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Orthodox Jews Occupy Unauthorized Tunnel in New York Synagogue to Prevent Sealing

In a recent turn of events, a conflict erupted at a New York synagogue, leading to the arrest of several individuals. The incident, which took place on Monday, involved a group of orthodox Jews who were determined to preserve access to a tunnel that had been illegally excavated within the synagogue’s premises.

According to reports from various media outlets, at least 10 men, identifiable by their traditional Hasidic attire of long black coats and hats, were apprehended by the New York City Police Department. The situation escalated when the group obstructed a construction crew tasked with sealing the tunnel with concrete.

Roots of the Conflict

The origins of this dispute can be traced back to a longstanding division within the Chabad, a prominent Hasidic Jewish group. This rift pits the Chabad-Lubavitch movement against the synagogue’s leadership. The Daily Mail provided insights into this internal conflict in a recent report.

The site of the tunnel is a century-old building that serves as the World Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch. Both factions involved in the dispute lay claim to the ownership of this significant religious site.

Discovery and Response

It was revealed that members of the Chabad-Lubavitch had been covertly digging tunnels for several months. The existence of these tunnels came to light in December 2023. In response, the synagogue’s leadership engaged engineers to evaluate the damage and initiated measures to fill the tunnels this Monday.

Social media platforms have been abuzz with videos showing orthodox Jewish men dismantling wooden barriers and occupying the area, thereby hindering the construction crew’s access. Some individuals were also seen throwing objects and dismantling furniture in an effort to disrupt the operation, actions that received vocal support from onlookers.

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Police Intervention and Statements

The situation necessitated a significant police presence, with officers detaining and escorting people from the site. The Daily Mail quoted an NYPD spokesperson, who stated:

“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.”

The spokesperson further elaborated:

“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.”

The area has been closed until further notice following these events.

Community Reaction

Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters, expressed his distress over the incident in a statement on social media:

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“These odious actions will be investigated, and the sanctity of the synagogue will be restored. Our thanks to the NYPD for their professionalism and sensitivity.”

Unconfirmed Theories and Ongoing Investigations

A report from Forward.com indicated that the secret passage led to an area beneath the women’s section and a ‘mikvah’, a bath used in ritual purification. There are various unverified claims about the tunnel’s purpose, ranging from access during the COVID-19 pandemic to an illegal expansion effort. However, these theories remain unconfirmed by authorities or the synagogue leadership.

As investigations continue, the true intentions behind the tunnel’s construction and the subsequent events remain a subject of speculation and concern within the community.

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Written by Siphiwe Dlamini

Name: Siphiwe Dlamini
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation: Journalist and Political Analyst

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