(JTA) — A Kiev rabbi has won a protracted legal battle against a Ukrainian governmental agency for his synagogue’s ownership of 18 Torah scrolls.
The Kiev Economic Court of Appeals ruled last week that Rabbi Moshe Azman’s Central Synagogue in Kiev may keep the scrolls as its possession.
Ukraine’s State Archive Service had transferred the scrolls to the synagogue in 1995, Azman told JTA, after taking possession of them following their confiscation in the 1920s by communist authorities.
“They gave it to us to use but then wanted that we give them back, which we refused to do,” he said. “We fixed all the Torah scrolls and made them usable again. They belonged to the Jewish community and that is still their place.”
Azman, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, also said the scrolls never left the country.
According to Azman, the archive service first requested the scrolls be returned after the 2006 appointment of historian Olga Ginzburg to head the archive. Azman said he believes the archive service is in possession of 800 to 1,000 additional Torah scrolls.
Over the years, the archive service also gave the Jewish community fragments of other Torah scrolls, which were buried in keeping with Jewish tradition.