Following is the text of a speech Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and director of the Simon Weisenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, delivered at the community memorial for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg at Chabad House in Westwood on Nov. 30.
What is there to say or speak? What has become of our world? First, let me express my heartfelt sympathy to all the victims in Mumbai of this horrific attack, Jews and non-Jews, the families of the murdered, the maimed and the traumatized.
Every Saturday night when Shabbat concludes, Jews around the world make a special blessing, “Blessed are you Almighty, who has separated the holy from the secular, light from darkness.” Never has there been such a clear distinction between the world of light and the world of darkness.
In one community, a wonderful 29-year-old Rav Gavriel Holtzberg and his 28-year-old wife, Rivkah, of blessed memory, were in their Chabad house, and what were they doing my friends? Helping people — meals for strangers, places to stay for travelers, counseling for the downtrodden and forgotten, kosher food and a place to pray and study for those seeking spiritual sustenance.
They could have stayed in Israel or in the United States. They had a child who died of genetic illness and another who is hospitalized with the same ailment. They had no political motivations — all they wanted to do was work hard for a better world.
On the other hand, the young men who came by boat — they too had a task: who should they murder? Should it be the doctor making his hospital rounds, nurses at their stations, a mother shopping for her family, a grandmother walking near the hotel with her grandchild or anyone who just happened to look in their direction?
The world has never experienced such a plague of darkness like the plague of Islamic fundamentalism that reveres death over life, that teaches young people that the preferred way to get to heaven is by murdering and maiming.
Even the worst murderers in the history of mankind, the Nazis, who gassed millions — for themselves would do anything to live another day. That’s what Eichmann and Mengele did when they were on the run.
The world should be very clear — achieving martyrdom by killing innocent civilians is an abomination. It is a concept that desecrates religion, denigrates humankind and defames God himself.
But it is not only the terrorists who bear the responsibility — it is the religious leaders who programmed them, inspired them and sent them, who are equally culpable. Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher never killed anyone, but they were named as war criminals at Nuremberg because, on a daily basis, they poisoned the minds of tens of millions of Germans. That is exactly what the imams of the Islamic fundamentalists do.
The world must not remain silent. We have the tools to at least do something. The United Nations must make suicide terror a priority. Why is it that the General Assembly can call special sessions on drug cartels, on AIDS, on disarmament, on apartheid — all crucial issues — but it has not yet called for a special session on the greatest crime of the 21st century — suicide terror?
The other day, I saw someone on television making the point that we must understand the grievances of the terrorists, that the world has neglected them. My friends, if there is anyone who has grievances in history, it should be the Jewish people and, particularly, the generation of survivors of the Holocaust, who witnessed one-third of world Jewry gassed and murdered.
They, too, had grievances, but did you ever see children of survivors blowing up hospitals, hotels, schools and restaurants?
Yet what was their reaction? They picked themselves up by the bootstraps, taught themselves how to smile and love again, educated their children to dignify the world and not to destroy it, to contribute to it and not to demean it.
In keeping with that tradition, I’m sure that 2-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, who was miraculously saved, who has no parents to bar mitzvah him or to escort him to his wedding, will learn about his parents and will grow up following in their footsteps, teaching kindness and love and finding good in people.
And to you, the supporters of the terrorists, wherever you are, your concept may be new, but we’ve seen your prototype before — you’re not the first to threaten our humanity. For 3,500 years we’ve seen your likes during the pogroms, the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and we’ve never changed our belief.
To use a metaphor that is appropriate for the forthcoming Chanukah festival — that one cruse of light that emanated from the Chabad house in Mumbai has contributed more to humanity than your whole ideology and way of life.
The Jewish people whom you seek to destroy will still be here long after you and your haters have been deposited in the dustbins of history.