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9 Jan, 2024 16:27

New York synagogue raid reveals hidden tunnels (VIDEOS)

Police clashed with Orthodox Jews who fought to defend passages they had apparently dug under the city streets
New York synagogue raid reveals hidden tunnels (VIDEOS)

Police in New York made multiple arrests on Monday after crowds of Orthodox Jews rioted when construction crews attempted to fill in secret tunnels that had been dug under a synagogue. 

Officers were called to the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters to deal with a crowd of young Jewish men who had allegedly vandalized cement trucks brought in by municipal workers to seal off a tunnel under the building. 

Known locally as ‘The 770’ after its address at 770 Eastern Parkway in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights, the building is the headquarters of the Chabad movement, which is one of the world’s largest Hasidic Jewish organizations.

As officers moved into the synagogue, men in traditional Jewish garb began pulling wooden panels off the interior walls in an apparent effort to widen the entrance to the tunnel. Crowds jeered at police officers who tried to pull protesters from the tunnel entrance, and ten people were arrested following scuffles between police and worshippers, local news site Crown Heights Info reported.

Multiple entrances to the tunnel system were secured, Crown Heights Info said.

It is unclear when the tunnels were dug or for what reason. Unverified sources on social media suggested that they were excavated during the 2020 and 2021 coronavirus lockdowns so that members of the Chabad could pray in secret. Jewish news site Forward claimed that they were dug in the last year or two in order to illegally expand the building. 

Video footage posted in December and reports from the Chabad on Monday suggest that one tunnel connects the synagogue with a disused mikvah on nearby Union Street. A mikvah is a ritual bath used by Orthodox Jews to ‘purify’ new converts or women before marriage.

The tunnels were discovered in December when local residents complained of suspicious noises coming from underneath their homes. Construction workers laying pipes near the synagogue then came across a tunnel and alerted Chabad authorities. According to Hasidic news site COLive, a schism over religious doctrine and ownership of the building had emerged between the Chabad movement and a group of young Jews who came “mostly from Israel.” This latter group was allegedly responsible for digging the tunnels.

Chabad-Lubavitch chairman Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky condemned the “vandalism,” calling those responsible “young agitators.” 

“These odious actions will be investigated, and the sanctity of the synagogue will be restored,” Krinsky wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Our thanks to the NYPD for their professionalism and sensitivity.”