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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Brooklyn Rabbi And Wife Among Dead In Mumbai Terror Attack on Chabad House

Brooklyn Rabbi And Wife Among Dead In Mumbai Terror Attack on Chabad House

November 28, 2008

Brooklyn Rabbi And Wife Among Dead In Mumbai Terror Attack

November 28, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - A Brooklyn family, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29 and his wife Rivka, 26, who ran the Jewish travelers center the Chabad House - in Mumbai have been announced as being among the dead in this week's horrific terrorist attacks which began on November 26.

Fortunately the couple's two year old son Moshe, was spirited out of the center during the attacks by an employee and was thus spared his parent's fate. He is currently being taken care of by his grandparents.

The Holtzberg's were among 7 Jewish victims of the terrorists, 5 of which were Israelis. During the attacks terrorists are believed to have specifically targeted Jews and Westerners.

In a hastily scheduled press conference, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated, "It's a shame that this kind of event must remind part of the Western of the world about this reality. The target is not just Israel, but the West."

A heretofore unknown group, Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which so far are believed to have resulted in the deaths of at least 140. There is widespread suspicion within Indian intelligence that elements of Pakistan's ISI aided the terrorists. http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=mumbai1id=11.28.08%2Ehtm


'They made the ultimate sacrifice'


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 news of the young couples' murder at the hands of terrorists clarified from a pessimistic assessment to a bitter reality.

The late couple Rabbi Gabi...

The late couple Rabbi Gabi Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, murdered at the hands of terrorists in Mumbai, India.
Photo: Courtesy Chabad.org

"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," Kotlarsky was quoted on the Chabad Website as saying.

At a press conference in the Jewish Children's Museum in Brooklyn, a visibly grief stricken Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Educational and Social Services arms of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement, eulogized the Holtzbergs, describing their charitable work as "selfless" and describing
the young couple as "two of our finest."

The couple leaves behind a single baby boy, Moishe, who will be marking his second birthday on Saturday, as an orphan.



Remembering Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg

November 28, 2008


By Benjamin Holtzman

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. He 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. http://jta.org/news/article/2008/11/28/1001247/for-gabi-and-rivki-in-blessed-memory


5 Dead in Mumbai Chabad House Terror Attack

Kislev 1, 5769, 28 November 08 04:07by Hana Levi Julian

(IsraelNN.com) After more than 40 hours and a day-long siege by Indian commandos against Islamist terrorists holed up in the Mumbai Chabad House, the operation ended with the discovery that five of the Jewish hostages had been murdered by their captors, including Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka.

Foreign Ministry sources told Israel National News just minutes before the start of the Sabbath in Israel that the victims also included two women who had been trapped on the top floor with the Holtzbergs, as well as a fifth unnamed person.

Indian television had reported jubilantly an hour earlier that the siege of the Nariman Chabad House in Mumbai was over, and that all the terrorists were killed -- but suddenly, in a dramatic reversal, announced that authorities ordered the wildly cheering crowd to move back: it wasn't really over after all.

Government commandos had begun to exit the badly damaged building smiling broadly and flashing the "thumbs up" sign at the applauding crowd in the street, with one commander telling the media that the fierce fire fight was finished, with three terrorists dead. A loud explosion, probably from a grenade or rocket launcher, had been heard moments earlier on the top floor of the five-story building, which was badly damaged.

The situation was termed "utter chaos" by journalists, as darkness combined with crowds and confusion to create a mess for security forces who were trying to figure out whether there were terrorists left in the building, and if so, where they were and how to either capture or kill them.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that two Israeli hostages have been freed in Mumbai after spending more than 30 hours holed up in the Oberoi-Trident Hotel. The two businessmen, who were identified only by their last names, Weingarten and Zamir, were rescued Friday morning at approximately 7:30 a.m. Israel time.

According to Ministry spokesman Andy David, neither was injured and both are in good condition following their harrowing ordeal. "I can confirm that they're out, they're free... they made contact with our Consulate, our people saw them and they're okay," he told Israel National News, adding that both planned to return to Israel but that a timeline had not been set.

The Foreign Ministry firmly denied the numerous and repeated reports by Indian media that Jewish hostages had been rescued from the Chabad House.

"The reports are simply untrue," said David. "No one has been freed there, and no one has come out. We don't know what the situation is inside. There is no confirmation of the number of people there either," he emphasized.

"There are Israelis who stop in there at Chabad all the time, who can visit, get a meal, join a prayer... we have no way to know many people were there," he said. "There is a lot of battlefield fog, you know, we get a lot of reports, 'It's over,' then, 'It's not over,' then, 'It's over,' again."

David was grim regarding the condition of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife. "Of course we are very worried for them, but we have no information at this point," he said.

An Israeli media report of four bodies being found in the building was brushed aside. "These were old reports by the local woman who brought out the Holtzbergs' one and a half-year-old son when she came out early Thursday morning," said the Foreign Ministry spokesman. The family's babysitter, Sandra Samuel reported when she escaped that four people, including the Holtzbergs, were lying unconscious. She remained with little Moshe until his grandparents arrived from Israel early Friday morning to care for him.

David also debunked a rumor that an Israel Air Force helicopter had been seen flying around the roof of the Oberoi-Trident Hotel late Thursday night. "Not true," he said. "Absolutely not. No Israeli security or military units or personnel or anything of the sort are in India, nor are there plans to send them. Fruitful imagination," he added.

Commandos who entered the building Friday morning were moving "very slowly, deliberately, through each floor" reported an NDTV news anchor, who stressed that the cameraman was deliberately "shying away from showing any close-up visuals or pictures that might give away the position of the commandos to the terrorists."

Operations at the Oberoi-Trident Hotel has been declared over. Reporter noted that relatives crowding around the hotel are "scared and frustrated," adding, "They don't understand why they don't have any news of their loved ones if the operation is over," she said. Inside commandos continue to methodically search from room to room, trying to determine how many bodies are still inside.

Indian army sources have claimed that the terrorists had received commando training from the Pakistan Army and had been provided with boats and logistical support by the Mumbai underworld, according to India's IBN Live television news.

The Chabad House was one of 10 sites that were struck by some 25 terrorists who apparently infiltrated into Mumbai by sea and then fanned out through the city.

Statement from World Lubavitch HQ
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky of Chabad World Headquarters in New York released a statement on behalf of the movement overnight:

Once again, terrorism has reared its evil head, this time in Mumbai (Bombay) India. Our Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Community Center, located in Nariman House in the Colaba district, is still occupied by the terrorists.

As of Thursday (Nov. 27) evening, we have not yet heard from our representatives in Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who head the center. The Holtzbergs' 18-month old son, Moshe, was rescued early Thursday morning and is in the custody of trusted friends.

Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters, through its global contacts, continues to vigilantly monitor this tragic situation as it develops.

We pray for the speedy, safe release of all the hostages and those yet missing, and for the healing and complete recovery of all those wounded. We express heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of each of those who have been brutally murdered in this senseless barbaric attack.

There was also grave concern over the fate of at least two other Jews as well, both of whom had flown to India on business to serve as Kosher food supervisors in Indian plants that provide ingredients to kosher food companies in the U.S.

Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum of Jerusalem, the son of the Volover Rebbe of Boro Park and son-in-law of the head of the Toldos Avraham Yitzhak Chassidic sect, was in Mumbai and hasn't been heard from, as is the case with his co-worker Ben Tzion Korman of Bat Yam. It is believed, however, that at least one or both of the men may have escaped harm. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/128597

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