Hatch Joins Rabbis in Seeking Return of Sacred Texts

By Kelsey, Dallas | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), March 3, 2017 | Go to article overview

Hatch Joins Rabbis in Seeking Return of Sacred Texts


Kelsey, Dallas, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Kelsey Dallas

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY - Sen. Orrin Hatch reaffirmed his commitment this week to securing the return of sacred Jewish texts from the Russian government.

"Much like Utah's early settlers, our Jewish brothers and sisters are a record-keeping people who cherish the word of God and look to holy scripture as a source of identity and inspiration. As a person of faith myself, I was moved by their earnest desire to reclaim these religious records for the benefit of future generations," Hatch said in a statement provided by his office.

The texts, referred to as the Schneerson collection, are the "spiritual crown jewel of Chabad," an orthodox movement within Judaism, according to Rabbi Chaim Cunin, one of the men who met with Hatch. The collection includes approximately 12,000 Jewish holy books and 25,000 handwritten documents, such as letters.

"Many of the books of commentary include notes from rabbis. They annotated the margins with personal thoughts and teachings," Rabbi Cunin said. "The documents include the stories and struggles of people who, in some cases, only exist on these pages."

The Chabad community first lost part of the Schneerson collection a century ago, when books and documents were seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. Then additional documents were taken by the Nazis during World War II when members of the Chabad community fled Poland for their own safety.

In the 1980s, Jewish leaders discovered that missing pieces of the collection were being held by the Russian government. They've been working since then to secure their return.

These documents are "of immense and indescribable spiritual significance," said Rabbi Cunin, who serves as CEO of Chabad of California.

Hatch has been aware of the Schneerson collection since the early 1990s, when he joined with his 99 fellow senators to call for their release. …

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