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Rabbi’s Update 1/12/2024

Dear Friends:

Last night we had a very interesting discussion on the topic of “Conservative Judaism and Intermarriage: Where We Have Been and Where We Might Be Going.” If you’d like to see the video of the discussion it is available here.

As you probably know because it has been all over the news, including stories in both the Washington Post and New York Times, there was a riot and a violent confrontation on Monday night between some adherents of the Chabad movement and New York City Police inside the Chabad World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. If you want to see video of the actual riot click here. If you don’t know about this bizarre story, a basic explainer from the New York Jewish Week can be found here.

What the heck was going on? If you are familiar with Brooklyn, you know that a lot of the building are very close together and the main synagogue of Chabad is in the basement of both 770 Eastern Parkway and the building next door at 788 Eastern Parkway. A bunch of young Chabad adherents secretly and illegally were building a tunnel from another adjacent building to the main Chabad shul. When the leadership of Chabad discovered that this was happening, they ordered a cement truck to fill in the tunnel, among other reasons because there was a real fear that the tunnel was undermining the structural stability of 770 and 788. When the workers tried to fill in the tunnel, the tunnel builders physically attacked the workers. The police were called and a riot broke out, including paneling torn off the walls of the shul and benches and tables being thrown at police. At this point the main Chabad shul remains closed while City engineers determine if it is safe to enter or whether repairs might be needed.

Who are these people who tried to build the tunnel? Why did they do so? The answers go back to a fundamental ideological and theological divide within Chabad that developed with the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, in 1994  I’ll discuss all of this (I actually published an academic article on this subject in the early years of this decade) after minyan Thursday night.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. 


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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