13 Young Men Charged in Brooklyn Synagogue ‘Tunnel’ Melee

Thirteen members of a Hasidic Jewish community were arraigned on Wednesday on charges stemming from a January incident in which a wall inside a famous Brooklyn synagogue was damaged by young men wielding a hammer and crowbar — setting off a melee that was captured on video.

The 13 people, all young men, pleaded not guilty in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn to charges that ranged from criminal mischief to obstructing governmental administration. Another four defendants were absent because they were in Israel, according to their lawyer, Levi Huebner.

Justice Adam Perlmutter ordered the defendants, many of whom are from Israel, to turn over their passports. He denied prosecutors’ request to ban the young men from the synagogue, on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is where they both worship and study.

The synagogue is a part of a complex of buildings that are centered by a gothic revival structure at 770 Eastern Parkway and is the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Referred to as 770, it is one of the most significant religious sites in New York.

According to Mr. Huebner, most of the defendants came to New York from Israel to study the Torah and the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as the Rebbe.

The Rebbe, who died in 1994, is considered to be the messiah by many in the Lubavitch sect, and during his lifetime he called for the expansion of the synagogue, which is packed sardine-like every day with worshipers from around the world. The squeeze on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays is even more extreme.

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