Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Russia Stands Firm in Schneerson Library Dispute

00 Jewish book. 26.02.13


Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky said that Russia has solid legal grounds to keep the Schneerson Library in its possession. The American-based Hasidic movement rejected President Putin’s proposal to place the collection of books and religious documents in the European Tolerance Centre in Moscow. The situation has only deteriorated since the dispute over the Schneerson Library first broke out in the late 1980s. The Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the umbrella organisation for the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement, rejected Moscow’s compromise on offering free access to the books and manuscripts of the Schneerson collection. Actually, they’re already available at the Russian State Library. The Hasidic movement wants the entire collection in its ownership.

In January 2013, a US Federal Court in Washington DC ruled that Russia should pay 50,000 USD (1.534 million Roubles. 38,300 Euros. 33,100 UK Pounds) per day in fines unless it returns the collection. In response, President Putin suggested placing the archive in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow. He also expressed his regret over the dispute reaching the point of confrontation, adding that the library doesn’t belong to a particular Jewish community, noting, “If we allow this national asset to go to anyone, we’d open a Pandora’s Box. If Russia started to comply with such lawsuits, claims would start streaming in”.

The Schneerson Library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts gathered by Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century. The Bolsheviks nationalised part of the collection in 1918 and eventually became part of the Russian State Library collection. Schneersohn managed to take the other part of the collection out of the USSR during his emigration in the 1930s. Later, the Nazis seized about 25,000 pages of manuscripts from the collection, then, the Red Army captured them and handed them over to the Russian State Military Archive. Rav Schneersohn died in 1950; he left no instructions on the disposition of the library after his death.

In August 2010, the issue came to the forefront again when Judge Royce Lamberth in a US District Court in Washington DC ruled that Russia should hand over the Schneerson archive to the American-based Hasidic movement. Two years later, the District Court issued a ruling assessing a fine against Russia for not turning over the library. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) rejected all claims made by Hasidic organisations, describing the decision of the American court “legally unfounded”. The MID also recommended that the Russian State Library to fine the Library of Congress for not returning seven books from the Schneerson collection loaned to Washington in 1994. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York cancelled plans to send 35 works by the early-20th century designer Paul Poiret to an exhibition in the Moscow Kremlin. Russia isn’t going to organise any exhibitions in the USA, either. There’s no progress in the talks over the Schneerson library, but a scandalous battle in courts is already under way.

26 February 2013

Lyubov Kuryanova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

As I’ve noted before, you can’t sue for ownership of property that you never owned in the first place. The library was nationalised; that’s the end of the story. Remember WHY the Hasids want the books… they want to restrict access to them and hog them for themselves. Why do I dislike Hasids? All too often, they live up to the stereotype of the insular, greedy, and grasping Jew… increasing the level of anti-Semitism in the world. That’s sad… innocents suffer for their nastiness. President Putin’s right in this one… the Schneerson Library is a precious resource for ALL of us… it’s not the plaything of a narrow-minded and intransigent little sect. It’s enough to make one hurl in disgust…

By the way, Judge Royce Lamberth is a fanatic appointed by Slobberin’ Ronnie… an old Cold Warrior living in the past, but feeling his oats in having an opportunity to kick “those godless commie Rooshians” (is he one of Potapov’s pals? Perspirin’ minds wanna know…).


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Putin: We Can’t Hand Over the Schneerson Library to the USA

01 Two Jewish Books


President Vladimir Putin said that Russia couldn’t hand over the Schneerson Library to the USA. However, he said that we could display it at the European Tolerance Centre in Moscow, and make accessible to all who wish to use it. On Tuesday, Putin said at a meeting of the Ethnic Relations Council, “Unfortunately, I can only say that the discussion of this issue has reached a point of confrontation, which, in my opinion, is due to illegal decisions made in another country”. Putin said that the library originated in 19th century Russia, and part of it was nationalised shortly after the October Revolution, saying, “This is a significant part of the problem. If we allow this national asset to go to anyone, we’d open a Pandora’s Box. Almost 100 years have passed since the library was nationalised. If Russia started to comply with such lawsuits, claims would start streaming in. No one can predict how far they might go. We’re not going to deal with this. It’s impossible”.

Putin remarked that another part of the library was brought to Russia as a war trophy. He added that that he’d like to propose a solution “that’d benefit people drawn to these cultural values in the first place. We’re at the Jewish Tolerance Centre now. We could think about this idea. I’m prepared to put together an order to the government and Minkultury to display this library at the Russian Jewish Tolerance Centre. All who’re interested could be given full access to this library”.

The Schneerson Library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts gathered by Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century. The Bolsheviks nationalised part of the collection in 1918 and eventually became part of the Russian State Library collection. Schneersohn managed to take the other part of the collection out of the USSR during his emigration in the 1930s. Later, the Nazis seized about 25,000 pages of manuscripts from the collection, then, the Red Army captured them and handed them over to the Russian State Military Archive. Chabad-Lubavitch has sought the ownership of the Schneerson Library since the end of the 1980s. Reports posted on 17 January 2013, said that a US Federal Court in Washington DC ordered a fine of 50,000 USD (1.52 million Roubles. 38,000 Euros. 32,800 UK Pounds) per day if Russia failed to transfer the Schneerson Library to the Chabad-Lubavitchers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs found the court order offensive.

 19 February 2013

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Let’s keep this simple. The Hasids have NEVER owned the library. NEVER. NO WAY. NO HOW. They don’t have title to it. Therefore, they can’t sue in court to “regain” property that they never owned in the first place. In any case, whether they like it or not, a country has a right to nationalise property. This was done, and in due legal order. That is, the library belongs to the Russian state, to preserve it in perpetuity as part of the Russian national patrimony. The real reason that the Hasids want the books is that they wish to restrict the usage of them only to those who agree with their oddbod notions. All decent people must oppose that. I’ll be honest… I don’t like Hasids and I don’t care for their company. I won’t harm them… or be anti-Semitic because of their noisome shenanigans. I’m much more comfortable with Modern Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews (Jewish groups to the left of the Conservatives don’t bother me… I simply don’t agree with many of their premises, but they’re NOT a royal pain in the arse as the Hasids are). However, I agree with most of my Jewish friends… the Hasids are offensively-arrogant and off-putting in their assumptions of religious superiority over all other Jews. Such people shouldn’t be harmed, but they shouldn’t be coddled either. They belong in a corner along with Islamists, Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Pentecostalists, JWs, and Evangelicals… all sorts who give believers a “bad name”. I have plenty of company in thinking that…


Monday, 28 January 2013

Russian Government Accuses Hasidic Group of Book Theft


The Hasids should stop this charade… all that it does is to reinforce anti-Semitism. They’re STOOPID if they can’t see that… it makes them look like the above poster. It’s counter-productive in all possible ways. They should get a life and they should stop their efforts to bully people through the courts… 


On Wednesday, an AmericanRussian row over religious texts intensified, when Moscow accused a Jewish group of a failure to return valuable books loaned to it over a decade ago. Last week, an American court imposed a 50,000 USD (1.51 million Roubles. 37,200 Euros. 31,900 UK Pounds) a day fine on Russia for failing to comply with an earlier order to hand over religious texts from the Schneerson collection of Jewish books to the Chabad-Lubavitch group, a Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement based in Brooklyn NY.

On Wednesday, however, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back in kind and threatened legal action to return books he said that Moscow had loaned the group. He also called the American court’s decision “outrageous” and said that it had no basis in law, saying, “The Hasidics received some books from us from [the Schneerson Library] for temporary use, for a couple of months, more than ten years ago, and have yet to return them. This should also be the subject of court action”. Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Schneerson collection is part of Russia’s national heritage and the state property of the Russian Federation.

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 what is now Belarus. In 1918, the Bolsheviks nationalised part of the collection, amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson. Later, about 25,000 pages of manuscripts fell into the hands of the Nazis. Afterwards, the Red Army captured them and handed them over to the Russian State Military Archive. This part of the Schneerson Library is now in a central Moscow library. Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s, took the remaining part out of the USSR. Since 1994, when Menachem Schneerson died, leaders of the Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jewish movement have tried to regain possession of the library, claiming that the Soviet authorities illegally held it after the war.

In 1991, a Moscow court agreed to turn over the library to Chabad, but after the collapse of the USSR, the ruling became moot. Today, the Russian government says it wants to keep the archive for future scholars. In 2010, a court in Washington DC confirmed the American Jewish community’s right to the library, but Russia said the court’s decision was illegitimate. In late 2011, an American court ruled Russia must return about 12,000 books and 50,000 manuscripts from the library. On Wednesday, according to the AP, Seth Gerber, a lawyer for Chabad, said that the group would “seek to enforce the sanctions order by all legal means”. Under that law, a sovereign nation isn’t immune to lawsuits in cases where property is taken in violation of international law. Rabbi Yosef Cunin of Chabad said, “At the end of the day, all we want is our property back. No amount of money can replace it. Our religious heritage is priceless”.

The legal dispute over the Schneerson Library has caused Russian art institutions to cancel scheduled loans of world-renowned artworks to American art institutions for fear that they’d be seized, even though Chabad stated that it won’t go after any art deemed culturally significant by the US State Department. The Immunity from Seizure Act protects such art from legal claims. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky described the American court ruling as a “Russophobic show”, telling a news conference sponsored by RIA-Novosti last week, “It was a strange Russophobic show grossly violating both American legislation, as admitted by the American administration, and all the norms of international law. By the same logic, [Moscow’s] Khamovniki District Court could open hearings on the status of Alaska”. He added that the claims by one of the American Hassidic groups to the Schneerson Library “are simply ridiculous”.

23 January 2013

Carl Schreck



Editor’s Note:

Let’s be clear. None of the American Hasid groups EVER owned the materials in question. NEVER EVER. They’ve no legal claim to the collection. NONE. Moreover, an American court has no jurisdiction over a collection resident in Russia. I note that the Moscow ruling in favour of the Hasids came during the Crazy Time of Gorbachyov the Destroyer and Yeltsin the Fool. That doesn’t count… that was when the Sovs (and the Russian successor state) kissed the West’s naked bum. Chabad never owned this collection… its claim to it is false, lying, and mendacious. Its true reason for wanting the collection is to restrict access to it to scholars who’re pro-Chabad (they’d even refuse access to other Hasids whom they don’t like).

Chabad deserves NOTHING. This sort of thing is grist to the mill of all anti-Semites. It fits all the stereotypes of the greedy grasping Yid. I hate anti-Semitism, but I’ve a right to speak when I see Jews acting in such a way to reinforce anti-Semitism. That’s not hatred… that’s good sense. If the Hasids want to use the collection, they can do so in Moscow… and the coppers should search ‘em afterwards. They’re not trustworthy; they’re weaselling liars, if they think that they can get away with it… you should hear my Jewish friends on “Hasidic honesty”. This is ridiculous. What a buncha maroons.


Monday, 1 October 2012

1 October 2012. Something to Help You Understand the Twisted World of the Konvertsy and Hyper-Religious


Editor’s Foreword:

This is a bit longer than the usual, but this topic requires it, I think. Although the piece below deals with Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi/Hasidic) Judaism, I think that it fits the konvertsy subculture in Orthodoxy to a tee. After all, they came out of Christian milieus that are exactly analogous to Ultra-Orthodox. Read this first… it’s TRUTH.



In the world that I come from, there are lines that you don’t cross, stories that you don’t tell, and agonies that you keep to yourself. I knew the nuts and bolts of this mindset. After all, I spent so much more of my life in that mind than I ever did in my own. Therefore, I already knew what was in the e-mail… a terrible sense of betrayal would fill every word and line. I read it three times. She said she hadn’t read the book, but she knew what it was about. The title was enough. How could I have done such a thing? I’d slandered yiden, yiden who were kind and good. Sexual abuse was something that only happened to people with issues… people with a lack of moral guidance, who had secular magazines in their homes. I’d encountered this perverted denial too often in the community… the need to blame the victims, to feel better by invalidating the agony of the most vulnerable. Such things never happened to pious Jews, she explained to me, never to those who followed our rabbis’ rules. One day, she said, I’d clearly see the evil that I’d done, and repent. I knew that I’d never speak with Rivky again.

I told my therapist that week, “Why this reaction? I should be relieved that it’s over, done with. No more pretensions”. He said, “Maybe, but still, it’s a loss”, I countered with, “It’s a loss I chose. Or, I’d never have written the book”. He repeated to me, “Still, it’s an enormous loss”. I asked him, “But why? I knew this would happen. It was so predictable”. He said, “You can predict a loss, but you can’t prepare for it”. For days after, I wept. I held the loss close to my heart: I wept for friends I’d known since kindergarten and relatives I’d never speak with again; the world that I was part of before I wrote of forbidden agonies and became a traitor.

Every year, there’s a small but steady exodus of young men and women from the ultra-Orthodox world. For most of us, leaving isn’t bravery or stupidity. It’s a form of survival, an escape. You leave because you can’t stay. You leave because if you don’t, you’ll die. Suddenly, there’s an enormous void. You’re utterly alone. From the moment your mind wakes up, and realisation strikes, it’s as if you were in a colour-blind world, where the inhabitants see only in shades of black and white. When you first say, “The sky… it’s blue!”, they look at you with pity, as though you were a child with a disorder. Immediately, they attempt to cure you, frantically trying to turn blue into black… but when you look up at the heavens, the sky is bright blue.

Now, there’s serious concern. They point to the other inhabitants, every person you’ve ever known, and ask them the colour of the sky. Black and white, they say. A dark gray, perhaps, but… good heavens! … not blue. You know that they must be right, that it can only be a delusion of your mind, and you don’t want to be delusional, so you pretend to be cured. The clouds are black, you agree. Of course, there’s no such thing as blue. It’s a bewildering experience, frightening to the core, because when you look up, blue’s still there, sometimes, it’s a bright yellow. Colours, colours, everywhere, betraying your mind. You don’t dare tell anyone of your terrible secret. You wonder constantly… “Why? Why can’t I see like the others?”

It’s impossible to pretend for long. Sometimes, it happens by accident; sometimes the colours are so vivid you’re certain they can see them, too. How can they not see? However, they look at you suspiciously, at a distance; there’s irritation in their eyes. Now, they tell you that you’re damaged, a person with a disease. They warn you that seeing colours that don’t exist is a dangerous game, that you might embed in others a desire for this insanity, or convince them that this lie is true. You’re now a menace in their world. They must fix you at all costs. They close in on you. They tell you that to be cured, you must go blind; it’s the only way the colours will stop. They tell you that it’s the only choice… a small sacrifice for a larger God. They tell you to submit, for you own good, because you aren’t normal; you aren’t, you aren’t. Your mind’s an unstable place; something has snapped. However, they can save you from yourself. Guardians of your eyes, the gateway to your soul, they’ll destroy the terrible colours until you’ll never see them again. The circle tightens. They look at you with mercy in their eyes and knives in their hands. It is at this point that you begin to run.

You stumble out, climbing over high, thick walls, jumping to the other side, falling hard onto the ground below. You find yourself on strange land. You begin to walk. The mind pushes you on. You don’t allow yourself to think or feel. You don’t dare turn around. You mustn’t look behind. You must only dream of what’s ahead, and know that somehow it is good. You’ve no idea how long it takes to reach that place… days, months, years? You keep walking. However, the people from your city don’t give up. They search for you. They can’t understand why you’d ever want to leave. They stand on the ledge of the wall, reaching out. They call your name knowing you can hear them. If you’re not yet too far away, they send out people to bring you back. They use persuasive words, and, sometimes, threats or force, but you’re too far from them now; they can’t reach you. Nevertheless, when they call, you still turn your head. You hear their plea, “Come back”. It scares them to see you this way, so alone. You look at them from afar… at their certainty, their security, their warm colour-blindness… and from the lonely place you stand, a lie never looked so good. You stumble away, faster, until you can’t hear them anymore. Nevertheless, it’s too late. You’re in agony, grieving.

They say there are five stages of mourning… shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. For the young men and women leaving the ultra-Orthodox world behind, there’s an enormous loss. It is easy for those outside to think that now you’re free; your life is so much better than when you were among the colour-blind. However, it’s still an enormous loss. That loss carries everything we ever believed, and everyone who taught us to believe it… parents who loved us, teachers who educated us, siblings who played with us, cousins and classmates and former best friends. Our loss holds in it entire families. It holds our faith, innocence, and belief… and it’s devastating.

Eventually, you meet others like you, emerging like shadows from the dark… a former classmate, a second cousin, the quiet girl from summer camp. You’ve seen them before, walking the streets of your city, but you couldn’t tell back then that they were different from the others… that they pretended not to see colours, too. Time helps. Eventually, you see life ahead. Eventually, you understand that there’s no magical transformation, no black-and-white transition from yesterday to tomorrow, and that grieving the loss of an entire world is a long and torturous process. However, finally, alongside the trauma, there’s enormous relief. Now, standing far from the place you ran from, you begin to see clearly that the colours aren’t a delusion. They are, indeed, real… chaotic, vibrant beauty, a kaleidoscope of colours, colours by God, everywhere.

They say there are five stages of mourning: shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. However, for us, there’s a sixth and a seventh wonder, the wonder of knowing that the world truly is a miracle of colours, and relief at no longer being colour-blind. When I was a young girl, my teachers always said that God works in mysterious ways… that, sometimes, He withholds in order to give, that every loss is really a hidden gain. It’s difficult for us to understand this, because only God, high above, can see the larger picture… that the dark path we’re struggling through leads to a better place. It’s true. Today, I can finally believe them.

From The Loss

Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

20 September 2012

The Jewish Daily Forward



Editor’s Afterword:

Most of the konvertsy came out of Christian milieus similar to those described above. Two of the most crank are so-called “Continuing Anglicans” and “Evangelicals”. The latter have an oddbod patchy doctrine, which one can boil down to “Me n’ Jayzuss”. Jayzuss is your “Personal Saviour”, and you become a “Christian” by “giving your heart to Jayzuss”. That’s not in the Scriptures, but what’s that amongst friends? In short, it’s a chaotic and incoherent mess… with each congregation going its own merry way. It’s the farthest thing from the Church that you can imagine. However, like Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, sectarianism gives CERTAINTY. It doesn’t give truth… it doesn’t give enlightenment… it doesn’t give wisdom… but it does give certainty, and that’s all that some people want. You can’t talk to such sorts, don’t even try; all that it’ll do is to frustrate you to no end and to hammer heresy even more firmly into the attitude of your interlocutor.

The Continuing Anglicans are odd birds, even odder than the Sectarians are (two very typical examples of this oddjob mindset are Patrick Henry Reardon and Freddie M-G). You find them as subscribers to such prelest-ridden websites as Stand Firm in the Faith, and as congregants in mostly-Lilliputian tin-tabernacle parishes. Here’s the odd part… Anglicanism, by its nature is comprehensive; it’s how Henry and Elizabeth founded it. Besides that, Anglicanism is profoundly Protestant… it’s quite similar to Scandinavian Lutheranism in doctrine and practise (with a dash of Jean Calvin here and there). In fact, the most-honest sector of Anglicanism is the Low Church, such as one finds in the C of I, “no bells and smells, no pomps or popery”.

However, not many of these are “Continuers”. They’re mostly “High Churchers”. We all know the stories circulating about them, don’t we? In fact, they’re the same stories circulating about some of the higher clergy in the OCA! These sorts run about hollering about Tradition… but they’re really Protestants under the skin… they’re just as wilful as any Evangelical deep-down. One of their particular hobby-horses is “sexual purity”, especially, homosexuality, which leads one to the conclusion that they’re ridden with it. I do know that those who “convert” to Orthodoxy defend those with chequered backgrounds such as Fathausen, Dmitri Royster, and Pierre l’Huillier with impassioned vigour (and there are stories that won’t die about ex-HOOMie clergy cult-leaders). In fact, there’s so much noise, that I (and many others) conclude that there must be an elevated level of “closeted homosexuals” amongst this group. Do remember who Fathausen’s mentor was… the infamous Gleb Podmoshensky. Podmoshensky was Fathausen’s formative mentor and we forget that at our peril. Remember, Fathausen was NEVER a member of the Valaam brotherhood; he merely lived there for a spell. Yet, to the konvertsy, Fathausen’s on the right-hand of God.

The reason that the piece I quoted is important is that, after the OCA implodes, some of the konvertsy are going to remain amongst us. Understand that they don’t have an Orthodox mindset… be kind. It’ll take at least seven years for a real Orthodox consciousness to grow, perhaps, longer. You see, under normal circumstances, converts come in to an already-established congregation with a pastor born-to-the-faith. This gives the convert two indispensible things, groundedness and stability. Unfortunately, many konvertsy are in “convert conventicles”. That is, the group isn’t mostly people of grounded and long faith… they’re cabals of recent arrivals, often led by convert pastors with little formal Orthodox formation. Mirabile dictu (meant ironically here), they’ve NEVER received the Good News… NEVER. Therefore, show patience with such people. They’ve much to learn (and unlearn).

Some of the above applies to former autocephalists as well, but they’re not in as sad a shape. People such as Mark Stokoe shall see what happened to their dream… be kind to them, too. How would you like it if your saw that your dream, which you worked for all your life, was just an illusion? You wouldn’t… so, extend such people a hand and show them some consideration. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Remember, both the konvertsy and autocephalists who’ll choose to remain with us are like the woman in the Forward piece. They’ll have given up everything… for the “pearl of great price”… we, for our part, should realise that. Be a good Christian and show them what Fellowship in Christ REALLY means, need I say more?

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Monday 1 October 2012

Albany NY

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