Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews crowd Brooklyn streets for funeral of popular rabbi

Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews crowd Brooklyn streets for funeral of popular rabbi, 95, who survived the Holocaust and despised the internet – and no one with a smartphone could touch the coffin

  • Huge crowds were pictured in Borough Park for the funeral of The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, who died aged 95 on Monday in New York City surrounded by his family 
  • Images from the scene show an estimated 100,000 mourners lining the streets to pay their respects
  • People openly wept as others climbed lampposts and crowds were controlled by a huge police presence 
  • The popular Rabbi had survived the Nazi death camps and came to the United States in 1960 
  • There were some chaotic scenes at the funeral and two police officers were injured

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Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in Brooklyn Tuesday for the funeral of a popular rabbi who survived the Holocaust and despised the internet. 

Huge crowds were pictured in Borough Park for the funeral of The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, who died aged 95 on Monday in New York City

Images from the scene shows with as many as an estimated 100,000 mourners lining the streets to pay their respects to the religious leader. 

People openly wept as others climbed lampposts and crowds were controlled by a huge police presence and metal fences. 

The funeral saw the whole area shutdown with road closures and blocks and shops not opened out of respect.  

Huge crowds were pictured in Borough Park for the funeral of The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal

Huge crowds were pictured in Borough Park for the funeral of The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal

Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal died aged 95 on Monday in New York City surrounded by his family

Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal died aged 95 on Monday in New York City surrounded by his family

Images from the funeral showed as many as an estimated 100,000 mourners lining the streets to pay their respects

Images from the funeral showed as many as an estimated 100,000 mourners lining the streets to pay their respects

It was announced during the service that those with a smart phone should not touch the body or the coffin

It was announced during the service that those with a smart phone should not touch the body or the coffin 

The rules did not appear to deter some from using their phones to snap pictures of the funeral

The rules did not appear to deter some from using their phones to snap pictures of the funeral 

Many of the members of the crowd were overcome with emotion at the event (pictured one boy holds a cellphone while another has his head in his hand)

Many of the members of the crowd were overcome with emotion at the event (pictured one boy holds a cellphone while another has his head in his hand) 

The funeral saw the whole area shutdown with road closures and blocks and shops not opened out of respect

The funeral saw the whole area shutdown with road closures and blocks and shops not opened out of respect

The popular Rabbi and fixture in Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhoods had survived the Nazi death camps

The popular Rabbi and fixture in Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhoods had survived the Nazi death camps

The Skulener Rebbe Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal came to the United States in 1960 after he was jailed in Romania

The Skulener Rebbe Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal came to the United States in 1960 after he was jailed in Romania

Portugal died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, surrounded by his family, on Monday after being admitted in February

Portugal died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, surrounded by his family, on Monday after being admitted in February

People openly wept as others climbed lampposts and crowds were controlled by a huge police presence

A mourner at Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal's funeral

People openly wept as others climbed lampposts and crowds were controlled by a huge police presence

Thousands lined the streets and rooftops of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York for the funeral procession

Thousands lined the streets and rooftops of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York for the funeral procession

The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, who died aged 95 on Monday in New York City

The Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, who died aged 95 on Monday in New York City

The popular Rabbi and fixture in Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhoods had survived the Nazi death camps and came to the United States in 1960. 

He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, surrounded by his family, on Monday after being admitted in February. 

His body then needed to be transported to Baltimore to Brooklyn, which meant he was unable to be buried on the same day as his death, which is Hasidic custom.  

There were chaotic scenes at the funeral where the police lost control of the crowd and the hearse ran over the leg of an NYPD officer, NBC New York reports. Another officer was said to have been hit in the head with a drone.

NYPD police commissioner James P. O’Neill said the officer run over had a possible broken ankle. 

O’Neill added: ‘There was a drone that came out of the sky and hit a police officer. The drone apparently ran out of gas… and it landed on the officer’s head.’   

In the 1980s Portugal, a strict opponent of Internet use, would reportedly would set fire to a television each year on the eve of Passover.

In 2013 he was also one of the organizers of the Orthodox anti-Internet rally at Citi Field.

Alexander Rapaport, executive director of the soup kitchen Masbia, told Forward: ‘When people came to Boro Park and wanted to see something very Hasidic, they wanted to get a feel of a Hasidic rebbe, they always ended up at Skulen.’ 

It was announced during the service that those with a smart phone should not touch the body or the coffin, The Lakewood Scoop reports.  

The body needed to be transported to Baltimore to Brooklyn, which meant he was unable to be buried on the same day as his death, which is Hasidic custom

The body needed to be transported to Baltimore to Brooklyn, which meant he was unable to be buried on the same day as his death, which is Hasidic custom

Portugal was a strict opponent of Internet use and would reportedly set fire to a television each year on the eve of Passover

Portugal was a strict opponent of Internet use and would reportedly set fire to a television each year on the eve of Passover

There were chaotic scenes at the funeral where the police lost control of the crowd and the hearse ran over the leg of an NYPD officer. Another officer was said to have been hit in the head with a drone

 There were chaotic scenes at the funeral where the police lost control of the crowd and the hearse ran over the leg of an NYPD officer. Another officer was said to have been hit in the head with a drone

It was announced during the service that those with a smart phone should not touch the body or the coffin

 It was announced during the service that those with a smart phone should not touch the body or the coffin

Rabbi Portugal was called 'a truly inspiring and special individual that we should all aspire to be like' by Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein

Rabbi Portugal was called ‘a truly inspiring and special individual that we should all aspire to be like’ by Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein

Portugal was born in 1924 in Romania to Rabbie Eliezer Zusia Portugal. He founded the Skulen Hasidic dynasty and his son later served as the rebbe of thegroup when his father died in 1982.  

Both men had settled in Bucharest following World War II but left Romania for the United States in 1960 after United Nations officials intervened.

A year earlier they had been jailed for teaching Torah and helping Jewish children, reports say.  

Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein said: ‘As a community we mourn the petira of the Skulener Rebbe zatzal, one of the last surviving remnants of the pre-Holocaust generation – a leader that was deeply respected by all.

‘Rabbi Portugal was a truly inspiring and special individual that we should all aspire to be like.’    

Portugal will be buried at a synagogue in Monsey.  

His wife, Reizel Portugal, died in 2005. They had eight children together and it is understood Yeshaya Yaakov Portugal, will succeed Yisroel Avrohom Portugal as rebbe of the Skulen Hasidic group. 

Yehiel Rosenfeld, 36, has been charged with reckless endangerment after allegedly losing control of his drone. 

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