2006_4_satmar1.jpgThe NYPD just put out a radio alert that Moses Teitelbaum, Grand Rebbe of the Satmar sect of Hasidism, died at Mount Sinai Hospital. Teitelbaum was 91, and had been suffering from spinal cancer. He had been the head of the sect since 1979. Thousands of people are expected to throng the streets of Williamsburg once this announcement gets out-- and things could turn violent, as Teitelbaum's two sons are feuding over who will succeed him, and their followers have gotten physical a number of times in the past year.

Some info on the Satmar sect: with 100,000 followers, they are thought to be the largest branch of Hasidism. They own about $500m worth of property in Brooklyn and upstate-- their base in Ulster County is called Kiryas Joel. The sect originated in the Hungarian town of Satu Mare (now part of Romania.) According to Wikipedia, "The Satmar Hasidic movement has become known for its social isolation from all forms of secular culture and for its opposition to all forms of religious, secular, and political Zionism."

If anyone is down in Williamsburg tonight or tomorrow, take some pictures and send them in! The Satmars dominate the area in South Williamsburg around Lee and Bedford, down to Flushing Avenue.

UPDATE: the funeral for the Grand Rebbe is going to start at 10pm on the corner of Rodney and Bedford-- that's about five blocks south of the Williamsburg Bridge. From there, the Rebbe's body will travel upstate to Kiryas Joel for the burial.

UPDATE: the story has hit the wires-- WNBC has the first MSM story. We're going to go down there and try to get some shots of the crowds.

UPDATE: [Jen] Jake sent in this cameraphone picture-- check out the huge crowd.

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UPDATE: Tien's got some photos from Williamsburg.

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UPDATE: The crowd was totally peaceful while we were there-- many people talked to us about the Satmars and the Rebbe. The women were all pushed off to the side, and Rodney Street was insanely thronged with people. All the newsvans were on the block, but cameras weren't being allowed into the main synagogue. Lots of helicopters overhead the whole time. Tons of police-- they erected barricades along all of the sidewalks, and were maintaining fairly strict crowd control. When one of the Rebbe's sons arrived in a black Suburban, there was a moment of excitement-- but other than that, just thousands of people milling around, waiting. We uploaded a whole set of pictures to Flickr, so you can get a sense of the scene. Here's one last crowd shot:

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UPDATE: The Times has the official obituary.

UPDATE: JCN put up his set of pictures, and here are some more from Flaming City.