Nine individuals from a Hasidic Jewish community in New York have been taken into custody and are facing charges related to a concealed tunnel that was linked to a significant synagogue.
A clash ensued between the police and individuals, following the arrival of city officials and leaders from the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters, who intended to shut down the tunnel.
The individuals are facing charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and obstructing governmental administration.
A representative from the Chabad referred to them as a “collection of radical students.”
The tunnels were constructed beneath a well-known street in Brooklyn, where the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters are situated. This building holds immense historical and cultural importance within the city.
City inspectors were dispatched to the Chabad on Monday to perform an urgent structural inspection. There were growing worries that the unauthorised tunnel may have resulted in harm to the renowned property.
A fight erupted when authorities discovered a gang of youths obstructing the inspection and cement filling of the tunnel. A group of individuals proceeded to forcefully enter the prayer area. The arrests were a direct result of those actions.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the chairman of the Chabad, expressed gratitude to the police for their diligent efforts. He also conveyed the community’s deep distress over the actions of a group of young agitators.
“These reprehensible actions will be thoroughly investigated, and the sacredness of the synagogue will be reinstated,” he declared.
The origins of the tunnel’s construction, the methods employed, and the underlying motivations remain shrouded in mystery. There seems to be a connection between the tunnel and another building on the street in Brooklyn.
According to a local resident interviewed by the New York Times, the individuals were attempting to construct a tunnel in order to accelerate the synagogue’s growth.
Several individuals who have participated in services and events at the Chabad have expressed concerns about the increased number of people in the building in recent times.
Footage and images captured inside the building on Monday revealed a small gathering of predominantly youthful individuals attempting to obstruct the tunnel from being filled with cement.
Some individuals were observed removing wood panels from the walls of the sanctuary and utilising benches to obstruct law enforcement in the videos and images. A video reviewed by the BBC depicted an officer utilising a spray to disperse a developing skirmish.
The building, which attracts a large number of visitors annually, used to be the residence of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Orthodox Jewish movement.
The rabbi is recognised for his leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch and his efforts to revive the Hasidic religious community following the devastating impact of the Holocaust. Despite his passing in 1994, his headquarters continues to be a renowned hub for the Jewish faith.
The Chabad-Lubavitcher movement is known for its inclusive approach, aiming to embrace Jews of varying religious backgrounds. However, it is important to note that there are distinct divisions within the movement. There seemed to be some disagreements that arose during the tunnel dispute at 770 Eastern Parkway this month.
A small faction within the Chabad holds the belief that Rabbi Schneerson is the Jewish Messiah, which is not accepted by the majority of the movement. It is reported that the disagreement played a role in the tunnel altercation.
The building has been closed while ongoing inspections of the tunnels are being conducted.