Chaos at NYC synagogue: Students clash with cops over sealing of secret tunnel

A New York City synagogue witnessed tumultuous scenes as students attempted to prevent the sealing of a secret tunnel. The incident occurred at the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters, located at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The New York Police Department responded to the scene on Monday afternoon following reports of individuals forcibly entering the building by damaging a wall.
The students were trying to halt construction crews from filling in the tunnel, as reported by the Jewish publication Forward. Social media videos captured the chaos, showing individuals tearing down wood paneling on a wall in the synagogue and occupying the space behind it, apparently to block the tunnel from being sealed with cement. Other footage depicted overturned wooden furniture and confrontations with police officers, a Newsweek report said.
Several men were escorted out of the building by police, as seen in the videos. An NYPD spokesperson stated, “At this time, it is known that a number of individuals were taken into custody. Charges are pending.” No injuries were reported in the incident.
The discovery of the tunnel was first reported by CrownHeights.Info in December. A construction worker found the tunnel extending from under the women’s section of the synagogue to a mikvah—a Jewish ritual cleansing bath—on Union Street. The synagogue’s leadership decided to close the women’s section until a plan to secure the building was formulated.
Rabbi Motti Seligson, the media director of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, commented on the situation, saying, “Some time ago, a group of extremist students broke through walls in adjacent properties to the synagogue at 784-788 Eastern Parkway, to provide them unauthorized access. Earlier today, a cement truck was brought in to repair those walls.” He added, “Those efforts were disrupted by the extremists who broke through the wall to the synagogue, vandalizing the sanctuary, in an effort to preserve their unauthorized access. They have since been arrested and the building closed pending a structural safety review.”
Seligson further explained the ongoing legal efforts, “Chabad-Lubavitch officials have attempted to gain proper control of the premises through the New York State court system; unfortunately, despite consistently prevailing in court, the process has dragged on for years.” He expressed the distress this situation has caused to the Lubavitch movement and the global Jewish community, hoping for a swift restoration of the synagogue’s sanctity and decorum.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, also issued a statement, thanking the NYPD for their professionalism and sensitivity. He lamented the vandalism caused by the young agitators and assured that the sanctity of the synagogue would be restored following a thorough investigation.
The incident at the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters has drawn significant attention, highlighting the complexities surrounding the preservation of religious sites and the challenges faced by religious communities in maintaining their properties.
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