People deserve to have confidence that laws are created in a rational way that are known, understood, and enforced fairly, in an even-handed way. How can we have agreements on trade and commerce, arms limitations and nuclear warheads, if we don’t have have basic trust?
What happens when government itself, seems lawless, if not complicit in theft?
For over two decades the Russians have been resisting all legal and diplomatic efforts that require them to return two important religious collections comprising twelve thousand religious books and manuscripts, that were seized during the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, as part of the Russian Civil War of 1917. There also are 25,000 pages of handwritten teachings, which were stolen by Nazi Germany during World War II, and later transferred to the Russian State Military Archive.
These religious artifacts are living history. They are an important part of the Jewish community appointed to preserve them.
This past Wednesday, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, of the U.S. District Court fined Russia $50,000 a day until it complies with his earlier order (2010) that the country return these sacred books and manuscripts. Of course, the issue is not dollars but the return of the library.
While in the possession of their rightful owners, these collections served as the heart and soul of the Jewish people, uplifting them in the most difficult of times. For thousands of years these teachings have been guarded and handed down from generation to generation inspiring a people under the most trying of circumstance ... until they were seized.
"At the end of the day, all we want is our property back," said my brother Rabbi Yosef Cunin. "No amount of money can replace it. Our religious heritage is priceless." During most of the twentieth century, Russians were ruled by the lawless regime of communism. Now, Russia aspires to the rule of law. It would be an enormous step forward if the Russian government would do the right thing."
This isn’t just about an invaluable physical library being returned to its owner. This is about laws, which govern people in no matter what country, and the principles that deserve to be honored.