Mourner trampled to death at funeral of ultra-Orthodox rabbi

Victim named as Mordechai Gerber, 27; dozens injured, including four seriously, as thousands attend burial of Bnei Brak Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, 101

Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner on April 4, 2015 in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: Flash90)
Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner on April 4, 2015 in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: Flash90)

A mourner was trampled to death overnight Saturday-Sunday and over 85 people were injured during the funeral procession of a prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Bnei Brak.

Four of the wounded were hospitalized in serious condition following a stampede at the burial of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, which drew crowds of tens of thousands. Wosner, an influential figure in ultra-Orthodox circles, died Friday evening at the age of 101.

During the funeral, Mordechai Gerber, 27, was evacuated by paramedics to Ichilov hospital in serious condition, and later died of his injuries. An additional three people — two of them teenagers — remained hospitalized in serious condition Sunday with head and upper body wounds.

Hundreds attended Gerber’s funeral on Sunday afternoon. He was married with a three-year-old child.

Mordechai Gerber (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mordechai Gerber (photo credit: Courtesy)

Nati Rosner a Hatzalah medic, told the ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabat website that the funeral was extremely overcrowded. He said most of the serious injuries occurred towards the beginning of the procession, which began at the Hochmei Lublin yeshiva, an institution founded and headed by Wosner.

“As the funeral procession left the yeshiva, dozens of people fell on top of each other, right before our eyes,” Rosner said.

“We called for backup and began attending to the injured. We treated three seriously injured people and another critically wounded man with serious internal injuries. A Gush Dan rescue medic who was also injured was treated at the scene,” he said.

A prominent figure in Haredi Judaism, Wosner was a highly regarded posek, or scholar of Jewish law. Considered one of the final members of a generation educated in European yeshivas prior to the Holocaust, Wosner arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1939.

Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Wosner died Friday, April 3, 2015, at the age of 101. (Photo credit:Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Wosner died Friday, April 3, 2015, at the age of 101. (Photo credit:Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

His principal work, “Shevet Levi,” a series of questions and answers on Jewish Law, focused, among other things, on the ultra-Orthodox relationship to the modern world and applications of technology.

Widely considered a conservative figure, Wosner issued rulings, among other things, against immodest modern female attire, smartphone and internet use.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau eulogized Wosner in a statement, terming him one of the key figures in ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

“With the loss of Rabbi Wosner, the nation of Israel lost one of the great halachic authorities to have existed in recent times. He was known for his righteousness as one of the most important students of the great Torah sages of Poland,” Lau said.

“His religious rulings and a series of widely known books ‘Shevet Levi’, [will continue] to influence all areas of life and were the principal foundation of Jewish law for decades,” he said.

“His passing is a great loss, and pains the people of Israel. Who will replace him?” Lau said.

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