Chabad files lawsuit in Israel to seize Russian assets

Since the end of World War I, the Schneerson collection has been in the possession of the Russian government.

 RABBIS POSE in front of Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, in 2018. After the writer returned to New York for rabbinical ordination, a rabbi from Sydney asked him if he was ready to date.  (photo credit: MARK KAUZLARICH/REUTERS)
RABBIS POSE in front of Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, in 2018. After the writer returned to New York for rabbinical ordination, a rabbi from Sydney asked him if he was ready to date.
(photo credit: MARK KAUZLARICH/REUTERS)

The Chabad-Lubavitch association has filed a lawsuit at the Jerusalem District Court to seize Russian assets in Israel in its fight to retrieve the Schneerson library archives.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Uri Keidar and Avi Blum, as well as attorney Nat Lewin. The suit aims to bring rulings made in the US against the Russian Federation, ordering the return of the Schneerson library to the US and imposing a fee for contempt of court.

What is the Schneerson library?

The Schneerson library is a historical collection of about 12,000 original books and writings from the end of the 18th century to the present day, as well as 30,000 pages looted by the Nazis.

Since the end of World War I, the collection has been in the possession of the Russian government.

 Chabad-Lubavitch files lawsuit against Russian Federation in Jerusalem, November 2022 (credit: CHABAD) Chabad-Lubavitch files lawsuit against Russian Federation in Jerusalem, November 2022 (credit: CHABAD)

Chabad has been demanding for decades that the collection be returned to the movement in the US.

The suit stresses "the need to enforce the verdict specifically in Israel, taking into account the historical, traditional, community and cultural importance of the Schneerson collection for Chabad Hassidism and the entire Jewish people."

Rabbi Yosef Kunin, who is leading the effort, stated that "The sad irony is that part of the book collection is what Hitler looted, and intended to create a museum with them is now found as war booty in the 'Museum of Tolerance' in Russia."

Attorney Steve Lieberman, who is managing the lawsuit in the US, added that "We are not talking about dollars, we are not talking about barrels of oil. We are talking about books that are valued by members of the Chabad movement and by a great many thousands of millions of Jews around the world."

Rabbi Shlomo Kunin, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch association, stated that "The Rebbe tasked us with returning the books from Russia. We have no doubt that the task will be completed as he wishes, and the books will be returned to the Rebbe's library whether the Russians like it or not, and there is no delay or obstacle that will stand in our way to carry out this sacred task."

Keidar added that after the lawsuit in Israel, the movement intends to file similar lawsuits in European countries.

Russia intensifies actions against Chabad

Lewin, one of the attorneys on the case, was placed on a list of people banned entry to Russia in May, along with a number of Chabad rabbis.

Last month, Alexei Pavlov, the assistant secretary of the Security Council of Russia wrote an op-ed calling Chabad-Lubavitch a "neo-pagan cult." Nikolai Patrushev, a high-ranking official for the security council, later apologized for the op-ed.