On November 26, 2008 at 9:45 p.m., two terrorists stormed the Chabad House in Mumbai, India. When I heard a CNN news report that members of Nariman House were being held hostage, I could barely breathe. I keeled over needing to cry, but my tears were stuck. Over the next few days I sat glued to the news, wrought with anxiety and I could not sleep at night.

I emailed Gabi and Rivky to make sure they were okay, and just waited for a response. I kept trying to convince myself they were just "unconscious" as Sandra Samuel, their nanny who survived, had told reporters. It was just before Shabbat when the media released the unfortunate state of the hostages. Amongst the dead were Gabi, Rivky, their unborn child and four guests. Sandra miraculously saved Moshe.

I returned to Mumbai this summer, and for the first three weeks of my stay, I avoided the Chabad House and its surroundingsI returned to Mumbai this summer, and for the first three weeks of my stay, I avoided the Chabad House and its surroundings. On Tisha b'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, I made my way over to Nariman House. What I witnessed had already been through rounds of "clean up," yet it still felt like walking slowly through hell. There were thousands of bullet marks and gaping holes from grenade explosions covering the smoke stained walls, ceilings and floors. The air was a vile mixture of cleaning fluid and mildew. Bathroom mirrors were shattered and bullet riddled furniture lay in discarded piles. The blown out elevator sunk into the first floor and looked like a contorted piece of depressing modern art.

Every inch, every single corner of Nariman House had been defiled, except for baby Moshe's room. There was a single bullet in his bedroom window that did not penetrate the glass. His walls looked the way I saw them last, painted blue with Rivky's hand-painted aleph bet lining the perimeter of the room. I also saw that she was keeping track of Moshe's height in colored marker on the doorframe.

I walked slowly through each room as if participating in some surreal procession. There were pigeons in most of the rooms, either flying around or perched on broken windowpanes. My friend who was with me claimed the souls of the deceased sometimes return as pigeons and visit the places they once stood as human beings. I began to cry as I entered Gabi and Rivky's bedroom and saw two pigeons cheerfully cooing at one another. I saw Gabi and Rivky's worn shoes lined up neatly on a shoe rack; reminiscent of haunting images I've seen from visiting concentration camps in Poland.

I walked through the house in a fog and trying to put together the details. Where did everyone die? Did they suffer? Were they tortured? What were their last thoughts? Where was Moshe the whole time, and how did he survive? How did the terrorist find out about Chabad? Why did it take so many hours to organize rescue efforts? My questions remain endless… the answers, short in coming.

After ascending to the 5th floor, we reached the rooftop deck, where commandos landed and stormed the house in a vain attempt to rescue hostages. Amidst the rubble from the destruction of this holy place where innocent lives had been taken, we read Megillat Eichah, the Book of Lamentations. For the first time, my tears on Tisha b'Av were all too real and personal.

In the summer of 2008, I had traveled to Mumbai to participate in a Global Health seminar and to gather data from local Indians for my psychology thesis. With limited resources to accommodate my religious observance and kosher diet, I was blessed with the accidental fortune of meeting Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg. At first, they looked like a typical Lubavitch couple, the kind you might run into on the streets of Crown Heights. But the Holtzbergs, I soon learned, were anything but typical.

The Holtzbergs, I soon learned, were anything but typicalI was one of thousands of transient Jews to be showered with the Holtzbergs' hospitality. Admittedly, I was initially dubious of their warmth, suspecting that they might be harboring plans for me to become Lubavitch by the end of my trip. But I was wrong. None of the thousands of Jewish businessmen, backpackers, honeymooners and soul searchers who passed through Chabad of Mumbai were ever pushed into adopting the Holtzbergs' religious lifestyle. Like me, they were all the fortunate recipients of a unique friendship with two extraordinary people, who offered Jewish comfort food, cozy beds and life lessons stemming from Jewish philosophy and law. The purpose of my trip may have been academic, but my encounter with Gabi and Rivky was certainly a highlight.

Just after Tisha b'Av of 2008, we said our goodbyes. I was excited to embark on a two-week adventure around the mysterious landscape of India, but saddened to be leaving the perpetually cheerful company of Gabi and Rivky. During our travels, Rivky would call every few days just to make sure that we were safe. Her concern showed me that she was a real friend, and that our relationship was not limited to her providing "Jewish travelers' needs."

Upon returning to New York, I tried to hold onto my Mumbai experiences via patchy email and phone correspondence with the Holtzbergs. The emails couldn't transport me back to the Shabbat table at Nariman House, but I knew I wanted to keep these wonderful people in my life. On November 19th, Rivky wrote on my Facebook wall as we were trying to coordinating a phone date. Unfortunately, I was unable to buy a phone card in time. We never spoke again.

Then, in the summer of 2009, Yeshiva University gave me the opportunity to return to Mumbai for the Global Health course and to continue gathering data for my thesis. I was hesitant, but something compelled me to return. Even the flight to India was emotionally taxing. I couldn't help but feel that revisiting Nariman House would only serve to brutally erase my idyllic memories.

I longed to return to the environment I'd left behind: a sisterly welcome from Rivky, with little Moshe peeking from around her hip. Gabi would be inside, I imagined, just getting off a phone call, and he'd say, "I can't believe how fast time has gone since we last saw each other." Before long he'd share his renovation plans for the Chabad House as Moshe played with his trucks and Rivky prepared some tea.

I spent this summer in Mumbai adjusting to the fact that what I had seen last year was the "Old Chabad," and that there was now a "New Chabad" in place. Along with my fellow travelers, I was fortunate to greet the new Chabad representatives upon their arrival. But my first Shabbat there was difficult. The new rabbi wanted to keep Gabi's traditions alive, and he had each guest introduce him or herself, tell a story, start a song, share a Torah thought, or talk about a mitzvah (commandment) her or she was trying to work on. Many of the guests had known Gabi and Rivky, and they reminisced about the Holtzbergs, while thanking the new representatives for their courage in keeping Chabad of Mumbai alive.

I longed to return to the environment I'd left behind: a sisterly welcome from Rivky, with little Moshe peeking from around her hipOver the course of the summer, I observed the transition and progress of the new representatives as they worked to create a comforting atmosphere of their own and provide guests with a space in which to remember Gabi and Rivky, to celebrate our strength as a people and to inspire Jewish observance.

When I said goodbye to the Holtzbergs after Tisha b'Av in 2008, I did not know that I would never walk to synagogue with Gabi again. I couldn't know that never again would I enjoy the sight of him in his black coat and hat shuffling through throngs of colorfully dressed Indian women and chai-sipping men in Mumbai's bazaars; that Rivky and I would not have another heart to heart in the kitchen while preparing Israeli salad for Friday night dinner. Nor could I imagine that I would never again see little Moshe standing on a chair sporting his bowtie and patent leather Shabbat shoes—holding Gabi's hand as he recited kiddush on Shabbat.

I remember once observing Gabi and Rivky as they studied Torah together. Rivky leaned toward Gabi, the two peering closely into a book. They seemed happy to have this rare moment to relax and draw inspiration from each other, and from the text.

Maybe they are learning together in heaven now.