Russian ship cancels U.S. visit over Judaic book collection


(JTA) — A Russian sailing ship canceled a good-will visit to the San Francisco port over a dispute concerning a collection of historic Jewish books.

The Nadezhda was due to arrive in San Francisco as part of a trans-Atlantic trip late last week. Instead it changed course for Mexico.

Russian officials reportedly were concerned that the ship might be seized under a court order if it stopped in a U.S. port.

A U.S. District Court in Brooklyn ruled in August 2001 that the Chasidic archive of books known as the Schneerson Collection belongs to the Chabad movement.

The archive of 12,000 books and 50,000 other documents assembled by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson was seized during the Russian Revolution and the Nazi invasion, and then later by the Russian army.  It is currently stored in the Russian State Military Archive in Moscow.

The Russian Cultural Ministry in contesting the ruling in the U.S. court claimed that Schneerson had no heirs when he left Russia.

In August, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art canceled plans for an art loan to a Russian museum in the ongoing dispute.

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