A riot broke out in a historic Brooklyn synagogue when a group of rebellious Orthodox men tried to stop police and construction crews from filling in a secretive tunnel they illegally dug to reach a closed-down women’s bath.
The enraged men, thought to be mostly in their teens and early 20s, were filmed tearing down wood paneling and wooden support beams Monday at the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights.
Other footage from the temple on Eastern Parkway showed cops trying to hold back dozens of Hasidic Jewish men as they pushed their way into the 20-foot-wide enclosure underneath the women’s section, toppling over wooden pews in their anger.
Synagogue leader Rabbi Yosef Braun condemned those involved, saying they arrived “ready to destroy and deface the Holy Walls” — calling it “mind-boggling.”
Members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement have reportedly been digging out a tunnel underneath the Crown Heights synagogue for nearly a year.
It was apparently designed to reach an abandoned women’s mikvah — or ritual bath — around the corner and “expand” the synagogue, according to the Jewish outlet Forward, but it is unclear what motivated the members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community to start digging out the tunnel.
The tunnel was finally discovered last month when neighbors reported suspicious noises coming from underneath their homes, Israel National News reports.
A video posted on CrownHeights.Info’s Instagram in December showed a dark, dirt-walled space in the recesses of the shuttered women’s mikvah nearby.
Following the discovery, the synagogue leadership called in structural engineers to assess the damage, and on Monday cement mixers arrived on the scene to fill it in — sparking the riot.
The Hasidic men appeared to use a hammer to break through the synagogue’s brick walls.
A few even managed to make their way into the makeshift tunnel, with video showing at least one man brazenly drinking out of a can inside the tunnel as cops tried to hold off the others who were trying to get inside.
Some of the rioters were also seen jeering at the cops and filming their efforts to get inside the tunnel, which they have been digging out for months, according to Forward.
Officers were also seen holding back men outside the 100-year-old synagogue, the headquarters of one of the largest groups of Hasidic Jews in the world.
After several hours, footage showed officers taking the men out of the tunnel in handcuffs.
At least a dozen men were taken into custody, sources told The Post. Ten received criminal misdemeanor charges, another was charged with obstructing governmental administration and one other received a summons for disorderly conduct, sources said.
No injuries were reported in the brawl.
Synagogue leader Rabbi Yosef Braun urged other members of the Jewish community “to call them out in all possible ways and strong terms.”
Braun was horrified that they defaced the “shul,” or synagogue, saying to “demolish and destroy a shul — never mind the dangerous aspect, never mind the religious aspect — it’s mind-boggling.
“They need to be put in their place, put in their place in so many meanings of the word,” he said.
The riot came amid ongoing disputes over who legally owns the property.
In a statement following the altercation, Chabad-Lubavitcher Rabbi Motti Seligson noted that the movement has “attempted to gain proper control of the premises through the New York State court system.”
“Unfortunately, despite consistently prevailing in court, the process has dragged on for years.”
Still, he, too, condemned the actions of the young men who brawled with the police, branding them “extremists” and saying their actions have forced the city to temporarily close the building pending a structural safety review.
“This is, obviously, deeply distressing to the Lubavitch movement and the Jewish community worldwide,” he wrote on X.
“We hope and pray to be able to expeditiously restore the sanctity and decorum of this holy place.”
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the Chabad-Lubavitch chairman, also issued a statement thanking the NYPD for its assistance.
“The Chabad-Lubavitch community is pained by the vandalism of a group of young agitators who damaged the synagogue below Chabad Headquarters,” he said.
“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,” he continued. “We are grateful for the outpouring of concern, and for our Chabad Lubavitch institutions around the world.”