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Hatch pledges to back bid to recover religious texts from Russia

First Published      Last Updated Mar 02 2017 10:02 pm


Held by Russia, the records were seized during the Bolshevik Revolution in the early 1990s.

Six rabbis and a Mormon sat together around a wooden table in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

No, this isn't the setup to a bad joke.

Sen. Orrin Hatch met with the Jewish leaders as part of a yearslong effort to help recover religious texts — currently held by the Russian government — that the group considers sacred.

"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," Hatch said in a prepared statement. "As a person of faith myself, I was moved by their earnest desire to reclaim these religious records for the benefit of future generations."



The collection of holy works was seized by what was then the Soviet Union during the Bolshevik Revolution in the early 1900s. Hatch has worked to reclaim the texts with numerous initiatives, most recently a letter signed by all members of the Senate urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to return the scriptures to Chabad, a group within Judaism.

Hatch pledges to enlist the State Department and the Trump administration to aid in the effort.

"I also felt compelled to help these rabbis as a statement against discrimination and religious intolerance," Hatch said. "Amid a wave of rising anti-Semitism, showing solidarity with our Jewish friends is more important now than ever before."

In recent weeks, there has been a slew of threats to Jewish community centers across the nation.

The Republican senator, a strong proponent of religious freedom and a longtime supporter of Israel, has worn a mezuzah — a symbol of the Jewish faith — around his neck "for many years," according to his office. The rabbis also dedicated and blessed Hatch's office door with a mezuzah Tuesday.

"I have tremendous respect for scripture and the critical role it plays in the spiritual lives of millions across the globe," Hatch continued in the statement. "That's why I was deeply honored to help these Chabad rabbis recover this set of sacred texts."

ctanner@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CourtneyLTanner

 

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