Saturday, November 29, 2008

A heavy heart

The worst news that people had prayed would not occur was confirmed yesterday when Indian commandos finally took over the Nariman House, or Chabad House of Mumbai. When the body count was taken, six people were known to have been slaughtered including Rabbi Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivkah Holtzberg. One American woman, Leibish Titlebaum from Brooklyn, and Bentzion Chroman, who like Rabbi Holtzberg carried dual American and Israeli citizenship, were among the dead. Rebbetzin Holtzberg was an Israeli. The couple's two-year-old orphan is still reported as doing well, but reports circulated yesterday that when he was rescued, his diaper was soaked in blood. Even though I never met the Holtzbergs, it is with great sorrow that I report on this horrible tragedy. The work that Chabad Centers across the globe do has always been done with the best of intentions, though I admit many traditional Orthodox Jews do find some aspects of their outreach to other Jews as unsettling. Nevertheless, very few considered that Chabad emissaries would be putting their lives at risk just by keeping their doors open to Jews and others in outreach communities. The deaths of the victims in Mumbai were confirmed by Chabad Rabbi Mendel Rivkin on the Ten Commandments Hike yesterday when he spoke at Congregation Anshe S'fard in late morning. It was especially significant that so many Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, adult leaders, parents, siblings and friends could gather and learn of the deaths of Jewish religious leaders and make a connection with them, if only for that one instant in time. Rain did not dampen the spirits of those in attendance even though the kosher lunch was punctuated by periods of heavy downpour. When, at least, the clouds parted and the sun came out, only two stops remained for the younger crowd and three total for the rest of the hikers. The hike ended before 5:00 p.m. and all felt they had participated in a special interfaith event that supported worship in each other's own faith.

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