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November 29, 2008: When Words Fail

November 29, 2008

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

I was prepared on Thursday night to do a posting, but the news from Mumbai stopped me cold. There seemed so little to say, as word was awaited regarding the fate of the people in the Chabad House.

Well, now we know, and it is time to mourn, and to rant, and to respond with strength. Let it be clearly understood that the Chabad House was targeted by radical Muslims because of its Israeli/Jewish association. This was hardly random.


Along with at least six other Israelis (and close to 200 others killed elsewhere in the city), Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who ran this Chabad House, have been murdered cruelly. They established the Mumbai Chabad Jewish Center five years ago. It has been a popular stopping place for Israelis tourists as well as for other Jews from all over the world. What wasn’t provided there? Shabbat hospitality, a Jewish library, classes, hospital visitation, a kosher meal plan, brit milah (ritual circumcision) arrangements, chevreh kadisha (care for the dead), outreach, drug prevention programs, etc. etc.

Rabbi Nochum Light, serving as the Chabad rabbi in Annapolis, MD, who was a lifelong friend of Rabbi Holtzberg, said,

“He died doing something that was his mission. His favorite thing was to make this world a happier and better place. All he wanted to do was help people.”

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, the vice-chairman of Chabad’s educational arm said,

“Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice. As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community as well as with visiting business people.”


Chabad of Mumbai has established an appeal to benefit the young children of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg [a 2-year old, Moshe — whose birthday was today!! — was rescued by his nanny; there is one otherbut I have no information on this second child] and to rebuild Chabad in Mumbai.

This is altogether fitting.

Rivka Holtzberg’s parents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, flew from Israel to Mumbai Thursday night. They must now return with their orphaned grandson and his parents’ bodies. Every terrorist attack is to be deplored, every victim mourned. But this is one of those incidents that truly tears the heart. That they should have some assistance is appropriate, a small blessing in a time of unimaginable pain.

And the Mumbai Chabad Jewish Center? I like the attitude of Andrew Benjamin, who called my attention to this fund. We must fight back, he says, and doing this is the best way. We must celebrate the rebuilding of this institution. We must survive and prevail.

It is appropriate to do tzedaka in the memory of the Holtzbergs. That their beloved Center should be assisted would have pleased them enormously. But if not that, consider some other act of charity or kindness in their memory. Some act that will make the world a “happier or better place.”

Should you wish to donate to the Chabad Mumbai Fund:


Or for a possible more secure site for donations:




Everything else will wait yet another day. There will be more to say about Mumbai, undoubtedly, and a great many other issues. I note here, which is a matter of considerable significance, that Westerners and in particular Americans and British were targeted by the Mumbai terrorists.




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