13 Younger Males Charged in Brooklyn Synagogue ‘Tunnel’ Melee

13 members of a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood had been arraigned on Wednesday on costs stemming from a January incident through which a wall inside a well-known Brooklyn synagogue was broken by younger males wielding a hammer and crowbar — setting off a melee that was captured on video.

The 13 individuals, all younger males, pleaded not responsible in State Supreme Courtroom in Brooklyn to costs that ranged from felony mischief to obstructing governmental administration. One other 4 defendants had been absent as a result of they had been in Israel, in accordance with their lawyer, Levi Huebner.

Justice Adam Perlmutter ordered the defendants, a lot of whom are from Israel, to show over their passports. He denied prosecutors’ request to ban the younger males from the synagogue, on Jap Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is the place they each worship and research.

The synagogue is part of a posh of buildings which are centered by a gothic revival construction at 770 Jap Parkway and is the worldwide headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch motion. Known as 770, it is without doubt one of the most important spiritual websites in New York.

In accordance with Mr. Huebner, a lot of the defendants got here to New York from Israel to review the Torah and the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, referred to as the Rebbe.

The Rebbe, who died in 1994, is taken into account to be the messiah by many within the Lubavitch motion, and through his lifetime he referred to as for the growth of the synagogue, which is packed sardine-like every single day with worshipers from all over the world. The squeeze on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays is much more excessive.

In January, after information experiences revealed {that a} area adjoining to the synagogue had been secretly excavated, the constructing homeowners referred to as for cement vehicles to fill the area. Earlier than they might, some college students broke by means of the wall between the dug-out area and the synagogue, the police stated. They appeared in video footage being cheered by fellow college students as they had been arrested.

“They did it to expand 770 and make it bigger,” a person who gave his identify as Zalmy Grossman stated in January. “They have come to fulfill the rebbe’s wishes.”

Not one of the younger males charged within the January incident are accused of excavating the passage outdoors the sanctuary.

Metropolis inspectors and the media referred to the excavated area as a “tunnel,” a characterization which many within the Lubavitch motion say maligns and casts unstated suspicions upon the insular neighborhood.

The town’s Buildings Division closed down elements of 770 to investigate the injury and issued two citations for the excavation, which was performed with out correct permits. By the top of the week, the excavated area had been crammed with cement, and metropolis inspectors allowed the synagogue to open once more.

On the listening to on Wednesday, the indicted males wore conventional Lubavitch costume of darkish fits and skullcaps, inserting their massive black fedoras on their laps as they sat within the courtroom. Most ranged in age from 18 to 21, and few spoke English fluently.

Mendel Gerlitzky, who was arraigned on costs of felony mischief and reckless endangerment, was raised in Brooklyn and prays at 770 3 times a day. Whereas a lot of his fellow defendants declined to remark, Mr. Gerlitzky didn’t hesitate to attract consideration. On the lapel of his black swimsuit, he wore a pin within the form of a shovel. It featured a tiny etching of the synagogue and the phrases “expand 770.”

Mr. Gerlitzky stated that the media and legislation enforcement, emboldened by the Chabad leaders at 770, have exaggerated the affect of the January incident. “The whole story has been blown out of proportion,” he stated, including that many individuals within the Crown Heights neighborhood favor an growth of 770, even when they don’t condone excavations completed with out permits.

Contacted for remark, Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for the Chabad-Lubavitch motion, stated, “Violence and destruction are anathema to everything the Rebbe taught. We pray that they see the error of their ways.”