Next week is Thanksgiving. Many of us will sit down with family and friends, feast on turkey and pumpkin pie, and think about Black Friday shopping deals. For others, however, this Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, will be a day of sadness and remembrance, marking one year since the brutal massacre in Mumbai, India. On that day, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, along with more than 170 others, were killed during a series of terrorist attacks.
The Holtzberg’s nanny, Sandra Samuel, managed to sneak out the couple’s then-2-year-old child, Moshe, who has lived with his grandparents in Israel since that tragic day. Though we are saddened that little Moshe will grow up without his parents, we are grateful that he was rescued – at least one thing to be thankful for during this holiday of Thanksgiving.
The Holtzberg tragedy hit hard for many in our area who had personal ties to the victims. But it also struck home for the wider Jewish community, which is no stranger to security threats. Sadly, we have seen how precarious security can be, whether at a Chabad house, a synagogue, or even at otherwise well-guarded places like army bases.
No one of us has the ability to remove these threats, or even to ensure that they will not in some way touch our own lives. What we can do – what we can learn from the Holtzbergs and the way in which they lived – is to face the future with hope and with good deeds.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Chabad’s educational arm, Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, said at the couple’s funeral, “I vow that we will avenge the deaths of Gabi and Rivki. But not with AK-47s, not with grenades and tanks. We will take revenge in a different way. We will add light. We will add good deeds.”
Kotlarsky’s words present an opportunity to bring forth light from darkness. They are especially apt when we consider the incivility plaguing our society; for example, in the hateful metaphors comparing government policy to Nazi initiatives.
If, instead of the vitriol, we can keep in mind the image of the Holtzbergs – may their memories be for a blessing – and their service to others, we will all face the future with greater certainty. And while their deaths will continue to be marked with sadness and tears, they will not be in vain.
J.L. and L.G.