Twelve Hasidic Jewish worshippers were arrested Monday after breaking into the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Crown Heights, New York, and allegedly damaging the synagogue underneath it, according to officials.
Chabad-Lubavitch is an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic organization, one of the movement’s most influential. New York City has roughly 200,000 Hasidic Jews, representing only a fraction of the city’s Jewish population.
Each year the headquarters draws thousands of visitors, including many international students, according to The Associated Press. Its Gothic Revival facade is immediately recognizable to adherents of the Chabad movement, inspiring replicas of the revered building to be built all over the world.
It’s not immediately clear why the worshippers broke into the synagogue, but there had been a dispute over a tunnel secretly dug into the side of the institution, The Associated Press reported.
Motti Seligson, the director of media at Chabad, said the worshippers were “a group of extremist students” who “broke through a few walls in adjacent properties to the synagogue.”
“Earlier today, a cement truck was brought in to repair those walls,” Seligson wrote on his X account. “Those efforts were disrupted by the extremists who broke through the wall to the synagogue, vandalizing the sanctuary, in an effort to preserve their unauthorized access.”
According to Seligson, Lubavitch officials tried to gain access to the area around the Brooklyn synagogue through the New York court system, but “the process has dragged on for years.”
“This is, obviously, deeply distressing to the Lubavitch movement, and the Jewish community worldwide. We hope and pray to be able to expeditiously restore the sanctity and decorum of this holy place,” Seligson wrote.
Of the 12 arrested, four were charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, two were charged with an attempted hate crime and criminal mischief, three were charged with attempted criminal mischief and three were taken into custody for disorderly conduct, according to the New York Police Department.
No injuries were reported as a result of the incident, police said.
“These odious actions will be investigated, and the sanctity of the synagogue will be restored,” Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chabad-Lubavitch chairman, said in a statement posted Tuesday on X.