Secret Tunnel Under New York Synagogue Sparks Chaotic Scenes

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ASPartOfMe
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09 Jan 2024, 8:21 am

Newsweek

Quote:
There were chaotic scenes inside a synagogue in New York City on Monday night as a group of students tried to prevent a secret tunnel from being filled in.

Officers with the New York Police Department were called to the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn on Monday afternoon after "a group of individuals unlawfully entered" the building by damaging a wall, an NYPD spokesperson told Newsweek

The group was seeking to stop construction crews filling in the tunnel, according to Jewish publication Forward

Videos that have gone viral on social media show them ripping down wood paneling on a wall in the synagogue, with several men seen sitting or standing in the space behind it in an apparent attempt to stop the tunnel from being sealed off with cement. Other clips show them turning over wooden furniture in the building and clashing with officers.

At this time, it is known that a number of individuals were taken into custody," the NYPD spokesperson said. "Charges are pending."

No injuries were reported, the spokesperson added.

Community news outlet CrownHeights.Info. reported on the tunnel's discovery in December. A construction worker discovered it spanned from under the women's section of the synagogue to a mikvah—a Jewish ritual cleansing bath—on the corner of Union Street. Synagogue leadership decided to close off the women's section until a decision could be reached on how to secure the building.

Rabbi Motti Seligson, the media director of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said "some time ago, a group of extremist students" broke through walls in adjacent properties to the synagogue in order to have "unauthorized access."

"Earlier [Monday], a cement truck was brought in to repair those walls" he said in a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter.

"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. They have since been arrested and the building closed pending a structural safety review."

Seligson said that Chabad-Lubavitch officials "have 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.

Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, issued a statement thanking the NYPD for their "professionalism and sensitivity."

"The Chabad-Lubavitch community is pained by the vandalism of a group of young agitators who damaged the synagogue below Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway Monday night," Krinsky said.

"These odious actions will be investigated, and the sanctity of the synagogue will be restored."

I don’t know what to make of this.


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MaxE
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09 Jan 2024, 8:37 am

I think they built a tunnel to allow the women private access to the mikvah, but they didn't apply for a permit. The city or borough reacted in the usual way when they learned that their authority had been flouted in this manner, likewise the younger congregants reacted in the usual way when they became aware of their synagogue being violated, in particular the part set aside for women.


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Mountain Goat
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10 Jan 2024, 7:18 am

Anyone ask the reason why they tried to stop the tunnel being blocked? Is because they have someone or something down there!

Logically think of this. Lets say one was building a secret tunnel.... The athorities discovered it. One would say "Ok, you found it" and that would be that. One wouldn't even try to stop it from being blocked up because ones secret tunnel would be useless as the "Secret" element to ones tunnel is no longer secret, so one couldn't really use it for anything significent if one tried!
BUT if one has a person down there hiding in a hidden side passage somewhere, or something very valuable hidden down there, of course one will be very concerned if it was beingblocked up!
Could be they have kidnapped someone or were hiding someone and did not want to say. How come the athorities have not thought of this and just want to block it up? How come no one thinks about these obvious patterns of logic?


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10 Jan 2024, 8:29 am

Mountain Goat wrote:
Anyone ask the reason why they tried to stop the tunnel being blocked? Is because they have someone or something down there!

Logically think of this. Lets say one was building a secret tunnel.... The athorities discovered it. One would say "Ok, you found it" and that would be that. One wouldn't even try to stop it from being blocked up because ones secret tunnel would be useless as the "Secret" element to ones tunnel is no longer secret, so one couldn't really use it for anything significent if one tried!
BUT if one has a person down there hiding in a hidden side passage somewhere, or something very valuable hidden down there, of course one will be very concerned if it was beingblocked up!
Could be they have kidnapped someone or were hiding someone and did not want to say. How come the athorities have not thought of this and just want to block it up? How come no one thinks about these obvious patterns of logic?

I think they wanted to re-open the mikvah because they thought the late rebbe would approve.


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10 Jan 2024, 8:41 am

Maybe but needs checking.


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Mona Pereth
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10 Jan 2024, 9:40 am

Mountain Goat wrote:
Anyone ask the reason why they tried to stop the tunnel being blocked? Is because they have someone or something down there!

Logically think of this. Lets say one was building a secret tunnel.... The athorities discovered it. One would say "Ok, you found it" and that would be that. One wouldn't even try to stop it from being blocked up because ones secret tunnel would be useless as the "Secret" element to ones tunnel is no longer secret, so one couldn't really use it for anything significent if one tried!
BUT if one has a person down there hiding in a hidden side passage somewhere, or something very valuable hidden down there, of course one will be very concerned if it was beingblocked up!
Could be they have kidnapped someone or were hiding someone and did not want to say. How come the athorities have not thought of this and just want to block it up? How come no one thinks about these obvious patterns of logic?

The reason for the tunnel having been "secret" could be simply that the tunnel, itself, was illegal in the first place.


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18 Jan 2024, 9:59 pm

Unfortunately this story seems to have inspired a lot of wild imaginings on the part of anti-Jewish bigots.

- Jewish man behind NYC synagogue tunnel viral video thread says content was flipped for antisemitic propaganda by Chris Eberhart, Fox News, January 18, 2024:

Quote:
Before a tunnel under a New York City synagogue was national news, an X user – @FrumTikTok – posted a video thread showing extremist Orthodox Hasidic students clashing with the NYPD.

David, whose last name is being withheld for his safety, had no clue that his post would go viral and spiral into personal threats against him and fuel antisemitic conspiracies and propaganda.

"I started a thread with videos and a brief explanation of what was going on. I thought it was a small story, and maybe a few people would be interested, but lo and behold, it took off like crazy," David told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview.

"I shut my phone off for the night and when I woke up, the thread had over 50 million combined views, and the news media was starting to report the story."

The Brooklyn synagogue at the center of attention – the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters – is one of the holiest houses of worship for people who follow the Chabad-Lubavitch faith.

It's a small, insular sect of the Orthodox movement that only about 16% of American Jews follow, according to the Jewish news outlet Forward.

Last week, America watched sensational videos of a wild riot and a dark, "secret" tunnel under what's known as "770," after its 770 Eastern Parkway address, and concocted conspiracy theories about human trafficking networks and child sacrifices.

Those nonsensical theories spread throughout social media as facts, and were used as antisemitic propaganda, David said.

"Age-old antisemitic conspiracy theories were being spread with hate-filled rhetoric percolating in both extremist and mainstream spaces and across the ideological spectrum," he said. "But that's when I discovered the pitfalls of social media, and X in particular."

As Fox News Digital previously reported, a group of "extremist students," as Chabad spokesperson Motti Seligson called them, believed they were carrying out a decades-long vision by the former head of the Chabad movement, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Potential expansion projects have never come to fruition because of decades of litigation between mainstream members of the Chabad movement and a splinter sect, as each side claims they're the rightful owner of "770."

But shocking videos of an underground tunnel and wild clashes with police "turned a story about expansion and ownership of a Holy Synagogue into heinous rhetoric that dates back to the Middle Ages," David said.

The hate and threats got so out of hand, David deleted the entire thread and explained why in a Jan. 9 tweet: "I will NOT allow my account to be used by antisemitic Jew haters to promote their pathetic hatred of religious Jews."

"When people started telling me that known antisemites were retweeting my videos, I made the decision to delete the entire thread," David said during his chat with Fox News Digital.

"I wasn't going to let these Jew haters use my account to spread their hateful and disgusting venom."

But the dam had already broken at that point, David said, and hate continued to flood his timeline and messages.

One person told him, "Why are you defending Pedos(sic)? Cause they have the same filthy blood like yours? Delete the Christian from your bio. We Orthodox Christians DEFEND our children, we don’t sacrifice children.

"If you decided to delete the thread about the tunnels of your peers used for satanist rituals and child trafficking it means you are a part of the scheme. Where is your Holy Place? Let’s dig under it, shall we? F----n child predators. Your day is coming. Y’all pushed it and pushed it and everyone accepted your crimes. But people will stand for their children. And y’all gonna get to prison. And you know what they do in prison to child offenders, right?"

A majority of rabbis, including several who spoke to Fox News Digital or sent emailed statements, denounced the students' actions. In total, nine students were arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to the NYPD.

abbi Yehuda Krinsky said they're "pained by the vandalism of a group of young agitators" in a statement on behalf of the Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters. (Chabad Lubavitch HQ/X)

David said he created his account "to spread entertaining and insightful videos, with a good dose of Jewish humor and wit mixed in."

"I was never in it for the fame," he said.

Before the riot in 770, he had about 11,400 followers, which swelled to nearly 17,000 followers, and none of his tweets had more than 600,000 views, which was a drop in the ocean compared to the 50 million-plus that watched his video over about 24 hours.

"The fight against antisemitism, terror and hate is not a Jewish fight alone," he said.

Agreed with him so far.

It is important to speak out against the revival of this traditional anti-Jewish blood libel nonsense -- which has gotten used against other religious minorities too, e.g. Pagans, occultists, and Satanists, and against various people who aren't even members of any religious minority. (See Wikipedia's pages about the Satanic panic and about the traditional anti-Jewish blood libel. See also the Wrong Planet thread QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic.)

I've been concerned about the growing popularity of this kind of grand conspiracy ideology for decades now. I remember being very concerned back in 2008 or so, when I noticed the rising popularity of Alex Jones, in the context of the "9/11 Truth" movement. And I remember having difficulty convincing some local Jewish acquaintances to take this threat seriously. One Jewish man remarked to me, "You're not even Jewish, and you're more worried about anti-semitism than I am!"

On the other hand, I really don't like how the guy in this Fox New story uses this incident to try to discredit concern for Palestinians:

Quote:
"A world that has no place for Jews and Israel, has no place for humanity. Every good person will suffer in the end. So all good people must unite to win this war."

When asked if he regrets posting the videos, David said he doesn't because the videos "exposed many of the pro-Palestinian accounts as nothing more than plain-old Jew haters, who propagate age-old antisemitic conspiracy theories."

"The only thing that needs to change, is X has to do a better job of not allowing these antisemites to continually spread their hateful and disgusting antisemitic conspiracy theories."

Excuse me, but Palestinians are real people. What Israel is doing to Gaza is real and horrible. That's not blood libel.

We can and should oppose the revival of traditional anti-Jewish blood libel nonsense and also oppose what Israel is doing in Gaza.


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25 Jan 2024, 1:33 am

Unfortunately, while I certainly don't agree that anti-Zionism is necessarily motivated by hatred of Jews, it appears that there do exist neo-Nazis and other general anti-Jewish bigots who disguise themselves as Palestinians, or as pro-Palestinian activists, as a way to try to make themselves look relatively respectable.

A few years ago here on Wrong Planet, there was a guy who gave his location as "Palestine," but from whom I got the vibe that he wasn't a real Palestinian, but instead was just here to push various extreme right wing views. On the other hand, there have also been a couple of folks here on WP who seemed to me to be real Palestinians, and from whom I learned a lot.

So it's possible that some -- but certainly not all -- of the apparently pro-Palestinian accounts on X/Twitter are really just anti-Jewish bigots.

Anyhow, I came across the following story just now, on the Jewish news site Forward:

- How Twitter activists turned a viral story about Orthodox Jews into a modern blood libel: "White nationalists, rebranded as ‘pro-Palestinian activists,’ have used the war and recent news cycles to spread antisemitic conspiracy theories" by Elad Nehorai, Forward, January 9, 2024:

Quote:
A new Jewish story has gone viral: A tunnel has been discovered under the legendary Chabad headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, popularly referred to as 770.

This is a story that is at turns baffling, amusing and heartbreaking. The fact that it is also utterly bizarre, especially to outsiders, has caused it to go viral. And almost as soon as it did, so too did the antisemitic conspiracies.

The actual story of this incident concerns the ideological future of a Hasidic movement and a feud over who controls its building. But to bad actors online, this community drama has become evidence of something more sinister.

First circulating in unregulated forums like 4chan and QAnon Telegram channels, stills of a mattress and a high chair seen in videos and photos of the tunnels was used as “evidence” that Jews were engaging in ritual child rape.

Stories of actual abuse in the Chabad community were dug up as further “proof” for these completely fabricated claims. Some tweets falsely claimed that the tunnels were connected to “secret Satanic groups and 4,000 ritual human sacrifices are performed in New York City every year,” a modern-day blood libel.

Since Oct. 7, many white nationalist accounts have exploited the lack of moderation on X — and the tacit approval of Elon Musk — to grow their audiences with effective and deceptive marketing techniques. In particular, many have rebranded themselves as pro-Palestinian advocates, and have grown their followings exponentially as a result.

“What these grifters do is seek out trending news and any culture war news and then twist it to support their own narrative,” Taylor Lorenz, a columnist for The Washington Post who specializes in internet culture, told me today. “They’ll ride a news story into the ground. They’ll pump out relentless coverage of it to all channels and dominate the airways. Since it’s trending on search and social, they can use that for audience capture. They can then pivot to use that to promote their actual ideological and extreme content.”

A gold mine for extremists

Some white nationalists and extremists — like Jackson Hinkle, a self-described MAGA communist who was previously known for his deeply transphobic views, and Censored Men, an incel-style misogynistic account — started producing anti-Israel content when the war began. The goal was never to actually advocate for Palestinians, but to use a news moment to increase their engagement. Many have succeeded, adding millions of followers in only a few months.

Researchers have dubbed them the “new elites” on Twitter: Their posts reach billions of views (exponentially more than mainstream outlets on the site), and have swayed conversations around Israel. Often using unsourced information, they spread unverified claims. Censored Men, for example, claimed that “71 Palestinian families have been completely erased from all public records.” Others falsely claimed that a cease-fire was imminent without any actual proof.

These accounts have always been antisemitic. But the 770 news cycle has been a gold mine for them. Like many conspiracy theorists, they have latched onto innocuous “evidence” to spread well-trodden tropes about Jews.

As a recent article in Vice pointed out, tunnel conspiracy theories about secret child abuse rings have abounded for decades. Combine that with an ancient blood libel and fabricated claims of ritual abuse, and you have a toxic combination.

But it didn’t stop there: In a matter of hours, these conspiracy theories were spread to tens of millions of people. White nationalist and neo-Nazi accounts like “Gentile News Network” and the Groyper movement — newly fashioned “pro-Palestinian activists” — spread the images, abuse articles and other conspiracies to their networks.

It felt eerily similar to Pizzagate, the 2016 conspiracy theory which claimed that a child abuse sex ring was operating under a D.C. pizza shop. That particular rumor began on 4chan before migrating to Twitter, fanned by white nationalist figures like Mike Cernovich. It didn’t take long for Trump associates and others to then take the conspiracy theory from the fringes to the mainstream.

Today, there are tweets about shadow governments and human sacrifices reaching millions, with the very clear implication being that the Jews are behind all of this. Underneath these tweets are hundreds of replies, boosted due to Musk’s new paid model, making the coded conspiracy theories explicit: “They’re all pedophiles. Once they’re caught they go to Israel,” read one reply.

“They already control everyone,” read a tweet accompanied by a picture of Hasidic Jews. “There was a person who tried to warn us,” someone posted, along with a video of Kanye West.

Most of these posts spreading conspiracy theories are not being taken down by the platforms on which they are actively spreading. And none of these accounts mentioned in this piece had been suspended as of publication time.

Worse, Elon Musk has in the past interacted with many of the accounts now spreading these conspiracy theories, contributing to their amplification. Keith Woods, the neo-Nazi whose attack on the ADL Musk once elevated, has shared a false and unsubstantiated meme claiming that “Jewish rabbis are over 18x more likely to molest a child than a Catholic priest,” along with his own commentary: “Chabad headquarters are in Brooklyn.”

Until Elon Musk owned Twitter, Woods was suspended. Since he was reinstated and then promoted, he has gone from 24,000 followers to 162,000 in just nine months.

Since then, the stories have spread further on other networks vulnerable to antisemitism, like TikTok, where videos using AI-generated images were used to illustrate the story, followed by the same “disturbing” focus on the mattress and high chair.

All of this contributes to the increase and mainstreaming of antisemitic hate that has already exponentially risen since the war in Gaza. And as we saw with Pizzagate, the potential for violence is very real.

These modern-day blood libels, once confined to the worst corners of the internet, now spread to millions overnight. And today, there is a social media platform that both refuses to moderate this disinformation and outright promotes the accounts who spread it.

I fear it’s only a matter of time until this online bigotry, in the absence of the few guardrails that once existed, will lead to violence.


Some related stories on the Forward site:

- Arrests at Chabad’s iconic headquarters after students thwart attempt to fill secret tunnel
- So why were those yeshiva students digging a tunnel at Chabad headquarters?


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