» Download Audio
By Raymond Thibodeaux
01 December 2008
Mourning continues in Mumbai as the city limps back to normal after militant attacks that killed about 175 people and injured more than 300 others. Among the funerals and memorial services was a remembrance for a rabbi and his wife who were killed in the attacks. Raymond Thibodeaux has this from Mumbai.
It was an emotional service for 29-year-old Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his 28-year-old wife, Rivkah. The Brooklyn, New York, couple ran the heavily damaged Chabad House, a Jewish outreach center, in the heart of Mumbai. It was one of at least 10 targets of the gunmen who rampaged through the city, bringing it to its knees for three days.
|Moshe Holtzberg, the 2-year-old orphan of the rabbi and his wife slain in the Mumbai Jewish center, cries during a memorial service at a synagogue in Mumbai, 1 Dec. 2008 |
Indian sharpshooters took positions on the rooftops of nearby buildings. They watched over the powder-blue synagogue - just a 10-minute walk from the Taj Mahal Hotel, where the siege had ended. They also watched over the more than a hundred people who showed up for the memorial service, mostly Indian Jews and at least a dozen Israelis, including the Israeli ambassador to India and a top rabbi in the orthodox Jewish Chabad community.
Many of those at the memorial wept as the Jewish couple's two-year-old son, Moshe, rescued from the ordeal by his nanny, cried for his mother.
Levi Jurkowicz, 25, from New York, was at the service. Rabbi Holtzberg was his friend.
"We know that something terrible happened, but he was living his whole life for a cause and he died for it," he said. "And that is why we say 'l'chaim, l'chaim.' We believe he is still alive. Maybe it is not going to be his face, maybe it will be someone else's face. But it is going to be him. He is going to be there."
Jurkowicz, a cook who came to Mumbai to visit his sister, a friend of the Holtzbergs, has ended up having to prepare hundreds of kosher meals for many of the mourners. Like many here, he has not slept for days.
Reema Sisodia was a friend of Rivkah, the rabbi's wife.
"I never saw her as a rabbi's wife or something," she said. "She was somebody I bonded with. I could speak spirituality with her. She helped me heal on a lot of occasions. I have lost a friend."
Israel has criticized India's handling of the siege, in which about 10 assailants fanned out across the city, taking hostages at two luxury hotels and the Jewish center, killing and injuring scores of people.
At the Nariman House Complex, where the Holtzbergs managed the Chabad House Jewish center, Indian Navy commandos and sharpshooters stormed the building three days into the attacks. They killed at least two gunmen. The five hostages, the Holtzbergs among them, were dead.
|National Security Guard commandos prepare a rope to tie onto a railing on the terrace of Nariman Bhavan, in Mumbai, 28 Nov 2008|
Their son, Moshe, turned two on Saturday, the same day the Nariman House was stormed. Amid the chaos and violence, a group of family friends held a birthday party for him.
Jurkowicz was at the birthday.
"He had the birthday Saturday," he said. "We made him a birthday party. We had to have fun with with him. How?"
For Moshe they tried to be happy, and as Jurkowics said, grief is not allowed on the Sabbath.