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Chabad-Russia case to proceed in U.S.

A decades-long struggle between Chabad-Lubavitch and Russia can proceed in the American court system, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

At issue are more than 12,000 religious texts and an archive of some 25,000 handwritten pages on Chabad philosophy and Jewish law dating back to the 18th century.

Chabad has waged a 70-year battle with the Soviet and Russian governments to wrest the archives from the Russian government and return them to their main library in Brooklyn, said Rabbi Shalom Dovber Levine, the head of the library for Agudas Chasidei Chabad.

The Bolshevik government seized a portion of the library during the October Revolution circa 1917 as the head Lubavitch rebbe fled the country to Poland. The texts were stored in the Lenin Library, later known as the Russian State Library.

The Nazis confiscated the remainder of the archive circa 1939 as they marched across Eastern Europe. It was later taken back by the Russian government and currently resides in the Russian State Military Archive.

In the opinion released June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that certain parts of a case filed in 2004 could proceed to the earliest phases of its first day in U.S. court.

Since the suit was filed, a succession of appeals has focused merely on whether U.S. courts had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

In the 1990s, all 100 members of the U.S. Senate and more than 350 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed on to requests to have the library returned.

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