Three men from Rockland and Kiryas Joel died in Israel disaster that claimed 45 lives – Times Herald-Record

Posted By on May 7, 2021

Aron Wieder talks about Israel stampede deaths

Aron Wieder talks about Israel stampede deaths

Peter Carr, Times Herald-Record

Two men from Rockland County and one from Kiryas Joel were among at least 45 people crushed or trampled to death early Friday while leavingan annual religious gathering in Israel.

The victims included ShragyGestetner, a 33-year-old father of five from Airmont who was a Skverer Hasidic rabbinical scholar and singer who used to perform at large events.

Also among the deceased were Eliezer Josef, a 26-year-old father of four from Kiryas Joel; andYosef Amram Tauber, an 18-year-old yeshiva student from Monsey.

The disaster took place at Mount Meron in northern Israel, where Orthodox Jews from around the world converge each year to celebrate the Lag BaOmer holiday near the gravesite of a revered, 2nd-century rabbi on the anniversary of his death. Tens of thousands of worshippers pray, sing and dance beside bonfires at the Mount Meron site.

The festive holiday turned to horror as throngs of celebrants began leaving during a bonfire after midnight and got jammed together inside a constricted exit, according to published reports. About 150 reportedly were injured in addition to those who died.

Abe Glanz, a 42-year-old Kiryas Joel man who attended the bonfire, said by email and phone on Friday that he was standing in the grandstand about 200 feet away as the tragedy unfolded. He said he could see people pushing and heard calls for medical assistance, but didn't realize the severity of what happened until he left through another exit later.

There he saw 10 bodies laid on the ground and counted about five more that emergency workers were carrying to put beside them.

New Jersey: Bergenfield man dies in stampede at religious gathering in Israel

Israel tragedy: At least 44 dead, over 100 injured in stampede at religious gathering

Glanz, speaking from the plane as he returned home from Israel, said he attends the Lag BaOmer bonfire at Mount Meron almost every year and is usually one of hundreds as many as 1,000 from Kiryas Joel who make the trip. This year, he said, just 50 to 60 people came from the Orange County village because of COVID-related travel restrictions in Israel.

Text and WhatsApp chains buzzed through the night as familiessought information on their loved ones who were there.

You just saw it unfold in real life, said Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder, who is from Spring Valley. I had flashbacks to 9/11, he said, recalling how posters with pictures and information of missing people popped up throughout Manhattan.

Wieder knew both Rockland men who died. He said Gestetner originally was from Montreal and moved to Rockland when he wed. Tauber, the oldest child in his family,had just gone to Israel for the first time to study at a yeshiva.

The disaster took place in a mens section that accommodates tens of thousands of visitors during the holiday. Wieder speculated that the crowds were denser because the holiday fell near the Sabbath, which meant people couldnt spread out their visits.

Wieder said because Israel is ahead of U.S. time zones, many gatherings here forLag BaOmercanceled their traditional singing and dancing to mourn instead.

In Kiryas Joel, which hosts one of the largest bonfires in the U.S., Aron Teitelbaum, one of two grand rabbis who lead the Satmar Hasidic movement,spoke to the crowd and wept as he told those gathered about the impact of the tragedy in Israel, Wieder said.

Fatal stampede stops religious festival in Israel

A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 44 people and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officials said. (April 30)

AP

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Three men from Rockland and Kiryas Joel died in Israel disaster that claimed 45 lives - Times Herald-Record

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