Terror in Mumbai

Friday, November 28, 2008-Rosh Chodesh Kislev


Dear Friends,

The last 24 hours have been a surreal nightmare as the entire Jewish world watched for some signs of hope and a peaceful resolution to the hostage crisis in the Chabad House of Mumbai. As of this morning the facts on the ground have come to light and the worse case scenario has been confirmed.

It is with a shattered heart that I inform you of the brutal murders of Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved emissaries of the Rebbe, to Mumbai, India. 

Rabbi & Mrs. Holtzberg gave up the comforts of life in the West to share their love of Judaism and the warmth of their family with people of all backgrounds in far away India. With selfless commitment and dedication, they opened the Chabad House in Mumbai – creating a home to thousands of Jewish tourists, Israeli backpackers and international business-travelers.  

As targets of these savage acts of terror Gabi & Rivka have made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith and their people. They lived and died as exemplars of the Jewish people. Two bright lights have been extinguished and tonight, on Shabbat their 2-year-old son Moshe will mark his second b irthday bereft of his Abba and Imma.

I have no words, I have no answers. I do not begin to understand G‑d's ways – I know that we are not expected to. I only know that we must continue their life's work. They deserve no less.

2,000 years of survival have taught us as that despair is not an option. We must continue and rebuild from the ashes. The Rebbe reminded us countless times that when darkness envelops our world we must respond by radiating even more light - the light of Torah & Mitzvot.

And so, dear friends, in response to the many who are asking what can be done to help: 

Please do an extra Mitzvah.


Several suggestions: 

  • To contribute to a fund established for the victims’ families, for baby Moshe, as well as for the rebuilding of Chabad in Mumbai, go to www.ChabadIndia.org.
  • Ladies & Girls, Shabbat begins in an hour with candle lighting at 4:30 p.m. locally. If you don't already do so, please light the Shabbat candles this evening at the appropriate time in memory of the victims. You can find candle lighting times for other locations, as well as the blessings, etc. at www.fridaylight.com
  • Gentlemen, please consider the Mitzvah of Tefillin. Please visit you local Chabad center for weekly services and opportunities to perform this all important Mitzvah.
  • Please join us on Shabbat morning at your local Chabad Center for Services in their honor beginning at 10 am.

Finally, please join the communities of Ventura County, from Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura as we gather for a Memorial Service this Sunday at 3:30 p.m., at Chabad of Ventura, 5040 Telegraph Road, to pay tribute to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg.

Sincerely and with heartfelt prayers for G‑d’s mercies and comfort for all the victims,

Rabbi Dov Muchnik   -Chabad of Oxnard      

Rabbi Yakov Latowicz -Chabad of Ventura

Rabbi Aryeh Lang -Chabad of Camarillo



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.

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.

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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