Riot Breaks Out After Discovery of Secret Tunnel Beneath Synagogue

( – A secretly built tunnel under a NYC Jewish synagogue prompted a riot on Monday afternoon, January 8th. The tunnel connected the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitcher Hasidic Jewish organization to one neighboring property and was going to be sealed by workers until protesters attempted to interfere.

Nine people were arrested after clashing with police who were called to the scene after the protesters attempted to reopen the tunnel, according to representatives with the Brooklyn DA’s office.

Rabbi Motti Seligson, speaking for the Hasidic organization, said the tunnel was created and defended by “extremist students.” He called the kerfuffle “deeply distressing” in a written statement provided to the New York Times.

The fiasco took place in Crown Heights at the group’s headquarters, largely considered a significant Jewish religious site in the city.

Reporting from the NYT indicates it’s unclear who built the tunnel or why. Hearsay from the scene recording by reporters working for the Times suggested that the motive was to expand the headquarters. They cite a leader in the Lubavitcher movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who called for expanding the building more than thirty years ago.

Mendel died in 1994 without leaving a successor, resulting in a fragmentation of the movement between different ideological sects. The moderate faction supports Mendel’s teachings and ideas, while a more extreme faction believes he is the second coming of the Messiah and isn’t truly dead.

Citing more “conversations with Hasidic” individuals, the NYT suggests that the extremist faction was likely responsible for the tunnel. Zalmy Grossman said the goal was to “expand 770.” The street address of the headquarters is a local nickname for the building.

Omri Rahamim Bahar, 22, an Israeli-American immigrant has been studying at 770 for four years since coming into the country. Bahar said many of the patrons were frustrated with inaction from their leaders as the building is overcrowded during worship.

Investigators with the Department of Buildings will now inspect the building and surrounding buildings to make sure their structural integrity was not harmed by the tunnel. Initial reports suggest damage was done.

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