WASHINGTON, June 20 (RIA Novosti) – A US federal judge on Thursday accused Russia of being contemptuous of the law for refusing to hand over a disputed collection of Jewish religious texts to a New York-based Orthodox Jewish group despite a US court order to do so.
Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court in Washington said Russia was acting like a “scofflaw” and an “outlaw” for dismissing his order to give the Schneerson Library of religious documents to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement based in Brooklyn, New York, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
In January, Lamberth imposed a $50,000-a-day fine on Russia for failing to comply with an earlier order to hand over the religious texts. About 500 digitized documents from the collection were turned over to the newly built Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow last week, a move proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the dispute.
Putin visited the museum last week and said, “From this moment, I consider the question of the Schneerson Library to be closed.”
The Jewish group said in a statement last week that the transfer to the museum does not satisfy its religious requirements or remedy “Russia’s unilateral seizure, retention, and claimed ownership of these sacred books.
Russia has not recognized the authority of the US court order, and the US government has said that while it supports the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s “assertion of ownership” over the collection, it disagrees with the fines issued by Lamberth.
The Schneerson Library is a collection of books and religious documents assembled by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement over two centuries prior to World War II in Belarus. It is one of the main Jewish religious relics.
Part of the collection amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Later, about 25,000 pages of manuscripts fell into the hands of the Nazis and were later recovered by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive.
Another part of the collection was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s.
Nathan Lewin, a lawyer for the Chabad, told Thursday’s hearing that negotiations have been held between Washington and Moscow over the issue and he asked Lamberth to schedule an Aug. 20 hearing to give time for the two sides to make progress in the talks, the AP reported.
Lamberth granted the request, saying that Russia “is not willing to obey the laws of the United States, or any other country,” according to the AP.