Honoring What is Right

Malibu Rabbi Levi shares the importance of two important religious collections.

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.

Shabbat Shalom!

Robert Leaman Sanders January 18, 2013 at 03:06 PM
The points at issue in Rabbi Levi Cunan's well written article concerning the Jewish books confiscated during World War II and the given to The Russian government, are well worth studying. Demonstrated well in the text of Rabbi Cunin's assertions are the very teachings and principles expounded upon by much, I assume, of what is written and found within the pages of the books being locked up in Russia at this time. I enjoy many conversation with our Rabbi. And I learn something every single time the our words fly around during our talks. It's all about doing the right thing. The truth is the truth... one can argue in interpretations of the truth. However, the outcome of any of those arguements does not nessesarily change the rock solid truth, in my view. The right thing is to release the important books Rabbi Cunin sites in his article sent to Patch. Allowing the world to receive the information expressed in the books would unquestionably be the right thing to do. I, myself, would love to have the chance to be refreshed by actually experiencing an inside view of the writings found within the subject books. I salute all who dedicate time and effort in communicating with the Russian govenment for the purpose of having the Jewish books released. I am aware that The Cunin family have been making strides and impressive progress towards such ends. Thank, you Rabbi Cunin, for doing the right thing... make that things (plural). ---Robert Leaman Sanders, Malibu


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