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February 19, 2013 1:25 pm

Putin: Returning Texts from Schneerson Library “Impossible”

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson. Photo: Mordecai Baron.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said returning a collection of historic Jewish texts to the U.S. is “impossible,” and suggested they be housed in a new Jewish museum and tolerance center in Moscow.

“Perhaps someday we’ll be able to do it, but now we are absolutely not ready for it,” Putin said Tuesday. Transferring the collection risks opening “a Pandora’s box,” creating a precedent for surrendering ownership of state property, he added.

Putin made the comments while visiting the Jewish Museum in Moscow at the request of the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Lazar, who accompanied the president on his visit, which opened six months ago.

Matvey Chlenov, deputy executive director of the Russian Jewish Congress, expressed his personal opinion on the case, telling The Algemeiner, “Those who sued Russia decided to go to court instead of through quiet diplomatic channels and it looks like a deadlock situation now. It is hard to explain to the Russian public why Chabad USA has more rights on this collection than Chabad Russia.”

A U.S. judge last month ordered Russia to pay $50,000 a day until it complies with his earlier ruling to return the collection of religious books and manuscripts, seized by the Soviet government and now part of Russia’s state library. The collection is sought by Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish group based in New York.

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