Russia sees end to U.S. row as historic Jewish texts moved to museum

By Reuters Staff
June 14, 2013

(Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) listens to Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar of Chabad-Lubavitch as he visits the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that a years-long spat with the United States over thousands of Jewish religious writings should end now that some are on display in Moscow’s new Jewish museum.

Russia has resisted calls to return the so-called Schneerson collection to the New York-based Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch group, descendants of the last private owner of the writings, and Putin said they were part of Russia’s cultural heritage.

“For the Jewish people, Russia has been a homeland for centuries, as it remains so today,” Putin said while visiting the museum to launch its latest exhibition.

“I hope that moving the Schneerson library to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center…will put an end to this problem once and for all,” said the former KGB spy, who has sought to celebrate Russia as country of many religions while fostering close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Schneerson collection consists of thousands of Jewish books, religious papers and manuscripts, some of them dating back to the 16th century, their leather-covered spines showing the effects of age.

The 4,425 books that will be kept at the museum include editions of the Torah and Talmud with unique margin notes by Hasidic leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch community, which considers the whole collection its inheritance.

They were left for safekeeping from the turmoil of the World War One in a warehouse in what is now western Russia’s Smolensk province, but later were taken by the newly installed Bolshevik state and finally kept in Russia’s state library until recently.

Read the full story by Gabriela Baczynska here.

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