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Moshe Holtzberg, One Year Later

Moshe Holtzberg, One Year Later

Triumph over Terror

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Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg of Brooklyn, N.Y., carries his grandson Moshe on his shoulders for a round of dancing on occasion of the little boy’s third birthday.
Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg of Brooklyn, N.Y., carries his grandson Moshe on his shoulders for a round of dancing on occasion of the little boy’s third birthday.

A little boy celebrates his upsherin, the Jewish boy's traditional third-birthday haircutting ceremony, and smiles broadly at the guests—some of them familiar faces, many of them strangers. The focus is on him and he feels the collective warmth, while his grandparents and nanny stand close by. The name of one rabbi after another is announced and the boy seems confused and yet energized by the sheer number of people passing by him. He receives a huge gift and a chocolate cake with candles, and the joy in his face replaces – and yet recalls – the tears that fell just a year ago in a synagogue in Mumbai, as the same boy cried out "Ima, Ima!" perhaps sensing, if not knowing, that he had seen his parents for the last time.

A year after the devastation in Mumbai, Moshe Holtzberg's life continues, much like the life of any other boy in Israel. He lives in Afula with his maternal grandparents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, and his nanny, Sandra, who snatched him from the jaws of terror. "This year Moshe is going to gan (preschool) and is doing very well. He is very happy and excited to go every day," says Yehudit. "He is a very smart kid, but at the same time, he is like any other kid."

"We do not let the tears show up when he is around. There is a right time and place for the tears..."Moshe's memories of his life with his parents in distant India come in vivid flashes and dawn on him suddenly. "Sometimes he has flashbacks and memories from the time he was in Mumbai," Yehudit continues, "and when they appear they come out amazingly fresh. We freeze when these memories come up and we try to go along with him and support him to open up and share. We reply to him that his parents love him and care for him very much.

"Moshe is the source of inspiration and hope and we need to provide him with a healthy environment…we do not let the tears and sorrow show up when he is around. There is a right time and place to let the tears come out."

Although he is deprived of the familiar embrace from his mother and father, Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg, they have a constant presence in the Rosenberg home through images and stories, and they warm Moshe's life like a bright and distant sun. Weeks after the tragedy, Moshe awoke in the middle of the night and called for Sandra. The nanny sat at the little boy's bedside, held his hand, and he told his nanny that he saw his mother who knelt beside him and said, "I love you very much."

"Sandra is the only link to his past. He is very strongly connected to her," Yehudit said of the Indian nanny who risked her life by snatching the crying toddler with blood-stained clothes and running from the hostage scene that once was a Chabad House. Yet Sandra feels that her task of caring for Moshe is drawing to a close as the little boy's bond with his grandparents, who seemed almost like strangers in the initial days and weeks following the tragedy, is growing stronger.

"I felt a kind of responsibility when Moshe lost his parents, knowing that he was so attached to me. Now he has adjusted to the new surroundings and his family members just adore him," Sandra told Israel's Channel 2 news. "My home is India. I belong to India. The kid is quite attached to his grandparents now, and I would like to move on."

Indian nanny Sandra Samuel presents three-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whom she saved from the carnage of Mumbai’s Chabad House, with his birthday present.
Indian nanny Sandra Samuel presents three-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whom she saved from the carnage of Mumbai’s Chabad House, with his birthday present.

While questions about his parents are not constant, Moshe asks about his parents and waves to them every day on the way to gan as he passes a billboard with a large image of the slain couple. The billboard marks the future site of a replica of "770," as the building that houses Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, is known. The 770 in Afula has been established by the Rosenbergs as a "House of Good Deeds" that will provide free meals, dental services, clothes and toys for poor families. Unaware of the project of kindness undertaken in his parents' memory, but seeing their smiling faces every day on the way to gan, Moshe waves at his parents and sometimes asks, "Saba (Grandfather), where are Ima and Abba (Mother and Father)?"

"In heaven, Moshe," answers his grandfather.

Moshe and waves to his parents every day as he passes a billboard with a large image of the slain couple.Moshe refers to Yehudit and Shimon Rosenberg as Savta and Saba (Grandfather and Grandmother), and it is clear from his behavior at times that he knows that the familiar images of the smiling couple are his mother and father.

In the weeks prior to his upsherin, when a boy's hair is cut for the first time and when he begins to wear tzitzit, the Rosenbergs let Moshe try on his tzitzit to get used to wearing them. After putting them on, reciting the blessing and kissing the strings, he immediately ran to the large picture of his mother and put the tzitzit strings to her lips, then pointed to the picture of his father, smiled and said, "Look, I have tzitzit just like my father!"

Nachman and Freida Holtzberg, Gavriel's parents, flew from New York and visited Moshe for a month. Moshe's aunt, Rikal Kaler, described the singing in the home those weeks as Nachman led the family in many niggunim, Chassidic songs, for hours. "There was one particular niggun Gabi loved," recalls Rikal. "It was the niggun of my ancestor, Rabbi Michel of Zlotchev. This niggun also happened to have been chanted by the thousands of mourners at the burial on the Mount of Olives.

"After completing the song, my father noticed a change in Moshe's demeanor. He was in another world, a sad expression clearly visible. And so my father prepared to sing a more upbeat niggun. But before he could begin, Moshe asked that they sing the Zlotchever's niggun again. Upon finishing it, Moshe wanted to repeat the niggun yet again. They continued singing the niggun together over and over.

"That Shabbat, while sitting at the table, Moshe began singing. He was singing his father's beloved niggun."

Moshe feels the warmth of his parents' guidance and love, if only from far away in Heaven, and yet, their physical absence inspires questions. Shimon Rosenberg told Channel 2 News about an exchange with his grandson:

Moshe feels the warmth of his parents' guidance and love, if only from far away in Heaven"Where are Ima and Abba?"

"In Heaven," Rabbi Rosenberg replied.

"Why did they go to Heaven and not me?"

"They were great holy people," Rabbi Rosenberg replied. "For you it is not time yet."

"But Saba, you are a great holy person, and you are still here..."

"I had no answer," confessed Rabbi Rosenberg. "We believe that when Moshiach comes, they will be resurrected. That gives us some comfort."

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sudarshan lakhawat jaipur, India July 22, 2012

Moshe ,your parents did really loved you I believe even ,they watch you now smiling and playing .they are with you for ever and I pray to god that you too become strong as your lovely parents and your every wish come true Reply

V. Madhavan Rochester, MN April 28, 2012

Little Moshe, My heart bleeds and the sight of you crying haunt me continually. I hope you know that there are many strangers around the world that love you and wish you nothing but the best.

I have seen pictures of you in happier times and your personality and intelligence shines through. I know you are going to grow up and do great things in your life.

Just remember that there are so many people that love you very, very much. Reply

laxman rao hyderabd, india January 26, 2012

The article brings me tears, Moshe should be happy, I am requesting government to help as much as they can in all ways. Reply

Tammy B. Monroeville, Ohio January 10, 2012

I saw the PBS news on Nightline about "A Perfect Terrorist" It was terrible to see, even sadder was the decision to attack the Chabad House! This makes my heart feel sad.I am although, happy to hear that Moshe is with his biological grandparents being raised after the belief of his parents.I pray that God will supply the finances for the Chabad House to grow and thrive. God Bless! Reply

Ramnath Mokshagundam India May 5, 2011

I feel so sad for Moshe. I feel like crying every time I see his picture. Its so tragic that he lost his parents and he is still unaware of that. How old is he now? I know it is tough for him and am sure he come over it. God be with him

How ruthless were those terrorists to kill so many people. One person lost 9 of his family members on that fateful day

Sandra saved Moshe and she is simply great. Hats off to Israel that they are again honoring Sandra on their Independence day. Reply

Danielle Overland Park, KS March 27, 2011

I think this article causes tears in many. I beleive this beautiful family is still with us. They are in another dimension, still watching over us. Let Moshe feel their guidance. Reply

Cathryn Oklahoma December 2, 2010

Yes, Nanny Sandra Shmuel shines as a righteous woman and I feel it would be appropriate to honour her.

And, the little boy still needs her. He was there for the formative months of his life. She is all that remains.

I beg her to stay until he has had as many months with his grandparents as he had had with his parents.

And again I weep for his parents and their wonderful little boy.

Gd bless him!!!

And may his grandparents honor and reward Nanny Sandra Shmuel enough that she will want to stay for another two years. Then she can go home.

Gd bless them all. Reply

Walsh Bangalore, India November 27, 2010

I am following and reading the Chabad attacks and brutal killing of Moshe's most innocent parents. Every time I read Moshe's news/story my throat chokes and tears start rolling. This write up is also moving and makes me miserable and sad. I am not a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim but still I have lot of feeling and attachment to Jews as during my college days in Pune, India I had many Jew friends and instructors. Good luck and happy birthday Moshe Reply

priya November 26, 2010

You still touch our hearts and make us long that your parents come back to you. You are in my prayers, Moshe. I pray that you dont miss your parents anymore and long for them, dear. My heart still pains when i think of you.
from, Priya S, Chennai, India Reply

Priya Chennai, India November 23, 2010

Everytime I read about Moshe, my eyes well up in tears. I cannot forget the video where he cried for his Ima. I am from India and I feel very sad that this young family met with tragedy in India. Reply

Dena Gottlieb Modiin Ilit, Israel November 13, 2010

Thanks for writing this article, Miriam.
It's so sad and touching to read about Moshe, his righteous parents and his special nanny.
May our tears over this help bring Mashiach.
It's also very heartwarming to see how many Indian people connect with the Holtzbergs. Reply

Malka Benya Brighton, England via lubavitchbrighton.com November 12, 2010

Nanny Sandra Shmuel shines as a righteous woman and I feel it would be appropriate to honour her.
She feels she belongs in India and who knows what other mitzvahs await her there.
Thank G-d, Moshe is now in gan (preschool) and has loving grandparents and she is free to return to her home with honourable pride for the saving of a life. What an incredible mitzva.
This woman deserves a memorial in the Street of righteous gentiles.
May G-d bless her with all good. Reply

Cathryn Oklahoma City, Oklahoma November 10, 2010

His nanny wants to leave him.

He is not ready to be abandoned yet again.

He asks, Why are his Mommy and Daddy not with him? After all, his Grandpa is very old, and he is still here, so why not his parents?

And his grandpa has no answer.

I cried many times while trying to read this article.

Once when he showed his tzitzit to his father's photo and said he had tzitzit just like his father. It's good he had that connection, but sad that he cannot see the living Daddy praying with his tallit and tefillin.

What a terrible loss for such a little, little boy.

G-d bless the child that's got his own.

G-d bless the child that's got his own.

Please, please Sandy, stay with this boy.
You are still SO important to him.
You are his ONLY link with his living parents. You are the ONLY one that he SAW with his parents. You are EVERYthing to this child.

And if you ask your salary to be increased, it will be done. The child deserves to have you with him. Reply

Anonymous London, UK November 10, 2010

Thank you
Please can Sandra his nanny stay with him till the child has started school at 5? Reply

Igern Paris, France November 8, 2010

Yes, it's a most touching story!
G-d bless Moshe and his family and bless his parents memory Reply

Natha Pontianak, Imdonesia September 21, 2010

May be i am kind of sensitive, this article/story make me cry ... i do not know ... what best to express the feeling i have while reading it. God Bless Moshe, bless all of you Reply

Ebenezar Sundararaj Tamil Nadu, India January 22, 2010

Little Moshe, we remember you everyday, we pray for you, you are remembered in our family talks. we pray that you will be blessing to many Reply

Walsh Bangalore, India January 20, 2010

Many thanks to Chabad for keeping me informed. I wrote my comment in Nov 2009 and Chabad is still keeping my interest alive in the wellbeing of Moshe. Go ahead Moshe and his tribe, we all Indians will adopt you without changing your faith and ideals. Reply

Abhijeet Deshmukh New Delhi, India January 19, 2010

Dear Moshe, all Indians are with you... You are an inspiration.... Best luck... Reply

Arlene Yordan Ormond Beach, Fl. USA December 1, 2009

You are truly loved, little one. Blessings to you & your family. May G-d keep you well. Mazel Tov blessed one! Reply

Special section to remember the cruel murders of Gavriel (Gabi) and Rivky Holtzberg, beloved directors of Chabad of Mumbai. The story of the Holtzbergs' legacy of light.
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