Jan 10, 2013
Is Justice Dep. Making Progress?
Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Justice Department says it's making progress on Russia returning the Schneerson Archive. Chabad lawyers doubt it.
By COLlive reporter
The U.S. Justice Department is trying to stop an effort by Chabad-Lubavitch to fine Russia if it does not return the Schneerson Archive, AP reported.
In a hearing in court on Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer Joel McElvain said that civil fines won't help resolve the dispute and in fact would be counterproductive.
He said the U.S. government has made progress, albeit "slow and halting," on the matter.
But attorney Seth Gerber, representing Agudas Chassidei Chabad of Russia said he was unaware of any negotiations underway to get the materials back.
At stake is 12,000 Jewish books and manuscripts seized during the Bolshevik revolution and the Russian Civil War nearly a century ago; and 25,000 handwritten pages stolen by Nazi Germany during World War II, then taken by the Soviet Red Army.
Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court has already ruled in the past that the archive was unlawfully possessed by the Russian State Library and the Russian military archive and ordered they be returned.
Russia says it doesn't recognize the authority of the U.S. court, and insists the collection is part of the country's heritage, AP said.
Attorney Nathan Lewin, representing Chabad, said the fine could be $25,000 or $50,000 a day, although he added he didnít know what the right amount is.
Lewin said that Russia has deprived the members of Chabad access to the materials for a long time.
"The time has come for the Russians to face consequences," Gerber said.
Agudas Chassidei Chabad of Russia is headed by Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan (Russia), Rabbi Shlomo Cunin (California), Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Aharonov (Israel) and Rabbi Sholom Ber Levin (New York), all who were appointed by the Rebbe.