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13 Hassidic Men Charged in Crown Heights Synagogue Tunnel Attack

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13 Hassidic Men Charged in Crown Heights Synagogue Tunnel Attack

Edited by: TJVNews.com

In the heart of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life, lies a sacred haven revered by adherents of the Lubavitch movement worldwide. 770 Eastern Parkway stands not merely as a physical edifice but as a symbol of spiritual devotion and reverence, embodying the legacy of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, affectionately known as the Rebbe, according to a report on Wednesday in the New York Times.  His teachings, imbued with fervent zeal and unwavering faith, continue to resonate within the hallowed halls of this iconic synagogue, drawing worshippers from every corner of the globe.

In a tumultuous episode that shook the serene halls of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s global headquarters, 13 young men from the Hasidic Jewish community found themselves entangled in a legal saga following a January incident at the renowned synagogue on Eastern Parkway, as was reported by the NYT. Armed with a hammer and crowbar, these individuals, whose intentions remain shrouded in mystery, allegedly caused damage to a sacred wall, sparking a chaotic melee that reverberated through the community and beyond.

The arraignment, which unfolded in the solemn chambers of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, saw the 13 defendants, all young men, staunchly proclaiming their innocence to a litany of charges ranging from criminal mischief to obstructing governmental administration, according to the information in the BYT report. Notably, another four defendants were conspicuously absent, purportedly residing in Israel at the time of the legal proceedings, as elucidated by their legal representative, Levi Huebner.

Justice Adam Perlmutter presided over the proceedings, imposing stringent measures in response to the gravity of the allegations. Among the directives issued was an order for the defendants, predominantly hailing from Israel, to surrender their passports, presumably to prevent any potential flight from justice. However, the NYT report indicated that despite prosecutors’ fervent entreaties, Justice Perlmutter demurred from banning the accused from the very sanctuary where the alleged transgression occurred.

The synagogue, a venerable edifice nestled within a complex of buildings, serves as the epicenter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, evoking reverence and spiritual resonance among adherents worldwide. Referred to simply as “770,” this architectural masterpiece stands as a testament to faith and heritage, drawing pilgrims and worshippers from far-flung corners of the globe, the NYT report said. Its significance transcends the boundaries of New York City, embodying the spiritual legacy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose teachings continue to inspire and guide generations of devotees.

Central to understanding the enigmatic motives behind the alleged vandalism is the assertion put forth by Mr. Huebner, contending that the defendants’ sojourn to New York was motivated by a devout pursuit of Torah study and the teachings of Rabbi Schneerson. As per the NYT report,implicit in this narrative is a quest for spiritual enlightenment and scholarly immersion, rather than any nefarious intent to sow discord within the sacred precincts of 770.

Yet, beneath the veneer of religious devotion lies a confluence of complex factors – cultural, social, and perhaps ideological – that may have precipitated the fateful events of that January day, as was suggested in the NYT report. Questions abound regarding the circumstances surrounding the altercation, the dynamics within the insular Hasidic community, and the broader implications for intercommunity relations within Crown Heights and beyond.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s profound influence extends far beyond his physical departure in 1994, shaping the collective consciousness and guiding the spiritual trajectory of his disciples. Central to his vision was the expansion of 770, envisioned as a beacon of enlightenment and a sanctuary for seekers of truth.

In January, the tranquility of 770 was disrupted by revelations of clandestine excavation adjacent to the synagogue, shrouded in secrecy and speculation. News reports stirred controversy as the building owners, alarmed by the activity, summoned cement trucks to fill the excavated space. However, the NYT report said that before their intervention could materialize, a group of fervent students took matters into their own hands, breaching the wall separating the dug-out space from the sanctuary itself, as recounted by law enforcement authorities.

Caught on video, these impassioned individuals, cheered on by their peers, were propelled into the spotlight, their actions sparking a maelstrom of debate and conjecture. As detailed in the NYT report, among them, a man identifying himself as Zalmy Grossman encapsulated the sentiments of many within the Lubavitch community, attributing their actions to a fervent desire to fulfill the Rebbe’s visionary aspirations for the expansion of 770. Their fervor, born out of deep-seated reverence and unwavering allegiance to the Rebbe’s teachings, propelled them to defy conventional norms and societal boundaries in their quest for spiritual fulfillment, the report added.

However, amidst the fervor and fervent devotion lies a disconcerting narrative – one marred by allegations of trespass and vandalism. Despite their professed noble intentions, the actions of these individuals have drawn scrutiny and condemnation, prompting legal repercussions and public censure, the NYT report explained.  Notably, none of the young men implicated in the January incident stand accused of the initial excavation, underscoring the complexity of the situation and the nuanced interplay of factors at play.

City inspectors and media outlets have dubbed the excavated space a “tunnel,” evoking images of clandestine activities and subterranean intrigue. Yet, within the Lubavitch community, such characterizations are vehemently contested, viewed as a derogatory portrayal that maligns and casts unwarranted aspersions upon their insular way of life, as was detailed in the NYT report.  For them, the excavation represents not a covert operation but a manifestation of unwavering faith and steadfast commitment to the Rebbe’s divine mission.



Against this backdrop of legal wrangling and regulatory oversight, a scene unfolded in the hallowed chambers of the courtroom, where the indicted men, clad in traditional Lubavitch garb of dark suits and skullcaps, awaited their fate, as was observed in the NYT report. Their large black fedoras, symbols of their religious identity, rested solemnly on their laps as they braced themselves for the impending proceedings. Most were young men, ranging in age from 18 to 21, their command of English faltering amidst the cacophony of legal jargon and procedural formalities.

Amidst the sea of somber faces, one figure stood out – Mendel Gerlitzky. Arraigned on charges of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, Gerlitzky, a devout adherent who frequents 770 daily for prayers, seized the opportunity to make a statement, the report added. Adorned with a pin in the shape of a shovel affixed to his lapel, he unabashedly proclaimed his allegiance to the cause of expanding 770. The NYT also noted that for Gerlitzky, the media frenzy and legal repercussions surrounding the January incident were but a distortion of reality, a narrative propagated by those emboldened by authority and seeking to stifle the fervent aspirations of the faithful.

In a moment of defiance, Gerlitzky sought to shift the narrative, casting himself and his cohorts as champions of a noble cause – the fulfillment of the Rebbe’s visionary dreams, according to the NYT report.  Yet, his words, though impassioned, underscored the deep divisions within the Lubavitch community, where divergent perspectives on faith and tradition collide with the imperatives of modernity and legality.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, sought to distance the organization from the actions of the accused, denouncing violence and destruction as antithetical to the teachings of the Rebbe. The NYT report indicated that in his measured statement, Seligson appealed for reconciliation and understanding, praying for a resolution that transcends the confines of legal wrangling and restores harmony within the fractured community.






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