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Russia Refuses to Comply with Chabad

Despite a lawsuit by the Chassidic movement, Russia will not turn over a library of Chabad-Lubavitch documents to the group’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York City; and a U.S. district judge has upheld the Russian’s plea.

Rebbe FrierdigerThe library, collected since 1772 and comprising over 12,000 volumes and 381 manuscripts was originally seized by the Red Army in Nazi Germany as war loot. The Foreign Ministry of the former center of the Soviet Union said that the ruling – that is to hand over the documents to the United States was a “rude violation” of international law. The ruling claimed that because the Rebbe, Joseph Isaac Scheersohn, who was forced in 1927 to leave Russia, had no heirs, that the library was nationalized.

The Russian ministry claims that the library is available for scientific study and worship. Spokesmen of Chabad-Lubavitch in Brooklyn fear that some of the manuscripts in the library could be for sale on the black market.

Another possibility for the future of the library, one which was not mentioned in the proceedings, would be to hand over the manuscripts to the Israeli government since it is the National body of the Jewish people.
For towns such as Kfar Chabad (founded in 1948), Nachalat Har Chabad (founded in 1969) and Kiryat Chabad (founded in 1979), Israel has become a welcome homeland for the Chassidic Movement.

American district Judge Royce Lamberth said the plaintiffs can sue to recover more than 25,000 pages of manuscripts and letters, which properly belong to the Scheersohns. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2004 in California against the Russian Ministry of Culture, the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archive.
All of the documents were originally taken to Latvia and then Poland after the Rebbe left Russia in 1927. The Russians seized the library after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Rebbe left for Brooklyn. Since then, they have been filed in a Russian Military Archive.

Fear and Loathing in Oslo

Oslo, NorwayJews in Oslo were taken aback over the weekend when the leader of the local Jewish Community, Anne Sander criticized haredi Judaism, the Chabad movement, the settlements and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The remarks came in an interview with the Dagbladet newspaper, on the milieu of the situation between Jews and Muslims in Norway.

Only 1,100 Jews live in Norway today, most of them in Oslo. They live alongside more than 70,000 Muslims. Anti-Semitic incidents from the past few years include harsh statements made by Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen, a plan by local Muslims to murder the Israeli ambassador and gun shots fired at an Oslo synagogue.

The journalist who interviewed Sander has in the past compared former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with Nazi leader Hermann Göring. The interview began with a poetic description of “the Israeli war machine”.
Sander said:

“Both sides are right. It’s something that we must learn to live with, accept the fact that we disagree…There is a radical polarization in the Jewish world today…You have the liberals, and on the other side you have the ultra-Orthodox – which look as if they may become dominant. We don’t like it. What’s happening is very dangerous. This is Judaism from the inside like in all other religions. Extremism exists everywhere, among us as well.”

She also shed a negative light on the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in her country, which seeks to spread kabbalistic and Chassidic Judaism, as well as the practice of basic mitzvoth, to non-practicing Jews around the world:

“The ultra-Orthodox movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, has been in Oslo for four years. It represents a more distant side in religion than we are able to accept.”

She said that the movement’s values “are completely different than the average. It’s a movement which mixes religion and politics and has an anti-democratic structure.”

Sander mentioned that the movement supports a Greater Israel:

“from Egypt in the West to ancient Babylon in the east, between today’s Iraq and Iran. We are busy with democracy, with volunteering and with being socially responsible, and this conduct is completely destructive towards the environment, and as I said – very dangerous.”

Sander explained that people in Norway were wrong when comparing the country’s Jews to Israelis on all matters:

“Naturally, we have a lot of cooperation on cultural exchanges and similar things, but I don’t engage in politics. That’s the embassy’s responsibility.”

On the topic of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, she said:

“I think he has bad advisors, he received false information, he knew only half of the story, he responds emotionally and he talks with his local audience. No one can hit people in the head and call them anti-Semites just because they criticize what the State of Israel does, even if anti-Semitism is hidden undoubtedly in some of the criticism against Israel.”

She said that Jews benefit from West Bank settlements, like Palestinians benefit from suicide bombings:

“When it comes to settlements, I just can’t understand it. It’s completely incomprehensible to me, completely incomprehensible. It’s supposed to be in Israel’s favor. This is not the situation, like suicide bombings for the Palestinian side.”

Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm, who manages the Chabad House in Oslo, told Ynet that Sander’s remarks put the city’s Jews in danger:

“She is simply putting the security of Jews living here in risk. Such statements are a type of incitement. We have been feeling very uncomfortable since the article was published, and so far no one has taken these remarks back…”

The remark about Chabad, said Wilhelm:

“is not true and it’s particularly dangerous when it is said by a central Jewish public figure. Comparing Jews to radical Islam in a country with some 100,000 Muslims is terrible, especially when there is not a lot of sympathy for Jews and Israel in the media.”

Another Jewish resident of Oslo claimed an objection as well:

“There is no problem with Chabad. They are working for the sake of the community like in any other place. I view this as an internal and dangerous political dispute.”

Eric Argaman, a 30-year-old Israeli who has studied in Norway and lives in Oslo, said:

“It’s a product of internal hatred. What’s Chabad got to do with it? It’s an apolitical body. We are working here to prevent anti-Semitism and a person comes along and destroys it. It’s not easy being a Jew here as it is. She did injustice to everyone…Some guys working in security at the Jewish center have resigned. In Israel she wouldn’t have stayed in office. It’s enough that people are looking for reasons to hate the Jews here.”

The Future of Jewish Web-Surfing

jewish InternetLast August saw the release of 4Wall LLC’s Jewish Internet Metric Study. It is a project aimed towards helping the Jewish community understand the “hurdles and opportunities” presented by the Internet. Certainly the idea behind this research flies in the face of fliers posted in residential ultra-orthodox areas in Israel which read, “אינטרנט מביא סרטן” or ‘The Internet Brings Cancer‘.

Using the practices of the Mckinsey Consulting Firm to get a close-up look at the “Jewish Web”, 4Wall examined data from search engines, taken from between April and June of 2009 to get an understanding of “Web engagement, traffic, demographics, content architecture and market response.” The study analyzed current traffic volume and the four year change in traffic volume of 32 Jewish search terms.

Researchers were surprised when they found an apparent steady decline in Jewish Web-surfing. The main five terms on the decline of the four year spread included: “Judaica” (-54%), “Reform Judaism” (-66%), “Anti-Semitism” (-74%), “Jewish Dating” (-85%) and the largest drop, “Kabbalah” (-87%).

The five highest searches were: “Jewish,” “Israel,” “Holocaust,” “Jerusalem” and “Kosher”. Still even these terms generate less traffic than they did four years ago. The complete sample set of 32 Jewish terms drew an average decrease in search traffic of 25%.

Five search terms, however, became more popular since 2005, these are: “Rosh HaShanah” (49%), “Chabad” (21%), “Challah” (16%), “Matzah” (10%) and “Yom Kippur” (9%).

Despite the decline in Jewish search terms, though, the study DID find a rise in traffic to Jewish news, blogs, education and general information sites. Actually there was a 62% increase in traffic to Jewish news Websites, just within this past year.

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