Federal Judge Levies $43.7M Fine Against Russia For Failure To Return Schneerson Library To Chabad-Lubavitch

Washington, D.C. – In the latest round of a legal dispute that dates back over a decade, a federal judge on Thursday ordered Russia to pay a $43.7M fine for failing to return the Jewish books and documents collection known as the Schneerson Library over to the Brooklyn-based Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch group.

NYTIMES.com reports that the voluminous collection of Jewish texts was compiled by Chabad in the centuries leading up to World War II and have remained in Russia’s possession ever since.

To date, Russia has ignored rulings in 2010 and 2013 by federal judges that the collection be returned, the latter imposing a $50K-per-day fine for failure to return the texts.

In 2011, the Kremlin in what many have referred to as a “tit-for-tat response” imposed a ban on its state-run museums from loaning works to American museums.

This prompted the U.S. state department to intervene, claiming that continued legal wrangling would inflame U.S.-Russia relations.

Federal Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected the state department’s claim in Thursday’s ruling, and ordered that Russia pay the imposed penalty.

“There is simply no evidence on the record that this case has any impact on relations between the United States and Russia outside of this case,” Lamberth said.

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