By COLlive reporter
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth handed another blow to the Russian Federation in the ongoing legal matters of returning captive books to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
In a ruling on Friday, Lamberth allowed Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States to identify and seize the financial assets of the Russian government held in the United States.
Russia appealed the court ruling from 2010 which led Chabad to issue subpoenas on Tenex-USA Inc. (“Tenam”), a Maryland based corporation that is owned by Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom.
Lamberth originally slapped Russia with a $50,000-a-day civil contempt sanction for refusing his earlier order to return the Schneerson Archive to Lubavitch World Headquarters – 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY.
Steven Lieberman, a partner at intellectual property law firm Rothwell Figg in Washington, DC, represented Chabad pro-bono along with colleagues Robert P. Parker and Daniel R. McCallum.
“For years, Chabad has been seeking to identify assets belonging to the Russian Federation for the purpose of returning the stolen Chabad collection,” Lieberman told COLlive.com on Friday.
“Today’s decision, a brilliant one by Judge Lamberth, rejected another attempt by a company called Tenam, a Russian controlled uranium and nuclear power enterprise, to delay providing Chabad with the information,” he said.
Lieberman said that thanks to this decisive ruling “Chabad will be able to get the information it needs to identify and ultimately seize Russian assets. This ruling brings us one step closer to obtaining the return of the Chabad collection.”
The Russian Ministry of Culture together with the Russian State Library are determined to have seven books from the Schneerson Library retuned by the Library of the U.S. Congress through arbitration.
The Schneerson Library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts amassed by 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn OBM (the “Rebbe Rayatz“).
It was seized by Bolsheviks in 1918 and ended up at the Russian State Library. The archive was brought by the Rebbe Rayatz to Poland when he left the Soviet Union and additional 25,000 pages of manuscripts were held by the Nazis and later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive. Russia has refused to return it, claiming it was a national treasure.
Leading the legal and diplomatic battle on behalf of Chabad are Rabbi Shlomo Cunin of California, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Aharonov of Israel and Rabbi Sholom Ber Levine of New York – the “delegation” entrusted by the Rebbe to handle the matter dating back to 1991.
“Freeing these books and returning them to their rightful owners is an important cause to the Jewish people,” Lieberman noted. “It is an obligation like freeing a captive person. These books contain the souls of the Rebbes whose works are reflected in them.”
He added, that it was “an honor and pleasure to try to move this case forward and held Rabbis Cunin and all of Chabad to free those books and return them to their rightful place at 770.”
DOCUMENT: The judge’s ruling
Pleading - Dkt. 228 - Memorandum Opinion - November 6, 2020