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Mumbai attacks affect members of local Chabad

Posted: December 12, 2008 7:41 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2008 4:55 a.m.

For Rabbi Choni Marozov and members of his Chabad of SCV house in Newhall, the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, went from a world tragedy to a personal one.

Two Mumbai Chabad leaders, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were killed in the attack.

Most Chabad members never met the Holtzbergs but they were linked by a shared faith and mission.
So when they learned the night of the attacks that the couple was in danger, they prayed.

"There was an e-mail sent out to Chabad Rabbis, everyone should pray and gather communities to pray," Marozov said. "For the next five hours we didn't go to sleep, looking to the computer for updates. Friday morning we found out they were killed along with four guests in their Chabad house."

The Holtzbergs, in their 20s, recently married and left behind the luxuries of New York to open a Chabad house in Mumbai and bring light there, Marozov said.

There are more than 2,500 branches of Chabad, a world-wide organization involved with Jewish education and outreach programs, according to Chabad of SCV's Web site. The organization aims to arouse an intellectual and emotional interest in the Jewish faith and to connect Jews with their roots, the Web site says.

Marozov considered the Holtzbergs to be family friends. He shared a class with Gavriel's brother in New York.

"I've spoken to his family and friends of mine who knew him personally and learned of the sacrifices they gave up to be in Mumbai," he said. "They were phenomenal."

There's no kosher food in India, so as an observant Jew, Gavriel would buy 200 chickens and slaughter them himself, Marozov said.

"(The Holtzbergs) would have close to 400 guests every week at their Chabad tables and all food was made from scratch," he said.

Marozov and the congregation mourned the loss of the Holtzbergs in the global Jewish community and will continue to keep them in their memories.

"We dedicated Friday night services in their memory and we're dedicating our Hanukkah events in their memory," Marozov said.

"The way we extinguish the darkness is by increasing the light," Marozov said about the terrorist attacks. "So you know, our response is to bring more light - to perform more acts and deeds of goodness and kindness. What the terrorists wanted to do - we showed them they won't be victorious."

Chabad said the center in Mumbai will be rebuilt, along with an additional house in Bangalore, he said.

In a newsletter e-mailed to members on Dec. 4., Marozov encouraged the local Chabad members that now is the time for members to cling to their faith.

"If only for (the Holtzbergs), let us gather together and find strength in the eternity of our faith, in the face of every possible reason to abandon it. A faith that we need now more than ever," he wrote.


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