A historic synagogue in Brooklyn, central to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, experienced turmoil due to an unusual community dispute this week. The conflict unfolded in Crown Heights, home to the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a revered Jewish site. The disagreement started with the discovery of a secret underground tunnel, leading to a confrontation between worshippers and police, resulting in property damage and arrests.
The Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Crown Heights is a significant religious site, attracting thousands of visitors annually. The conflict arose when young members of the community built a secret underground tunnel leading to the sanctuary. Leaders attempted to seal off the passage, resulting in a protest that turned violent when police intervened to make arrests.
The exact purpose and origin of the tunnel are subject to debate. Chabad spokesperson Motti Seligson characterized the construction as an unauthorized act of vandalism by a group of young men. Supporters of the tunnel, on the other hand, claimed they were fulfilling a long-envisioned expansion plan initiated by the former head of the Chabad movement, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led the Chabad-Lubavitch for over four decades, passed away in 1994. Some supporters of the tunnel subscribe to the messianic belief that Schneerson is still alive and advocate for the expansion plan to accommodate overcrowded facilities.
The situation escalated on Monday when a cement truck arrived to seal the opening of the tunnel. Proponents staged a protest, damaging the synagogue in the process. Police were called to respond to the disorderly group, leading to arrests and confrontations. The Chabad-Lubavitch building remained closed as city officials inspected whether the tunnel caused structural damage.
The incident has caused distress within the community, with worshippers expressing disappointment over the property damage instead of a peaceful expansion. The outcome of the inspection and the resolution of the dispute will have a lasting impact on this revered religious site.