Jewish leaders: We've fought back

Posted Monday, Nov 30th, 2009
Daily Breeze

Jewish leaders: We've fought back

By Melissa Pamer and Melissa Evans Staff Writers
Posted: 11/30/2009 06:57:45 AM PST

A year ago, Jewish leaders believed some good would come from the brutal deaths of two young emissaries killed along with 166 others in terrorist attacks that rocked Mumbai, India.

As South Bay Jews gathered Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack, they say that prediction has come true.

"Pain like this doesn't go away easily," said Rabbi Yossi Mintz of Chabad of the Beach Cities. "But we have fought back against this by bringing good to the world. An army without arms, that's what we have become."

Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, members of the tightknit Chabad-Lubavitch movement, were slain Nov. 26, 2008, at the Chabad House the couple had established in Mumbai about five years earlier.

Mintz had served as a teacher to Gavriel, and members of the four Chabad centers in the South Bay had known the couple while they studied at Chabad's seminary in New York.

On Sunday, the synagogues invited members to memorialize the couple and other victims with a televised broadcast of live remarks by a number of dignitaries, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel, and Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky of Chabad's world headquarters.

The South Bay congregations joined hundreds of Chabad communities across the globe in watching the live broadcast.

"Today is a sad day," Netanyahu said. "But we are not held captive by terror. We continue to act against it."

The prime minister added: "We must see a point of light in the terrible darkness."

During the hourlong tribute, repeated reference was made to the more than 500 children born in the last year whose names have included Gavriel and Rivkah, in honor of the Holtzbergs.

Those children were a sign that the couple's "light ... was not extinguished," Krinsky said.

Rabbi Sholom Pinson of Chabad of the South Bay in Lomita told a group of about 25 congregants that they should come away from the tribute more dedicated to the mission that sent the Holtzbergs to Mumbai.

"It's a moment for us to be inspired," Pinson said. "We're going to create more light, more goodness, more kindness."

Pinson, who grew up with the Holtzbergs and knows the family, said the incident was "very emotional" for him personally, but he has tried to focus on the positive effects of the deaths.

"There are countless good deeds that people took upon themselves, just turning such a horrible darkness into light," Pinson said in an interview.

The house that the Holtzbergs established was used as a religious hostel of sorts, popular among Israelis traveling through India. The Holtzbergs were killed there, along with four others, when 10 militants with assault rifles fanned out across Mumbai last year.

The home has still not reopened, but a relief fund has so far raised $1 million to support the Holtzberg's young son, Moshe, who recently turned 3. The boy lives in Israel with his grandparents and the nanny who saved his life by rushing him out of the home.

Mintz said the Redondo Beach Chabad put out a call for donations to buy the boy gifts for Hanukkah, and thousands of dollars were raised in a matter of days. They will send a few gifts, and set the rest aside in a scholarship fund, he said.

"We want him to know that he is not alone," Mintz said. "This is our child, the community's child."

Chabad, one of the world's largest Hasidic Jewish movements, claims about 200,000 members, including more than 3,000 "emissaries" in foreign countries who have established homes and Jewish centers. As of 2006, there were Chabad houses in 75 countries.

The Orthodox movement seeks to revive the traditions of Judaism through outreach, education and community service.

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