Chabad Figures Among 963 Americans Banned by Russia

Three prominent Lubavitcher rabbis were among the 963 Americans “permanently banned” by Russia in response to US sanctions levied followed the invasion of Ukraine.

By Anash.org reporter

Three prominent Lubavitcher rabbis were among the 963 Americans “permanently banned” by Russia in response to US sanctions levied followed the invasion of Ukraine.

The list, published on Shabbos by the Russian Foreign Ministry, features a wide-ranging collection of Biden administration members, Republicans, tech executives, journalists, lawmakers who have died, and regular U.S. citizens who the Ministry claim “incite Russophobia”.

Included in the list are prominent names such as President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had been previously sanctioned, as well as new names including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft President Brad Smith were also on the list, along with journalists from ABC News, the New Yorker, New York Times and CNN.

Also included on the list were three prominent Chabad rabbis who hold leadership positions in the movement’s top organizations: Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, Rabbi Avremel Shemtov, chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, and California Head Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Cunin. The Ministry’s list describes Krinsky as “rabbi, secretary of Agudas Chasidei Chabad”, Cunin as “Rabbi, member of the board of Agudas Chasidei Chabad”, and Shemtov as “Rabbi, chairman of the board of Agudas Chasidei Chabad”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not detail the reason for most individuals on the list, and did not specify why the rabbis had made it on. Each of the three, however, have been involved in efforts to have Russia return the Schneerson Collection to Chabad’s ownership, a move that Russia has decried on numerous occasions.

The ‘Schneerson Collection’ is library of thousands of books and manuscripts, collected by the Rebbe Rashab and the Frierdiker Rebbe. The books were transferred to Moscow by the Rebbe Rashab when he left Lubavitch, and after his passing, the Frierdiker Rebbe attempted to retrieve them, to no avail. After World War II, the Soviets nationalized the library, making it part of the Russian State Library.

Chabad has fought for decades to have the books returned, and an US District Judge placed a $50,000-a-day civil contempt sanction on Russia in 2010 until the books were returned. Since then, Chabad has attempted to identify and seize Russian assets in the USA to pay the sanctions. attempted to identify and seize Russian assets in the USA to pay the sanctions. On his end, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the texts are part of Russian heritage and vowed that they will not leave his country. 

The ban would prevent the three rabbis from visiting Russia, including the town of Lubavitch, the birthplace of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. But it would not take much to guess that the ban will not deter them in the slightest from their efforts to have the library returned to its proper owners.

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