Mumbai Chabad house, closed after 2008 terror attack, to reopen


The reconstructed Chabad house in Mumbai, which closed after a terror attack six years ago, is set to reopen.

Nariman House, the six-story home of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, will be rededicated Tuesday.

A series of attacks in the Indian city in November 2008 by members of a Pakistan-based terror group left 166 people dead, including six at the Mumbai Chabad house, which was targeted along with luxury hotels, a train station and a popular cafe.

Chabad emissaries Gabriel and Rivky Holtzberg were killed in the center along with four visitors. Their son Moshe, then 2 years-old, escaped and now lives in Israel with his grandparents. His Indian baby sitter, who risked her life to save him during the attack, also relocated to Israel.

Since the attack, Chabad in Mumbai has continued its activities in temporary locations throughout the city directed by Rabbi Yisroel Kozlovsky and his wife, Chaya.

“We’re not moving into a new building; we are returning to our original building, and we will be continuing all of the activities that took place here, and hopefully, grow even more,” Kozlovsky told Chabad.org. “We remember what happened, but we are working for the future.”

During the reopening, Chabad will unveil plans for a $2.5 million Jewish museum that will occupy the fourth and fifth floors of the building.

Some 25 Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis from across Asia, including locations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong, will meet at the newly renovated center following the reopening for the Asian regional gathering of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis.

Holtzberg Family Removes Objections to New Mumbai Chabad


The family of murdered Chabad emissaries Gabriel and Rivky Holtzberg has removed its objections to the reconstruction of the Chabad house in Mumbai.

The family last week removed its complaints against the Chabad-Lubavitch movement at the Indian Charity Commission, and formally recognized Chabad as the trustee of the Nariman House.

The Holtzbergs were killed in the center along with four visitors in the November 2008 attacks on several Mumbai sites. More than 170 people were killed in the attacks. The Holtzbergs’ son Moshe, then 2, was taken out of the house by his Indian nanny and survived the attack; the two are now living in Israel.

“We realize that our family made some mistakes along the way and hope that people will understand that they were committed purely out of love and attachment to Gaby and Rivky,” said Moshe Holtzberg, Gabriel Holtzberg’s brother, in a statement.

“In simple terms, our family originally reacted emotionally to the fact that the building was taking a long time to be built. It was too hard for us to accept that it could not be built right away, due to security concerns and building safety issues.”

For security reasons, the Chabad house in Mumbai has been operating since the attacks from an undisclosed location under the direction of the new permanent Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries there, Rabbi Chanoch and Leah Gechtman.

In the statement, the family also apologized for accusing Chabad of mishandling donations for the reconstruction. “We realize that these allegations were completely baseless and false and are deeply sorry for them,” the family’s statement said.

“We look forward to the rebuilt Nariman House being a truly fitting and lively tribute to Gaby and Rivky, complete with synagogue, tourist services and much, much more, and we know that their spirit will live on there forever proudly,” the statement concluded.

The will of the people, the light of Chabad, the gift of ‘The Goldbergs’


Proposition 8

Thank you for printing Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s eloquent piece (“Proposition 8 and ‘The Will of the People,’” Nov. 28). While I fully respect the concept of the will of the people, I understand that America ensures that when the will of the people seeks to discriminate, violate or abrogate rights of some people in the name of others, that we have instituted a court system of judiciary impartiality to safeguard those rights.

If we left it to the will of the people, would we ever have ended segregation in this country? Would women have gained the right to vote?

Of all people, we Jews should understand that the will of the people is not always what is best in any given time. Thankfully, our Constitution established a system of justice that isn’t, or certainly is not supposed to be, driven solely by the will of the people.

Sometimes the will of the people doesn’t know what is best for all people in a given situation. We depend on judges, who, according to the Torah, are not supposed to take bribes and should administer justice fairly and with righteousness. Lets hope that this happens with Proposition 8, as Yaroslavsky says — soon and in our day.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center

My husband and I picketed the Mormon church on Santa Monica Boulevard 11 days after our legal wedding (Letters, Dec. 5). Our signs said, “I Love My Husband,” and our picture made the L.A. Times.

The Mormon Church chose to make war against our marriage. We were married by a rabbi at our synagogue.

What about our religious rights? I don’t feel sorry for the Mormon Church or for the businesses being boycotted because the owners donated to Proposition 8.

Barry Wendell
West Hollywood

Chabadnik

“I’m a Chabadnik,” Rob Eshman writes in “Open House” (Dec. 5). In sympathy, I davened the last two Shabbats with my Northridge Chabad, where my husband, Marcel, z’l, served as baal korei (master of reading).

I met the Rebbe in 1970, when he gave me a dollar, but I did not know who he was that fall day on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. Foolishly, I spent the dollar on gas to get back to Queens.

I then had a Chabad wedding in L.A., and later my daughter, Aviva, met her husband, Brett, at a Chabad Shabbat dinner with Rabbi and Chani Backman in Boston. When my husband had cancer treatments out of town, we called Rabbi Minsk and his wife at the Newport Chabad and they invited us over for Shabbat dinner.

Staying in different hospitals, where I knew no one, there was always a Chabad rabbi that would go with a smile and a bracha to visit Marcel. Chabad Rabbis Schwartzie, Rivkin, Spritzer and Korf visited. Chabad Rabbi Bryski sent Shabbat meals to me via his mother-in-law for the first cancer surgery, and had the Rebbe send us blessings.

I may also be a Renewal Jew, but I sure know where I can find chesed, loving kindness. I’m a Chabadnik.

Joy Krauthammer
Northridge

Thank you for that very touching, moving and powerful editorial.

Rabbi Moshe Bryski
via e-mail

No Money

In “No Money, No Cry” (Nov. 28), David Suissa pointed out that the current economy presents nonprofits an opportunity to explore ways to do more with less.

David cited a hypothetical example of a Holocaust memorial struggling to raise the money to build a new museum.

I’m pleased to point out the extent to which David’s example was, in fact, purely hypothetical. L’havdil, the real Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, successfully meets its benchmarks in its $20 million capital campaign.

Construction continues apace at the site in Pan Pacific Park for the new museum. This construction could not have begun had we not been able to demonstrate to the city of Los Angeles full funding for our construction needs.

We invite David and the entire community to attend the gala awards ceremony and screening on Jan. 29.

Mark A. Rothman
Executive Director
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

‘The Goldbergs’

I got such a kick out of the Gertrude Berg TV show on your Web site.

Aunt Tilly, as my mother called her, was my grandpa’s first cousin. Today of all days, I’m wearing a bird pin that Aunt Tilly bought at Tiffany’s as a gift when my mother stayed with her in her Park Avenue apartment.

My great-grandmother was a source of inspiration in creating Molly’s character for the radio show, which, as you probably know, was the original soap opera. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

Bonnie Somers
via e-mail

Dose of Spirituality

Last Friday my family sat in our hotel room in Jerusalem glued to CNN and watching the horror in India. Unfortunately, at 3:45 the bulletin flashing across the screen stating that 5 people were killed at the Chabad House brought total gloom to Jews around the world. Even though it was drizzling, my son suggested that we daven Kabbalat Shabbos at the Kotel. Arriving at the Kotel, I finally realized the feeling that I had hoped for. Soldiers dancing with boys from YULA and Skokie High Schools. Charedim dancing with Chasidim and soldiers singing “AM YISROEL CHAI.” The davening was intense and the dancing invigorating.

As we walked back to the hotel that night I came to two realizations.

The first is that the next time I visit the Kotel, I should bring more shekels. The poverty level being very high in Israel, I should think more of helping these people than them interrupting my davening.

The second realization is that throughout history hate mongers have tried to destroy us. These acts of violence do not make us weaker but in fact make us stronger and more united. These acts show me how resilient we are as a people and giving some like myself an overflowing feel of spirituality.

Richard Katz
Los Angeles

Grim news from Mumbai hits home


” alt=”complete coverage on mumbai chabad attack” title=”Click here for complete Mumbai Chabad coverage” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 border = 0 align = left>NEW YORK (JTA)—Until confirmation finally came that the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai were among the more than 170 victims killed in this week’s terrorist attacks in India, Chabad Chasidim and emissaries the world over prayed for the best while fearing for the worst.

By the morning of Nov. 28, the hostage standoff at the Chabad’s Nariman House was over some two days after it had begun.

Early that day, witnesses saw a series of explosions at the community center as Indian special forces stormed the site and battled with the gunmen who had taken over the house—one of 10 sites in the city attacked Nov. 26 by terrorists

When the smoke had cleared, the bodies of five hostages were found, including those of the couple that ran the center, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.

At a Nov. 28 news conference at Chabad world headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the mood was one of shock and grief.

“This news is fresh and this news is raw,” the chairman of Chabad’s education and social services arm, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, told reporters. New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly also was on hand.

Chabad has more than 3,500 emissaries, known as schluchim, who run Jewish outreach centers around the world. The centers began to be established at the behest of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Those who knew the Holtzbergs—Gavriel, 29, and Rivka, 28—spoke of them as highly dedicated to the Chabad mission of spreading Judaism to Jews around the globe. The couple moved from Brooklyn to Mumbai in 2003 at the urging of Chabad’s leadership. Their apartment in Colaba, in the southern part of Mumbai, quickly became a hub both for Jews traveling in India—many of them Israeli backpackers traveling in the country following their service in the Israeli army—and for those living in India.

“Jews from all nationalities stopped there—primarily Israelis, but also those from Singapore and other places,” said Elijah Jacob, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s country manager for India. “It was almost like a second home to them. Our country director used to say it was like a second home to him because of all of the Jews there on Shabbat.”

Gavriel “was one of the finest and kindest gentlemen you could imagine,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, the vice chairman of Chabad’s education arm. He recounted the last conversation Gavriel had with the Israeli Embassy, on the night of Nov. 26, shortly after the center was taken over by the terrorists.

“He said, ‘The situation is not good,’ ” Kotlarsky recalled. “And then he was cut off.”

News of the Holtzbergs’ deaths hit hard in the Lubavitch neighborhood of Crown Heights, where tens of thousands of Chabadniks live. In this tight-knit community, nearly everyone is connected to one another.

“It is painful to see,” Rabbi Velvel Farkash said outside of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. “It is a deep pain. I really have no words for it.”

Jacob described Gavriel Holtzberg as a community builder in Mumbai, home to some 4,500 Jews living in a western Indian city of 14 million. The city has eight synagogues, mostly in the southern part in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

“[Gavriel] helped out with some of the local synagogues. He helped them collect donations and did fund-raising for the synagogue T’feret Israel, in central Mumbai in Jacobs Circle. He helped build a mikveh there,” Jacob, who grew up in India, told JTA.

“He was also officially a shochet [ritual slaughterer] and made chickens available to the community. They also made challah for the community. They were available for the community. If people had questions about halachic principles, what is right and what is wrong in terms of the rights and customs of Judaism, they were basically guiding the local community.”

On Nov. 27, the day after terrorists took over the Chabad House, the gunmen released the Holtzbergs’ 2-year-old son, Moishe, and the building’s cook, Sandra Samuel, who reported that the Chabad emissaries were alive but unconscious. The Holtzbergs have another son who was not in the center when it was captured.

Krinsky said Chabad would take care of Moishe.

“The world of Chabad-Lubavitch and its emissaries will adopt this beautiful toddler, and raise him and give him a beautiful upbringing,” Krinsky said at the news conference.

On the morning of Nov. 28, as reports spread that five of the hostages being held at the Chabad house were dead, Erin Beser was holding out hope that the Chabad emissaries were not among them.

Beser, who spent a year in Mumbai as a volunteer for the JDC, said she spent nearly every Shabbat at the Chabad house during her time in India.

“I was by myself in India for two months as a volunteer,” Beser said. “And in India, your week is just so stressful and foreign, and everything is different, from the food to the climate. But going to Chabad was just like coming home. And I came back every week. If I didn’t come one week, she would call.”

Another victim at the center was Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, a Mexican citizen who was scheduled to make aliyah on Dec. 1, according to a news release from The Jewish Agency for Israel. Two of her three children already were living in Israel.

Rabinovich, who was visiting the Chabad center, had been traveling in India with the intention of making aliyah at the end of her trip.

Unlike other Chabad houses in the Far East, which see a steady stream of Israeli backpackers, the Nariman House catered more to Israeli and foreign businessmen. A typical Shabbat dinner at the Holtzbergs would include up to 50 guests, ranging from locals to the Israeli consul general and his family, Beser said.

“They were so committed to what they were doing and they were such good people,” Beser said of the Holtzbergs. “They were so welcoming. It was amazing how many people came through that house. And still she was like, ‘How was your week?’ and was able to hold all of this information about what I was doing.”

Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin dead in Mumbai attack


(JTA) – A Chabad rabbi and his wife were among the dead after Indian forces retook a Jewish center in Mumbai, India from terrorist gunmen.

The deaths of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, were confirmed Friday by the director of American Friends of Lubavitch, Rabbi Levi Shemtov.

Earlier Friday, CNN quoted local Indian media sources as saying that five hostages at the building were dead; the hostages were not identified.

Conflicting reports following the takeover of Mumbai’s Chabad-Lubavitch house in the terrorist attacks in India, which left more than 140 dead, prompted confusion and anxiety surrounding the fate of the house’s occupants, including the Holtzbergs.

Four Israelis were among those freed from the Trident-Oberoi luxury hotel along with other hostages late Friday morning, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

As many as two dozen Israelis, some of whom are thought to have been in the house, remained unaccounted for late Thursday night.

complete coverage on mumbai chabad attackGunmen armed with automatic rifles and grenades struck 10 separate locations in Mumbai on Wednesday night in coordinated attacks at sites frequented by Westerners, including hotels, restaurants and a railway station. Witnesses said the gunmen — who killed more than 120 people, set buildings ablaze and took hostages — targeted Americans, Britons and Jews. Mumbai’s Chabad house was among the targets.

On Thursday afternoon, Indian commandos surrounded the Nariman House, where Chabad is located, with plans to storm in and release the hostages. There reportedly were four terrorists holed up inside with six hostages. Indian special forces reportedly killed one terrorist in the building.

Earlier Thursday, the hostage takers released the Holtzberg’s 2-year-old son and the building’s cook, who said that the couple was alive but unconscious.

The Israeli consul in Mumbai told Israel Radio on Thursday that the consulate was working to locate approximately 25 Israelis known to be in Mumbai who had not contacted their families at home.

The terrorists also took hostages at the Taj Mahal Palace and Trident-Oberoi luxury hotels. The identity of the attackers is not known. A little-known organization calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility.

One terrorist inside the Chabad house called an Indian TV channel Thursday afternoon and offered to enter into talks with the government to release the hostages, Reuters reported.

The Chabad house is located at 5 Hormusji Street in Mumbai. India is a popular destination for young Israeli backpackers, who often make the trip after their army service. The Holtzbergs moved to Mumbai from Brooklyn, New York in 2003 to do Jewish outreach work in India.

One Indian TV channel said five or six Israelis were also among the 100 to 200 hostages being held at the Oberoi hotel, Ynet reported. Some 10 to 15 Israelis are said to be held hostage in sites throughout the city, the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Ynet.

Concern about the fate of the Chabad rabbi and his wife mounted throughout the day, with the Brooklyn-based organization issuing calls for prayer to Jews the world over. The National Council of Young Israel also sent out an alert asking Jews to pray for the rabbi and his wife.

“One friend of Gavriel Holtzberg reported receiving an e-mail from the Mumbai rabbi at 11:30 p.m. local time,” Chabad.org reported. “The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation. No further contact has since been established.”

On Thursday morning, according to the Jerusalem Post, the Chabad rabbi’s toddler son was rushed from the house in the arms of one of the Jewish center’s employees, Sandra Samuel.

“I took the child, I just grabbed the baby and ran out,” said Samuel, 44, who was identified as a cook.

She said that the rabbi, his wife and two other unidentified guests were alive but unconscious, The Jerusalem Post reported.

First Person: Remembering Mumbai victims Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg


(JTA)—Just minutes ago I heard the terrible news that five Israeli hostages were found dead inside the Chabad center at Nariman house in Mumbai. Although the media hasn’t officially confirmed their identities yet, it seems quite certain that they are Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka, an Israeli couple and another Israeli.

After having been glued to the news for two days straight, relentlessly combing through twitter updates, news reports, and blogs, I am totally exhausted, yet feel compelled to write something about these great people I knew.

I lived in Mumbai for six months last year, and would go to the Beit Chabad with friends for a Shabbat meal about every second week. Over the course of six months, we got to know the rabbi and his wife quite well.

They were wonderful people: warm, inviting and engaging. Gabi would get visibly excited to have so many guests for Shabbat; you could tell it really made his week. complete coverage on mumbai chabad attackHe would have a grin on his face almost the entire meal, including during his dvar Torah. He was always so eager to create a communal feeling that he insisted everyone go around the table and say a few words to the group, giving guests four options: either delivering a dvar Torah, relating an inspirational story, declaring to take on a mitzvah or leading a song.

As most of the guests were Israeli backpackers and other passers-through, they might have found this quite novel. For us regulars, it was just Gabi’s shtick. I can still hear him reciting those four options to the group now, as if he had discovered some miraculous way to make everyone involved in the Shabbat with no escape, impressed by his own genius week in and out. He had a devilish smile; you could really see the child still in him, just beneath the surface.

Gabi was also exceptionally thoughtful. Though most of the guests were Israeli, Gabi would give his dvar Torah in English for the sake of the few of us English speakers there with sketchy Hebrew, so we’d understand. Sometimes he spoke line by line first in English, then Hebrew. Gabi would start discussions and made it his personal mission to get everyone talking, to make a group of disconnected Jews feel like a family. It worked. That was Gabi.

Rivki was a certified sweetheart. She’d generally sit apart from Gabi, to spread herself out, and usually sat with the girls. She too relished Friday night dinners—I think she needed her weekly female bonding time. She’d talk to the girls about the challenges of keeping kosher in India and share exciting new finds at the market together.

You could tell she was far from home, in this dense Mumbai jungle, but she was tough and really made the best of it. She would balance Gabi’s presence, occasionally making comments to people at her table while Gabi was speaking—not as a sign of disrespect, but to keep the people around her having a good time. That was Rivki: brave, fun-loving and super sweet.

Perhaps the greatest testament to their character was simply the fact that they lived in downtown Mumbai for years on end. Having lived there for just six months, I understand how incredibly taxing just existing in the city is. Even when trying to relax, the city still seems to suck the life out of you. Living as Westerners in modest conditions in the thick of Mumbai, with the restrictions of kashrut and Shabbat, is certainly no small feat.

I’m not sure if they were thrilled with their placement in Mumbai, but they certainly made a good go of it. They were only a few years older than me, in their late 20s, and despite being far from friends and family and perhaps not in the most exciting Chabad placement (compared to Bangkok, Bogota or Bondi), they kept positive and built a beautiful bastion of Jewey goodness.

They chose a life that demonstrated such altruism and care, in the truest sense. The Mumbai Chabad really made a difference to my time in India, and made me feel that much more at home in such a foreign country.

It was at Gabi and Rivki’s where I met Joseph Telushkin, the famous Jewish author. It was at Gabi and Rivki’s where I randomly bumped into friends of friends from back home. It was to Gabi and Rivki’s where we brought our non-Jewish Indian friends who became curious in Judaism. It was at Gabi and Rivki’s where a girl I would later fall for first developed feelings for me, when I brought her some water while she lay sick on the sofa from Indian food poisoning. She was being nursed by Rivki.

We often hear about tragedies in distant, disconnected places and feel frustratingly estranged from them. We want to connect, but can’t; we feel as though in a different world. And mere numbers, names and images don’t amount to much. I hope I’ve been able to paint a small picture of two of the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks, which claimed more tha 140 lives and left hundreds injured.

I know they would have been brave throughout the whole ordeal. Though unconfirmed, it is likely they would have been murdered right as Shabbat was coming in. I feel that this would have provided them with comfort, knowing that they departed this world in a time of peace. I also know the knowledge that their 2-year old son Moishe managed to escape in the arms of his nanny would have provided them with great comfort in their final hours. When I would look at the young Moishe I would see Gabi’s face and Rivki’s carefree spirit.

Chabad lost two soldiers today, emissaries and keepers of the Jewish people. Let us honor their work and their lives in our prayers, in our thoughts and in our deeds, and let us pray for the families of the dozens of other victims of these attacks. May all their souls rest in peace, and may we see an end to violence in our time.

— Benjamin Holtzman

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