The tragic deaths during a religious event in Israel have connections to the tri-state, as four people from the region were among those killed in a stampede that left at least 45 dead and more than 150 injured.
Video showed the moments before the stampede, as witnesses said a large group of people tried to exit a festival in northern Israel. The way out was a metal walkway that has a sharp turn down a flight of stairs, where overcrowding and confusion led to dozens of people being trampled.
As thousands crammed into the narrow passageway, some slipped and fell, with thousands more behind them pushing forward, trampling the others in what has been described as a human avalanche.
One of the victims was 19-year-old Donny Morris, from Bergenfield, New Jersey, who was seen photographed shortly before the stampede. He was a graduate of Mrasha Stern Talmudical Academy in Manhattan, and was studying in the country during a gap year, according to his uncle. Members of the Jewish community in the town visited the Morris family home to comfort the grieving parents and family.
"Thankfully the Bergenfield community, as is the nature of all good people, come together with renewed strength and endless compassion," said Rabbi Yakov Neuberger of Congregation Beth Abraham. "That is all we can do at this time, give them our prayers and their privacy."
"There are four families that are in the New York area that we are in touch with," a spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told NBC News.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Israel said Saturday that it was "working with local authorities to verify whether any additional U.S. citizens were affected and is providing all possible consular support to affected U.S. citizens and their loved ones."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the stampeding on Friday, calling it a terrible disaster and declaring Sunday a national day of mourning.
The pandemic forced the event to be canceled in 2020, and now many have questioned the festival's ability to support such massive crowds. Among the others killed were three other men from Rockland and Orange counties in New York.