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Oxnard rabbi friends with victim of attack

Oxnard rabbi friends with victim of attack

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Oxnard rabbi friends with victim of attack

Chabad.org / AP Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg, the directors of Chabad-Lubavitch in Mumbai, India, were among those killed during an assault by terrorists that began Wednesday in Mumbai.

Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg, the directors of Chabad-Lubavitch in Mumbai, India, were among those killed during an assault by terrorists that began Wednesday in Mumbai.

 
Moshe Holtzberg

Moshe Holtzberg

The deaths of a rabbi and his wife at a Jewish center during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, hit close to home for Rabbi Dov Muchnik of Chabad of Oxnard.

Muchnik grew up with Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg in New York. They attended the same rabbinical college, Ohlei Torah, where at one point they sat next to each other.

Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivkah, 28, were among the five hostages and two gunmen who died in the attack at the Chabad center in India. Their son, 2-year-old Moshe, was carried to safety by an employee and turned over to his grandparents.

The center was one of 10 sites in a series of attacks that started Wednesday night and killed more than 195 people.

In response to the deaths, memorial services are scheduled Sunday afternoon at Chabad centers in Ventura and Agoura Hills.

"This is a huge tragedy," Muchnik said Friday. "We're talking about an innocent couple that were out there not for business or pleasure but to give their lives to others. It's so hard to believe that I'm talking to you about them in the past tense. It's really shocking."

Holtzberg was born in Israel and moved to Brooklyn as a child, Muchnik said. Rivkah, whom Muchnik did not know, was Israeli. The couple married around 2003.

Muchnik remembered Holtzberg as smart, studious and kind. "He was very unassuming," he said.

The Chabad movement, based in New York, assigned the Holtzbergs to a post in Mumbai several years ago, Muchnik said. The Chabad movement aims to reconnect Jews with the religion and to promote good works. He said the Holtzbergs worked with Mumbai's small Jewish community and with Jewish visitors to the city that needed a synagogue or a kosher kitchen.

"It was a place that was in need he very much felt a sense of mission and responsibility," Muchnik said. "They were definitely on a mission, and they did it with love, with a smile, with joy."

The toddler, Moshe, is with his mother's parents, Muchnik said. "It's definitely a miracle that he was brought out alive."

In reaction to the attacks, Chabad leaders have called for prayer and acts of kindness.

"The attitude we have is always turning pain into growth," Muchnik said. "In times like this, that's all we can do, because we certainly can't understand God's ways."

The Chabad centers in Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo have scheduled a memorial service at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ventura center, 5040 Telegraph Road. The service is open to the entire community, Muchnik said. Another memorial service, which is also open to the public, is scheduled at 4 p.m. Sunday at Chabad of the Conejo, 30345 Canwood St., Agoura Hills.

 
 
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