The Association of Chabad Chassidim in the US has appealed to Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, demanding the freezing of the procedures for the transfer of ownership of the real estate in Jerusalem to the Russian government, led by the Alexander Nevsky Church in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Chabad demands that the transfer of ownership of the assets be conditioned on the return of the Schneerson library archives to the Hasidic Association which, according to Chabad, was taken, in violation of the law, by Russia.
In a letter written by attorney Uri Kedar representing the Association of Chabad Chassidim, which is a warning before legal proceedings are taken, Chabad explains that the Schneerson library archives are a historical collection of the global Chabad Hasidism and that it is a collection that includes approximately 12,000 books and original writings, which were preserved since the end of the 18th century until today.
The letter also shows that this is a unique collection of its kind in the entire world and is a heritage asset for the entire Jewish people, in a way that goes beyond the boundaries of Chabad.
Following World War I, the Schneerson library archives spent decades in the possession of the Soviet regime and is currently in the hands of the government of Russia.
It should be noted that Chabad has been demanding for decades from the government in Moscow to return the Schneerson library archives to the possession of the Chabad Chasidic Center, located in New York.
After the Rebbe appointed a special delegation to return the books, led by Rabbi Sholom Dober Levin, Rabbi Shlomo Kunin, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Ahronov, and Rabbi Yitzhak Kogan, who since then have been working in different ways to achieve the goal.
So far, a series of judgments and decisions have been issued in the United States against the Russian government, ordering it to return the Schneerson library archives to Chabad, including the imposition of a significant fine for contempt of court in the United States, which currently stands at approximately $170 million.
The new appeal to the Legal Adviser to the Government follows, as mentioned, the Russian government’s demand for several years from the Israeli government that those historical properties owned by Alexander Nevsky Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, be officially registered as owned by the Russian government. For this purpose, a team of ministers was appointed to formulate recommendations on the matter to the Prime Minister for planning.
Now, as a result, the Chabad Chasidim Association is demanding that the Israeli government freeze any transfer ownership or register any assets in Israel on behalf of the Russian government until the Schneerson library archives is returned.
Attorney Ori Keder states in his letter that “the Schneerson library archives has historical Jewish importance, and it is, therefore, natural that the State of Israel will mobilize for this historic task and will do everything in its power on the legal and practical level, to assist my client’s worldwide efforts to return the Schneerson library archives to its possession at the Chabad Hasidic Center in the US”.
In his letter, he also sends an implicit threat about the possibility of a diplomatic crisis arising following the issue: “Due to the political sensitivity that may arise in these circumstances; and also, because some of the assets owned by the Russian government may be transferred to its ownership in the future are defined as a “holy place” according to Israeli law.
My client, the global Chabad movement, has requested that you and the Israeli government be informed ahead of time that it intends to take legal action against the Russian government in Israel, including regarding Russian assets in Israel.”
At the end of the legal letter, Advocate Kedar demands that the government “freeze all activity for the transfer of ownership of properties in Israel for the benefit of the Russian government and in particular the Alexander Nevsky courtyard. This is until the move that my client is promoting to return the Schneerson library archives to its possession is be completed.”
In addition, Kedar said, “Alternatively, I will request to hold a meeting with the members of the ministerial committee sitting on the bench regarding this matter, as stated above.”
Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the member of the special team appointed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to return the books, said that “the Rebbe assigned us the task of 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 no delay or obstacle will stand in our way to carrying out this sacred task.”