A torah scroll
A recent landmark ruling in the Ukraine saw hundreds of confiscated Torahs put back in the hands of the Jewish community, reports the Times of Israel
Last Wednesday, the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered the return of Torahs confiscated nearly 100 years ago by the Soviet government, a collection that was destined for the State archives instead of their rightful owners.
This legal battle started in 2009, when Ukrainian officials returned the Torahs to the Central Synagogue of Kiev and subsequently demanded they be surrendered to the national archives. Justin Levin, president of the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry and leader of the battle to retain the Torahs, called the decision “historic justice.”
Alex Selsky, the Forum’s director, argues the decision will a have far-reaching impact for the Ukrainian Jewish community. “This is relevant to other scrolls,” he told The Times of Israel on Thursday. “It is a very important decision for other Jewish property that was seized.”
Such a decision is also important to the Eastern European Jewish community moving forward, who can use this court order to see the return of similar artifacts, perhaps across national borders and maybe even ethnic divides. Europe has a long history of seizing property for nationalist interests and decisions like this are important for other communities who are fighting to have important parts of their history returned.
Peru, for example, is still fighting Britain and the United States for Incan artifacts taken by explorers hundreds of years ago. By keeping these Torahs from the national archives, Ukrainian authorities are opening pathways between themselves and their minority populations, a decision that not only rights some past wrongs, but also looks forward to balancing national and local interests.