Tragically, the reports yesterday that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, had been killed after the Chabad house in Mumbai was taken over by terrorists were true. Officials with the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn have confirmed their deaths:
Jewish communities around the world reacted with shock to the loss of the couple, who were killed Thursday at their Chabad House during an apparent standoff between Indian military forces and terrorists.
Their toddler son, Moshe, managed to escape with his nanny some hours before Indian commandos stormed their building, known as the Nariman House, in the popular touristy neighborhood of Colaba. The Associated Press reported that the boy was unharmed, but was wearing blood-soaked pants.
“Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice,“ said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. “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 businesspeople.
“For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty,“ continued the statement. “Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started.“
Read more of Chabad’s story about the Holtzbergs here. The India Times also has a report of what happened at the Chabad house, also known as the Nariman House. It looks like three other hostages and all of the terrorists at Nariman were killed. The terrorist attacks, which began Wednesday, have claimed at least 143 lives.
I am so saddened to have to write this note. Yesterday, we all watched in horror at the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, including the terrible attack on the Chabad House. I was sickened to hear that the terrorists took the lives of the wonderful Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holzberg. Gavi and Rivki were two of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met, and the world over is suffering at their loss. This past Spring, my fiancé and I volunteered for 3 months in Mumbai on behalf of the American Jewish World Service. The Chabad House, and the incessant hospitality of Rabbi Gavi and Rivki, was one place during our trip that always provided solace and comfort, a familiar meal, voices of prayer, and where Will and I could feel at home. We spent several Shabbat dinners and a Passover seder with this family, laughing and singing with fellow Israeli and American Jewish travelers, learning from Rabbi Gavi’s sermons and enjoying the delicious food that Rivki had made for weeks leading up to the holiday. They gave us kosher chickens and matzah and equipped us with recipes and tips on how to keep our apartment kosher during Passover. Not only was this an important sanctuary for Will and me, but also for thousands of Jewish visitors who frequent the city every year on vacation and for business. The Rabbi and his wife had just finished creating a beautiful building with a large dining room and several guest rooms for people to stay during chagim. With tears in my eyes, I recall on the constant courage Gavi and Rivki exemplified by living in a city so foreign and challenging with determination to provide a safe place for all whom they welcomed into their home. I cry for the pain they suffered during this day of terror, I cry for Moishe who has lost the ability to grow up with his loving parents, I cry for the many of us who mourn the tragic deaths of two special people, and I cry for those who will never have the chance to meet Gavi and Rivki. Please take a moment to do a mitzvah today to compensate for all the millions of mitzvoth that they conducted every single day. May their memories only be remembered for a blessing.
Comment by Lindsay Stricke on 11/28/08 at 2:28 pm
Thank you so much for your note, Lindsay. I’m sure it took a lot to write. The world is a sadder place because of the tragedies that took place in Mumbai, to the Holtzbergs and the hundreds of others who died or were hurt by these nutjobs.
Comment by Brad A. Greenberg on 11/28/08 at 2:41 pm