Tag Archive | "Mumbai"


Celebration, sadness at opening of Berlin mikvah

Posted on 04 December 2008 by admin

By Toby Axelrod
BERLIN (JTA) — The dedication of a new mikvah at the Chabad center here was tinged with sadness as participants remembered two Chabad emissaries killed last week in the Mumbai terror attacks.
A memorial service for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg is planned here for Dec. 2, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, the director of the Rohr Chabad Center, said on Sunday.
Shocked members of the Berlin Chabad community shared in somber tones what they had learned from the Jewish burial society in Mumbai: Rivkah was shot first; Gavriel apparently managed to drape a tallit over her before he was killed.
“This is what the chevra kadishah said, but nobody survived to know exactly what happened,” said Rabbi Shmuel Segal, the program director at the Berlin Chabad Center who had attended the Brooklyn-based Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim with Gavriel Holtzberg some nine years ago.
In the closely knit yet far-flung Chabad community, the Holtzbergs were known for their warmth and open-heartedness, he said. The couple had guided the Nariman House in Mumbai since 2003.
“When he told us he was going to India, I was not surprised,” Segal said. “He was one to go the farthest that could be.”
“It’s hard, it’s hard,” Segal said. “We don’t understand it. It’s like there is pure goodness from one side — the shluchim from the rebbe,” Chabad emissaries inspired by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. “And on the other side there is the maximum evil.”
Speakers at Sunday’s ceremony insisted on celebrating despite the tragedy.
“How should we go on” after what happened? Teichtal asked the crowd in the synagogue at the Rohr center. “The answer is this mikvah. The terrorists can only threaten us physically, only materially. But our spirit will live on.”
Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, the editor of the New York-based Yiddish newspaper the Algemeiner Journal, told the guests that the new mikvah for women “is a tribute to the holy souls of Gabi and Rivkah.”
Guests at the event included U.S. Ambassador William Robert Timken, Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ben-Ze’ev and several German members of parliament.
The mikvah is located in the basement of the Chabad center, and, in fulfillment of the requirement for a fresh source of water, is partially fed by rain collected at the roof, said Leah Teichtal, the co-director of the center with her husband. The rabbi called his wife the “mastermind” of the project.
“She said, ‘Let’s make a beautiful, five-star mikvah,’” he recalled.
Funding came from Annie and Pedro Donig, members of the Jewish community.
Sunday’s guests descended a brightly lit staircase to the mikvah rooms, including one with showers and bath, and another with the turquoise-tiled pool itself, its several steps leading downward into clear, warm water that is filtered constantly.
The rabbi said the steps are there because “some women are tall, and some are, well, not so tall.” He added that the mikvah for men is not yet finished.
Mikvah users can get a manicure and pedicure, and classical music will be piped in, Leah Teichtal told JTA.
“We want to show the ladies that you are coming to a real spa,” she said.
An upbeat atmosphere pervaded the upstairs. A film about the mikvah tradition ran on an endless loop, and guests sampled sushi, couscous and other delicacies from the center’s kosher caterer.
Outside, security was tight: Visitors had to pass between cement bollards and a gauntlet of police and private security guards. Chabad in Berlin has been the target of a few sensational anti-Semitic attacks.
Most recently, Teichtal and several yeshiva students in a van were harassed by men driving in another car. Two arrests have been made.
“I am not worried, but we do have to learn from this,” Segal told JTA, referring to the Mumbai attacks. “We have to upgrade our security.”
He said about a month ago, a visitor recounted his experience at the Chabad center in Mumbai.
Holtzberg is “like Abraham: His house is always open,” the visitor said. “Even his private apartment is always open.”

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Rabbi Mendel  Dubrawsky: They were lamplighters


Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky: They were lamplighters

Posted on 03 December 2008 by admin

Like the Holtzbergs, you must ‘leave your comfort zone’ to make sense of this tragedy

The lights were dim and the mood was somber Tuesday night during a memorial service held at Chabad of Dallas to honor Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg and others who died during the attacks in Mumbai last week.

In his moving remarks, Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, who pioneered the Chabad movement in Dallas some 25 years ago, said that the Holtzbergs were the epitome of shluchim and shluchot (emissaries). They left the comforts of home, in Crown Heights and Israel, to be of service to Jews abroad. It was not a comfortable post, but they accepted their charge with vigor and grace. “They were lamplighters,” he said.

He also reminded everyone that little Moishe, the Holtzbergs’ orphaned son, was not the first Moshe to be rescued by a non-Jew. That original Moshe grew to be the leader of all the Jewish people.

“We must fight darkness with light…. What happened in Mumbai was very sad, but it motivates us to grow,” he said. “It is time for us to start the process of healing and honor those who died because they were innocent people.”
A brief video presentation that highlighted the tragic events of the day Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah were murdered by terrorists began the service. “Avinu Malkeinu” was played in the background, and many tears were shed.

Rabbi Menachem Block of Chabad of Plano thanked the capacity crowd for their outpouring of support. He said the attack on Chabad was not only an attack on all Jews, but also an attack on anyone who values peace, goodness and kindness.

Earlier in the day, Rabbi Block said it was important to have a vigil as a way for the entire community to come together.
“This is a tragedy that affects Jews and all mankind and we are all connected to this tragedy,” he said. “We came together tonight not only to mourn, but to take inspiration about how we are going to respond to it. It’s everyone’s tragedy…. We must show God and the world that from adversity and misery will come strength and growth.”
Rabbi Howard Wolk led everyone in the Hebrew and ­English renditions of Psalm 23.

Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Chairman Carol Aaron said people around the world feel pain and anguish and the Jewish community has become united. She added that we should never forget how Jews have overcome many types of diversity and need to do all we can to combat hatred.

Solidifying the connection with Jews living in India, Raymond Abraham, who lived in India at one time, lit a candle in memory of the Holtzbergs. Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker of Shearith Israel chanted “El Moleh Rachamim” in Hebrew, and Federation President and CEO Gary Weinstein led everyone in the English version.

Rabbi Zvi Drizin added a musical element to the service when he played “Avinu Malkeinu” on his flute. In this hymn that connected with Jews from all backgrounds, everyone’s voices could be heard during the spiritually uplifting moment.
Shortly after Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg were murdered, Rabbi Dubrawsky of Chabad of Dallas released a YouTube video. Speaking softly and visibly pained, he said, “This event was brought into everyone’s bedroom. It was watched in real time. It was unfolding minute by minute. It caused anxiety. It made every person feel that this Chabad rabbi looked like their own Chabad rabbi. And it became very personal. It was not thousands of miles away and 3,000 years ago. It was now.”

Rabbi Dubrawsky added that what unites us as a community is always greater than what divides us. He said tragedies must force people to become better and reach out to make this world a better place.

Prior to the service, Rabbi Dov Mandel of Chabad of Fort Worth told the TJP that by getting together, we can affirm that there is pain within the entire Jewish community.

“The Jewish people are like one body and we all feel it,” he said, somberly. “When something unfortunate happens to us, we need to have strength and move on despite our pain. Having the community come together brings comfort.”

And the fact that the community was there for each other helped ease the pain. But for one woman, Einav Grosser, the tragedy in Mumbai really hit home. This is something that will remain in her memory for years to come.

“My husband and I were shocked and were praying and hoping that they [the Holtzbergs] would still be alive,” she said. “And we think of their 2-year-old son who is our son’s age. It’s terrible for him to not have his parents.”

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