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UPDATE: Mumbai-Based Rabbi and Wife Killed in Terrorist Attacks

UPDATE: Mumbai-Based Rabbi and Wife Killed in Terrorist Attacks

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Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Indian history.
Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Indian history.

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory.

Jewish communities around the world reacted with shock to the loss of the couple, who were killed Thursday at their Chabad House during an apparent standoff between Indian military forces and terrorists. Also killed at the Chabad House were kosher supervisors Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum of New York and American-Israeli Bentzion Chroman. Citing confirmation from Israel's Foreign Ministry, the English Web site of Yediot Achronot reported the identity of a fifth victim as Israeli woman Yocheved Orpaz. At least one other hostage was reportedly killed.

Through the heroic actions of his nanny, the Holtzberg's toddler son, Moshe, managed to escape many hours before Indian commandos stormed their building, known as the Nariman House, in the popular touristy neighborhood of Colaba. The Associated Press reported that the boy - whose birthday was Saturday - was unharmed, but was wearing blood-soaked pants.

"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. "As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community, as well as with visiting businesspeople.

"For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty," continued the statement. "Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started."

The Holtzbergs arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to serve the small local Jewish community, visiting businesspeople and the throngs of tourists, many of them Israeli, who annually travel to the seaside city.

Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, was born in Israel and moved to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents, when he was nine. A prodigious student, Holtzberg was a two-time champion in a competition of memorizing the Mishnah, a compendium of rabbinical laws and enactments redacted in the second century C.E.

Rivkah Holtzberg holds her son Moshe (center).
Rivkah Holtzberg holds her son Moshe (center).

He studied at yeshivas in New York and Argentina, and as a rabbinical student served communities in Thailand and China under the Summer Rabbinical Visitation Program run by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.

His 28-year-old wife, born Rivkah Rosenberg, is a native of Afula, Israel. Chayki Rosenberg described her sister as dedicated to helping Jews.

She “gives lots of classes for women at the Chabad House,” Rosenberg told The Jerusalem Post.

Friends described her as always having a positive outlook and a kind word for everyone.

Two years ago, the Holtzbergs raised funds to purchase the current location of the Rohr Chabad Center, a five-story building in Mumbai’s Colaba market area known as Narimon House. A trained ritual circumciser and slaughterer, the rabbi also conducted weddings for local Jewish couples in addition to teaching Torah classes and visiting with tourists.

His last known phone call was to the Israeli Consulate Wednesday night to report that gunmen were in his house. In the middle of the conversation, the line went dead.

The Holtzbergs joined the more than 195 people who were killed in the Wednesday night through Friday attacks, which saw at least 10 suspected Islamic terrorists come ashore in Mumbai near the Gateway of India monument. The terrorists, carrying assault rifles and grenades, quickly fanned out to a central train station, the Chabad House and other tourist locations, including several popular hotels.

According to security services, the Chabad House was a pre-selected target.

Rivkah Holtzberg cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of a Jewish ritual bath in Mumbai.
Rivkah Holtzberg cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of a Jewish ritual bath in Mumbai.

A team of 15 Chabad-Lubavitch representatives in California, New York, Washington, Israel, India and Bangkok worked the phones throughout the crisis, spending long, sleepless nights awaiting any morsel of information and working to confirm at-times conflicting reports from the field. Hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world prayed for the Holtzbergs, saying Psalms in their merit.

The local police in Mumbai and the highest reaches of the Indian government got involved, but military assault teams first concentrated their efforts on the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, where hundreds of foreign tourists were either holed up or being held hostage. When they finally entered the Chabad House on Friday, they found that the worst had occured.

Rivkah Holtzberg's parents, Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, arrived in Mumbai early Friday morning to bring their now-orphaned grandson home to family.

To contribute to a fund established to aid relief efforts in Mumbai, go to www.ChabadIndia.org.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

A press conference was given by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Educational and Social Services arms of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement, click here to view the video.



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Leah Meridian, Idaho via jewishidaho.com November 24, 2009

Actually I recorded this documentary and there was a part in it where they played a phone conversation where the mastermind was telling the grunts that killing a Jew was more valuable than killing non-Jews.

I think the documentary was fair enough - for the length of time dedicated to telling the story. I did get the impression that Chabad House was a target but I'm going to watch it again carefully. The first time seeing it was horrific and I was unable to pick up on everything.

May G-d deal with these animals, I light every Friday for Rivka, I will think of her (and Rabbi Gavvi) for the rest of my life. Reply

D. Goldstein NY, NY November 24, 2009

HBO Documentary on Mumbai Chabad Attack This "documentary", featuring actual video footage and actual phone conversations between the terrorists, does not tell the whole story. It gives the impression that terrorists just stumbled into the Chabad, when in fact they had done reconaissance (re Dennis Headly an American of Paki. heritage who posed as a Jew to stay at the chabad some time before the attack). Jews were specifically targeted in the attack and the documentary fails to show this. It also fails to acknowledge that the Jewish hostages were tortured. The failure to document these atrocities is inexcusable. Please write to HBO and protest their airing of this sanitized, misleading version of what really happened. Reply

Josh Nyc September 26, 2017
in response to D. Goldstein:

Good luck. Hollywood is trash. Reply

Dave Flinkstein London UK August 10, 2009

Mumbai Massacre The point to remember is that all who "died" are still alive elsewhere, and this includes those who killed as well as those who died. The killers have gone to a place that I would not like to see my worst enemy go to, but where they are at present is the decision of another. It is best to entertain happy thoughts of the rabbi and his wife and send them your love. Reply

yohann muigai kook nairobi, kenya August 7, 2009

long suffering Oh God bless the dead and rest their soul in eternal Glory Reply

Betti Miner San Francisco, Ca July 3, 2009

Rabbi Gavri and Rebbitizen Rivka I was so shocked when I had my Thanksgiving ruined by this senseless murder of a dedicated Rabbi and his wife. The terrorists spared little Moshe but took his little brother or sister-to be. My prayers and thoughts go with little Moshe Tzvi and the nanny who so bravely shielded him from the terror happening in the house. I have been in Israel for the past three years and staying for three months and then coming back here to the US. Only a coward would kill a rabbi and his family. Thank you Reply

mary July 3, 2009

vengence I aso agree with zvi solomons, no one should exact revenge, it will beget more sorrow, and more again. Keep looking to the future with hope in the Almighty. Reply

Ambar Raj Mumbai, India via chabadindia.org June 29, 2009

chabad mumbai ever since Jews have set foot in India, the Hindus have never persecuted them. we (Hindus & Jews) shared the scourge of the Inquisition in goa & elsewhere. let's hope & pray that such atrocities against Jews don't happen in the future, at least in my country. Reply

Dinky Dave London, Middlesex January 4, 2009

Mumbai Broken bodies perhaps, but not broken souls. Reply

D.Ray Kolkata, India via chabadindia.org December 24, 2008

Tragic Incident The attack on Nariman House was the coward act of Islamic terrorists. I could not control my tears when I saw little Moshe on the television. Hope God will keep Moshe always happy. I love you.......Moshe.........you are the child of whole world. Reply

Anonymous agoura hills, ca December 23, 2008

G-d! Blessed be the true Judge
When will moshiach finally come? Reply

Anonymous rockville, md December 21, 2008

i just so much wish for death to be no more
no more sorrow
blessed be their souls Reply

John Timothy Austin Bangalore, India December 12, 2008

The Most Revered Rabi lives on As an Indian citizen interested in Israel, I was deeply grieved to learn of the mindless murder of the Rabi Gabi and his wife in Nariman house. Only the day before the news broke out of his death, I read the Jersusalem Times online and discovered that the Rabi was an able, stable and wonderful person. I too prayed that his life would be spared.... in vain.

I offer my heart-felt condolences to the Jewish community in India and around the world. Shalom! Reply

Danny Bobrow Chicago, IL via lubavitchchabad.org December 11, 2008

How wonderful that this story continues to grow and show the love in so many peoples', of all walks, hearts and minds.

It stands as an ever growing pillar in time and space supporting the desire for peace and to overcome this tragedy.

G-d bless everyone who has taken the time to contribute. Reply

Vashi Ram Chandi Hong Kong, Hong Kong December 11, 2008

Post Reference / Respectfully, http://dogood.aish. My comments featured above pertain to the Post titled, May you always feel loved...

I do not know iIF this post was being considered objectionable? referred to? Which is what I responded to sincerely

Apologies for any mis interpretation since the post May you always feel loved. has been posted in good faith and sincerely

Respectfully, Reply

Vashi Ram Chandi Hong Kong, Hong Kong December 10, 2008

Respectfully, http://dogood.aish.com/ With respectful reference to the reaction to the post featured, I posted this after having come across the following link

I understand the sentiments and sincerely respect them, please kindly remove the post if so decided

Once again, the intention for this post is to express the anguish, it cannot be expressed in a few words alone since it encompasses a significant loss that cannot be described, it is extremely difficult to put together the words and feelings, how challenging it is to go through these very most difficult moments, what has happened should never befall anyone ever again

Respectfully Reply

Vashi Ram Chandi Hong Kong, Hong Kong December 10, 2008

May you always feel loved... May you find serenity and tranquility in a world
You may not always understand.

May the pain you have known and conflict you have experienced
Give you the strength to walk through life
Facing each new situation with courage and optimism.

Always know that there are those whose love and understanding
Will always be there, even when you feel most alone.

May you discover enough goodness in others
To believe in a world of peace.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch, a warm smile be yours
Every day of your life,
And may you give these gifts as well as receive them.

Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending.

Teach love to those who know hate,
And let that love embrace you as you go into the world.

May the teaching of those you admire become part of you,
So that you may call upon them.
Remember, those whose lives you have touched
And who have touched yours are always a part of you,
Even if the encounters were less than you would have wished.
It is the content of the encounter that is more important than it's form.

May you not become too concerned with material matters,
But instead place immeasurable value on the goodness in your heart.

Find time in each day to see the beauty and love in the world around you.

Realize that each person has limitless abilities,
But each of us is different in our own way.
What you may feel you lack in one regard
May be more than compensated for in another.
What you feel you lack in the present
May become one of your strengths in the future.

May you see your future as one filled with promise and possibility.
Learn to view everything as a worthwhile experience.

May you find enough inner strength to determine your own worth by yourself,
And not be dependent on another's judgement of your accomplishments.

May you always feel loved.

Copyright © 1987 Sandra Sturtz Hauss Reply

Rabbi Zvi Solomons Reading, UK via chabadindia.org December 10, 2008

Vengeance I have just read a post on this site which is not worthy of Chabad. It says that we should do to the murderers and their controllers what the Israelis did after Munich - that there are no such things as human rights - that Israel should go after not only the terrorist leadership but also the families - by way of revenge. This is not something which should be on this site and I am horrified that any Jew should think that this kind of thing is acceptable. Horrified, but not surprised.

Please note my previous post. I pray that Moshe Tzvi will be able to grow up with the true love which typifies Chabad, and not with the hate embodied in a post advocating vile base animal blood-lust. Reply

Nachiket Mumbai, India December 10, 2008

Samule's own children Both Samule's children are adults, if I am not wrong.

So Moshe needs her more genuinely.

And she must have gone with a mature consent of her sons. She may be able to financially better support them working abroad for a while. Reply

Lindy via chabadwestside.org December 9, 2008

nanny Not sure what you're talking about, but I beleive the nanny's children are grown. I am still waiting for information on a fund set up to provide for her needs. Reply

Yossef Levin Montreal, Canada December 9, 2008

I myself did not know them but what happened gives me shock -- how can people not care about their fellow? my opinion is that this is an attack on the Rebbe these are his shluchim! why is this happening? A women was pregnant five months how can they kill her? I do not know... I am very shocked... Reply

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