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In New York, a secret tunnel was found under the Hasidic headquarters: several people were arrested


Alina Prikhodko

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The decades-long battle to control one of New York's most prominent Hasidic Jewish groups descended into chaos this week. According to New York Times, a group of Hasidim illegally dug a tunnel under the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Brooklyn.

The tunnel, about a meter high and about 15 m long, connected the headquarters of the movement, where the synagogue is located, with a small neighboring building that previously housed a mikveh - a room for ritual ablution. According to preliminary estimates, they dug it for a year. The authorities became aware of it after residents of neighboring houses reported suspicious noises coming from the basement.

On Monday, January 8, after a cement truck was brought there to fill an illegal mine, activists expressed resistance. Nine people were arrested following the confrontation, including a scuffle with police officers, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. They were charged with trespassing, damaging property and obstructing government services.

Cause of chaos

It is not yet known exactly who built the tunnel, how they did it, and what they hoped to achieve. The activists allegedly wanted to speed up the expansion of the 770-person facility, a move they said the movement's leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, called for more than three decades ago.

The Hasidic community has faced internal divisions since the death of the last rebbe in 1994. A small part of the movement's followers consider him the messiah and do not recognize his physical death. The tunnel, apparently, was dug by representatives of the Messianic faction - they probably believed that in this way they were fulfilling the will of the rebbe to expand the territory of the synagogue.

22-year-old Omri Rahamim Bahar came to New York from Israel. He said other members of the congregation are frustrated by the lack of action by leaders to expand the building to address the problem of crowds during services. So, he said, some of them took matters into their own hands and built a tunnel from a nearby building to the wall of the sanctuary.

On the subject: The life of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn has become more convenient: the city has greatly expanded the local eruv

Officially, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement called the construction of the tunnel “vandalism by a group of young extremists” and thanked the New York police “for their professionalism and sensitivity.” “Obviously this has deeply upset the Lubavitch movement and the Jewish community around the world,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson. The Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters was temporarily closed to inspect the structural integrity of the building.

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