9 Arrested Over Secret Tunnel at An Iconic Brooklyn Synagogue

A revered synagogue in Brooklyn, which serves as the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, found itself at the center of an unprecedented dispute this week. The conflict, triggered by the discovery of a secret underground tunnel, escalated into a brawl between worshippers and the police.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, deeply respected within the Hasidic Jewish community, attracts thousands of visitors annually. However, on Tuesday, the iconic synagogue in Crown Heights remained sealed off by police barricades as building safety agents investigated potential structural damage caused by the unauthorized tunnel.

Local reports revealed that a group of young men within the community had clandestinely constructed the passage, starting from the basement of an adjacent building and leading to the sanctuary. Attempts by the group’s leaders to seal off the tunnel resulted in a violent protest, prompting police intervention.

The purpose and origin of the tunnel remain unclear — and people on social media have had a field day speculating (which inevitably led to claims that it’s used for child trafficking) — but there are no credible reports linking the passageway to any sort of criminal activity, apart from vandalism.

Chabad spokesperson Motti Seligson denounced the construction as an act of vandalism by misguided individuals. Supporters of the tunnel claimed they were fulfilling an “expansion” plan envisioned by the late Chabad leader, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led the movement for over four decades until he died in 1994.

The tunnel project, initiated late last year, aimed to connect the overcrowded basement synagogue with additional space behind it. According to a report from the Associated Press, some supporters subscribe to a messianic belief that Schneerson is still alive, thus the motivation to fulfill his vision.

A cement truck arrived on Monday to seal the tunnel, leading to a protest during which wooden siding of the synagogue was damaged. Police responded to reports of trespassing and disorderly conduct, attempting to peacefully resolve the situation. However, the confrontation escalated, resulting in the arrest of nine individuals aged between 19 and 22 on charges including criminal mischief and obstructing governmental administration. Three others received summonses for disorderly conduct.

According to Selingson in the same AP report, they believe the tunnel starts in the basement of an empty apartment building behind the complex of the headquarters, and it goes under a number of offices and lecture halls before connecting to the synagogue.

In the investigation that followed, the New York City Department of Buildings found an illegally excavated tunnel under the headquarters. The 60-foot long and 8-foot wide passageway connected four buildings owned by Chabad through openings cut into basement walls.

Information for this story was found via AP News, CNN X, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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