|At a memorial at Lubavitch on the Palisades in Tenafly, Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, recalls attending the Holtzbergs’ funerals in Israel. Lubavitch on the Palisades|
The past two weeks have been marked by memorials among Chabad communities mourning their fallen in last month’s terror attacks in Mumbai and among the community at large.
Among the more than 170 dead were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, as well as three other Israelis and a Mexican Jew who was preparing to make aliyah. They were killed at Nariman House, the Chabad center in Mumbai.
“Chabad Lubavitch has deep ties to Hoboken,” said that city’s Mayor David Roberts at Hoboken’s Chabad Jewish Center last Thursday. Besides being home to its own Chabad center, the city is linked to Nariman House in Mumbai through Hoboken’s Chabad rabbi, Moshe Schapiro. He knew the Holtzbergs through the Chabad Lubavitch world headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“People ask me, as a Chabad rabbi, ‘Did you know the couple in India?’ and my answer is, ‘Only a year ago, I had a conversation with them,'” Schapiro said.
The Holtzbergs’ reach extended beyond New York. The young couple hosted visitors from across the globe, ran a synagogue, taught Torah classes, and worked to end poverty and drug abuse in India.
Schapiro’s wife, Shaindel Schapiro, led the event, which included a video presentation tracking the Holtzbergs’ lives and work.
Although the video presentation focused primarily on the Holtzbergs, also commemorated were the lesser-known victims of the Nariman assault, including Mexican national Norma Rabinovitch-Shvarzblat, Yocheved Orpaz who “had a big heart,” Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, a respected figure in the work of kashrut, and fellow supervisor Rabbi Bentzion Chroman, the father of a young son.
“I am here with no words,” Schapiro said. “It’s like a tape which keeps replaying in my mind.”
He described the haunting scene in which the Holtzbergs’ orphaned son, Moshe, “is crying out in the synagogue ‘Ima, Ima!’ And they’re trying to calm him down, but he’s screaming for his mother.
“There are no answers. There are no explanations,” he said.
He ended his speech with a call to action.
“It seems pretty clear that you can’t fight terror with stones,” he said. “Terror you fight with kindness. Darkness you fight with light. Evil you fight with good.”
After psalms and other prayers, Schapiro turned to light a series of candles for the victims.
“Bringing light into the world, it’s the responsibility of every single one of us,” he said. “The symbol of our battle is not a gun or a tank. It’s a candle.”
Schapiro encouraged the audience to keep the victims in mind when lighting Chanukah candles during the upcoming holiday.
Also that Thursday, more than 600 people attended a memorial at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, cosponsored by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, Rabbinical College of America, and JCC MetroWest. Gov. Jon Corzine and Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker were among the speakers.
|Rabbi Robert Scheinberg, left, of the United Synagogue of Hoboken, and Rabbi Moshe Schapiro of the Chabad Jewish Center pray at a memorial there for the Jewish victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. CONNER JAY|
More than 300 people attended a memorial service at Lubavitch on the Palisades in Tenafly on Sunday. A video tribute to the Holtzbergs was shown.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, told the crowd about attending the Holtzbergs’ funerals in Israel as a Chabad representative.
“It was a heartbreaking yet inspiring sight; to see thousands come together in a spirit of achdut [unity], to pay their last respects. During the burial ceremony at Har Hazeisim [Mount of Olives], the crowd sang soulful and emotional melodies, uniting as one under the Jerusalem sky.”
Butman said that a massive spiritual arousal followed the Holtzbergs’ deaths, and he stressed the importance of channeling grief and anger into something positive, to dispel evil by goodness. He drew lessons on how to respond to the Mumbai attacks from a 1956 incident when a gunman murdered four students and their teacher in Kfar Chabad, Israel.
“It dealt a harsh blow to the community, who were composed mainly of Russian immigrants who fled their country because of the unbearable religious persecution. The rebbe,” the Chabad Lubavitch leader based in Brooklyn, “sent three succinct words in a telegram: ‘B’hemshech habinyan tenu’chamu’ – ‘You will feel comfort through continuing to build.’
“And that is how we too, nowadays, will be comforted. By dispelling darkness through an overabundance of goodness, we will overcome all evil, we will not be defeated,” he said.
Cantor Israel Singer of Temple Emanu-El of Closter sang El Molei Rachamim.
A special children’s Torah, a project undertaken by community member Saranne Rothberg, had recently been completed and was dedicated in memory of the Holtzbergs. The child-size Torah will be used specifically for Chabad’s youth programs.
Lubavitch on the Palisades has added a “mitzvah counter” to its Website, www.ChabadLubavitch.org, where visitors can dedicate mitzvot in memory of the Holtzbergs.
The Interfaith Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee of Bergen County, a program of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Jewish Community Relations Council, was scheduled to hold its own memorial on Thursday with the interfaith religious leaders of Ridgewood. Hosted by Arya Samaj of the New Jersey Hindu community, the event was to take place at the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood.
Josh Lipowsky and Elizabeth Bland contributed to this report.