Wild scenes broke out on Monday at a synagogue in Brooklyn, after construction workers arrived to fill in an illegally-dug tunnel that was being used by young Orthodox Jewish men in an attempt to link the building to a nearby ritual bath.
The chaos erupted at the Chabad Lubavitch global headquarters in Crown Heights.
In December, the rabbi discovered youths had dug tunnels beneath the building to access another property on the same street.
It remains unclear why the young men are so attached to the property they were accessing illegally – they have for years been at loggerheads with the synagogue over who owns the main property, but the appeal of the ritual bath or mikvah is unclear.
When cement diggers and construction crews showed up last night to fill the tunnel, the young men protested, throwing themselves in the way to block their efforts.
It took the NYPD to forcibly remove them. Videos of the incident were later shared on social media.
Twelve people were arrested and remain in custody. They are yet to be identified.
The wooden walls of the synagogue are pictured being ripped apart, in scenes the rabbi said were ‘mind-boggling’
The NYPD was called to try and get the young men out the tunnels and allow the passageway to be filled with cement
Members of the synagogue on Monday ripped away wooden panels inside to reveal the entrance to the tunnel, and enter to prevent the tunnels being filled
Wild scenes ensured inside the Crown Heights building on Monday afternoon
Members of Chabad-Lubavitch have been digging tunnels under the synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, for many months.
The purpose of the tunnel is unclear: the website Forward.com reported it was designed to reach an abandoned women’s mikvah, or ritual baths. The website said the tunnel had been dug to ‘expand’ the synagogue, although it was unclear how it would do so.
The tunnels were discovered in December, and the synagogue’s leaders called in structural engineers to assess the damage.
On Monday, cement mixers arrived to fill the tunnels in, and the young Orthodox men reacted with fury – many of them ripping away the wooden walls hiding the entrance to the secret tunnels, and running into them to prevent them being filled.
Video shared on social media showed dozens of NYPD officers attending the site, and trying to push the irate young men back from the entrance to the tunnel.
Some of the men attempt to charge back through the tunnels, as a large crowd jeers the police.
Outside the synagogue, NYPD officers held the men back.
Young men are pictured being arrested, handcuffed and led away by the NYPD
Crowds of Hasidic men stand outside the building on Monday night
The NYPD worked to empty the building of people so the construction crews could work
A police cruiser is seen outside the building, at 770 Eastern Parkway
An NYPD officer is seen on Monday evening talking to a member of the community
One man challenges the NYPD officer, who replies: ‘We don’t do that in America.’
Hasidic news site COL Live reported many of the young men were from Israel.
After several hours, NYPD officers were seen bringing handcuffed men out from the tunnels. Videos also showed at least one community members using the tunnels to reach the sidewalk outside the building.
A NYPD spokesman told DailyMail.com: ‘On Monday, January 8, 2024, at approximately 1530 hours, police responded to 911 calls of a disorderly group outside of 770 Eastern Parkway, within the confines of the 71 Precinct.
‘Upon arrival, officers were informed that a group of individuals unlawfully entered 770 Eastern Parkway by damaging a wall.
‘At this time, it is known that a number of individuals were taken into custody. Charges are pending.
‘No injuries were reported as a result of this incident.’
A man is seen emerging from the tunnels beneath the synagogue
Braun, the rabbi of the synagogue, condemned the young men.
He said they arrived at the site ‘ready to destroy and deface the Holy Walls,’ and urged other members of his community ‘to call them out in all possible ways and strong terms.’
Braun said he was horrified they vandalized the ‘shul’, or synagogue.
He said to ‘demolish and destroy a Shul – never mind the dangerous aspect, never mind the religious aspect – it’s mind-boggling.’
Braun said the actions of the young men was ‘painful’ for his community.
‘They need to be put in their place, put in their place, in so many meanings of the word,’ he concluded.