A Brooklyn synagogue became the site of a chaotic brawl between police and Hasidic Jewish worshippers, after authorities discovered a secret tunnel beneath the neighbourhood.
The tunnel was found by authorities at the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters after locals reported hearing strange noises from beneath their homes.
Motti Seligson, a spokesperson for Chabad, said the tunnel was the work of a “group of extremist students” who had secretly broken through the walls of a vacant building situated behind the headquarters, in order to gain “unauthorised access” to the premises.
The discovery prompted an emergency structural inspection and led the property manager to bring in a construction crew to repair the damaged walls.
This led to a stand-off as the students emerged behind a damaged brick wall at the synagogue, determined to defend the tunnel.
Police were called to the scene, and video footage shows the officers in confrontation with the young men before a crowd of bystanders at the synagogue.
Chaos broke out after one man was removed from the tunnel by police, and onlookers began to feud with officers, tossing desks, scattering books, and shoving the officers, one of whom appeared to use a spray irritant on the group.
Ten people were arrested for criminal mischief and criminal trespass, and one for obstructing governmental administration, according to police.
It has not yet been determined when or why the tunnel was constructed.
Motti Seligson said that the building was now closed and was pending a structural safety review.
He also noted that Chabad officials had been trying for years to “gain proper control of the premises through the New York State court system” but that a dispute with another Jewish group had stalled proceedings.
“This is, obviously, deeply distressing to the Lubavitch movement, and the Jewish community worldwide,” said Seligson in a post on X.
“We hope and pray to be able to expeditiously restore the sanctity and decorum of this holy place.”