised at a meeting of the presidential council on ethnic relations. President Vladimir Putin rued out the possibility of the library being handed over to the U.S. Chabad-Lubavitch community and proposed keeping it at Moscow’s Jewish Museum, where the council meeting was being held.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said the library might be handed over to the museum before the end of 2013.
The Schneerson library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts put together by rabbis of the Chabad Jewish community in the late 18th century in Belarus.
Part of the collection, amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was nationalized by Bolsheviks in 1918 and ended up at the Russian State Library. The other part was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s.
About 25,000 pages of manuscripts got into the hands of the Nazis, and were later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive.
Lubavitchers have sought the restitution of the Schneerson collection since the late 1980s. According to some reports, then Russian president Boris Yeltsin promised to James Baker, secretary of state in the George Bush Sr. administration, that the holy documents would be returned to the chassidim.
On August 6, 2010, a federal judge in Washington, Royce Lamberth, ruled that the Hasids proved the legitimacy of their claims to the ancient Jewish books and manuscripts, which, in his definition, are kept at the Russian State Library and the Russian Military Archive illegally.
The Russian Foreign Ministry challenged the judgment.
On January 17, 2013, a federal court in Washington imposed a daily fine of $50,000 on Russia for failing to comply with the 2010 ruling. The court ignored the points of the U.S. Justice Department that measures of this kind would not be conducive to the settlement of the dispute over the library and run against U.S. interests.