EntertainmentUnlawful tunnels under Brooklyn synagogue stir communal strife and law enforcement action

Unlawful tunnels under Brooklyn synagogue stir communal strife and law enforcement action

Jews dug tunnels in New York.
Jews dug tunnels in New York.
Images source: © Canva | canva
7:31 AM EST, January 9, 2024

Unexplained tunnels were uncovered in Brooklyn in December. The individuals responsible, young members of the Hasidic Chabad Lubavitch movement, were found to have unlawfully excavated passages beneath a synagogue located at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City. On Monday, January 8, a construction crew arrived to fill the tunnels with concrete, a development that did not please the Jewish men.

Police intervene to control the situation

The young men attempted to hinder the crew from filling in the tunnels, resulting in disturbances. Law enforcement officers were summoned to the site to control the escalating situation. In total, ten individuals were apprehended. Available video footage demonstrates the police escorting the handcuffed representatives of the community.

Conflict over the mysterious tunnels

Yosef Braun, the rabbi in charge of the synagogue beneath which the tunnels were discovered, expressed his disapproval of the young men's actions. Rabbi Braun labeled the behavior of these community representatives as disgraceful and deplorable and strongly reprimanded the young men. Speaking with the Daily Mail, the rabbi claimed that the young men arrived on-site "ready to destroy and desecrate the sacred walls", and urged other community members "to condemn them in the strongest terms."

In their outrage, the young men tore boards from the walls, revealing more entrances to the tunnels. Some tried to rush into the passages to stop them from being filled, while others attempted to escape through the tunnels out of the synagogue.

The purpose of the tunnels

Presently, the purpose of these tunnels remains unclear. One theory suggests that the men attempted to expand the synagogue's grounds. Other speculation posits that the individuals sought access to an abandoned mikvah, a ritual bath used by Jewish women. Stained mattresses were discovered inside the tunnels.

Response from Chabad Lubavitch movement's Rabbi

Motti Seligson, a rabbi from the Chabad Lubavitch movement acting as the spokesperson, made statements regarding the tunnel incident. The rabbi declared: "Lubavitch representatives have been striving to take adequate possession of the premises via the New York state court system. Unfortunately, despite continuous success in court, the process has been underway for several years. This has deeply concerned the Lubavitch movement and the global Jewish community. We hope and pray for a swift restoration of sanctity and respect to this sacred site". Rabbi Seligson characterized those responsible for the tunnels as "extremist students".

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