Rabbi and wife served Jewish community
NEW YORK - Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, went to Mumbai in 2003 to serve the local Jewish community. The couple ran a synagogue, offering religious instruction and helping people dealing with drug addiction and poverty.
The ultra-orthodox Jewish movement Chabad-Lubavitch, which is based in Brooklyn, confirmed yesterday that the New York rabbi and his wife were among the foreigners killed in the Mumbai terrorist attack.
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and Rivkah Holtzberg, 28, were killed in the Chabad-Lubavitch offices in Mumbai, Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin said in New York.
The couple's toddler son, Moshe, was rescued by an employee. A second son, who has been ailing, was with relatives in Israel when the attack occurred. A third child had died earlier this year of a genetic disease. The movement has thousands of emissaries around the world, working as rabbis and de facto consuls.
The Holtzbergs were both born in Israel. Gavriel Holtzberg moved to Brooklyn as a child and was raised there. He had dual Israeli-US citizenship; his wife was an Israeli citizen.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky said Moshe will turn 2 today. "Today, he became an orphan," he said.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement identified other Americans killed at the Jewish center as Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual US citizenship, and Leibish Teitlebaum, an American from Brooklyn.
Members of Chabad-Lubavitch gathered at its New York headquarters yesterday to pray for the families of the dead.
"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.
"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," he said.
Twelve hours after gunmen stormed the center Wednesday, Sandra Samuel, a cook at the center, heard little Moshe's cries outside the room in which she had barricaded herself. She opened the door, grabbed the toddler, and ran outside.
In Israel, officials said the Chabad center, which is located in the Nariman House on a narrow street of Mumbai, was targeted for being Jewish.
"Our world is under attack. There are extremist Muslim elements who do not accept our values or our existence," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israeli said in Jerusalem.
At a news conference at the movement's headquarters yesterday, Krinsky said the work of Chabad-Lubavitch would continue. "Nothing deters us," he said.