Riot breaks out after NYPD tries to seal secret synagogue tunnels in Brooklyn

The tunnels were reportedly dug by a seperate Jewish group contesting the Chabad Lubavitch’s claim on the building

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 09 January 2024 19:16 GMT
Riot breaks out after secret tunnel is found underneath Brooklyn Chabad

An NYPD visit to a Brooklyn synagogue turned chaotic after police tried to fill a secret tunnel and alcove found at the site.

Police visited the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters synagogue in Brooklyn on Monday after the mysterious tunnels were discovered at the facility.

A police report suggests the work was done within the last few years, according to the Times of Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox believers opposed the police by throwing benches at the officers and rioting inside the facility. Others who wanted the tunnels to remain open fled into them in hopes that their presence would dissuade the police.

The incident ultimately ended with the arrest of 10 rioters and the temporary shuttering of the synagogue.

The tunnels were reportedly built without authorisation from the Chabad leadership.

Chabad Lubavitch media director Motti Seligson issued a statement on Tuesday on Twitter saying the damage to the synagogue was caused by "extremist students."

"Some time ago, a group of extremist students, broke through a few 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 said. "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."

The "extremist students" were reportedly the individuals arrested by the NYPD. The synagogue will remain closed until a structural review is completed.

"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 said. "This is, obviously, deeply distressing to the Lubavitch movement, and the Jewish community worldwide. We hope and pray to be able to expeditiously restore the sanctity and decorum of this holy place."

The building has been the subject of a long-lasting battle between the Chabad Lubavitch movement and a group of Messianic Chasidim — two Jewish sects with differing theology who both claim ownership, The Jewish Chronicle reports.

The issue was officially settled in 2006 when a judge ruled that Chabad had full ownership over the building, but the decision did not stop some of the messianic members from trying to use the building.

Approximately six months ago, a group of students connected to the messianic movement reportedly began digging tunnels to gain access to the building.

Once the Chabad leadership learned about the tunnels, they contacted the police to fill them in, which ultimately led to the backlash and the destruction of parts of the facility's interior.

“These odious actions will be investigated, and the sanctity of the synagogue will be restored,” Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Chabad, said.

The incident became the social media topic du jour on Tuesday after footage of the rioting and the tunnels was shared on X/Twitter.

The footage showed garbage and home goods, including mattresses, inside of the tunnels. Another bizarre video showed a Hasidic man climbing out of what appeared to be a sewer system around the corner from the facility.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in