A year after terrorists stormed Mumbai, India’s Chabad House and murdered six of its Jewish occupants, hundreds of children all over the world bear the names of the center’s slain directors, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. In addition, over the past year, the Holtzbergs’ fellow Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries have presided over the opening of dozens of institutions established in their memory.

From his home in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg keeps a list of babies, centers and programs named after his son and daughter-in-law. He says the vast number of Gavriel Noachs and Rivkas in the world is a poignant tribute to a couple who dedicated their lives to helping thousands of Jewish businesspeople, travelers and residents of all backgrounds in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai.

“Gavriel and Rivky brought light to India,” says the father. “They lived there with a mission: to bring Jews back to G‑d.”

Hadassa Klein, a 29-year-old teacher, says that after her daughter was born, naming her Rivka was natural.

“My husband and I had only vaguely discussed naming our child after Gavriel or Rivka Holtzberg, but when my daughter was born, I looked at her and knew she had to be Rivkah,” explains Klein. “I’d never met her, but it felt like a real honor to name our child after someone who had done so much good.”

Using pictures submitted by parents, the Jewish Web site Chabad.org launched this week a photo album of a portion of the children, including Gavriel Noach Wilhelm and Rivkah Bow, believed to be the first babies to be named after the fallen emissaries. The album also includes Gavriel Noach van Loon, who in March of this year, at the age of 63, adopted the name after undergoing a ritual circumcision.

“I never met Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg,” explained van Loon, a Netherlands resident, at the time, “but I was very affected by the way in which he and his wife were brutally murdered.”

Gavriel Noach Wilhelm is believed to be the first baby named after Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg.
Gavriel Noach Wilhelm is believed to be the first baby named after Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg.

No Question

On the other side of the world, mother of four Chaya Rosenfeld says that her son’s circumcision coincided with the end of a 30-day mourning period for the Holtzbergs and their four Jewish guests who perished in the attack.

“A month had passed since the attack, and my husband and I wondered if we should name our son Gavriel,” details Rosenfeld. “We had discussed it earlier and it seemed like a good idea, but a month later, we found ourselves stopping to reconsider.

“Then we thought back to when the attacks happened, and how we wouldn’t have thought twice about it,” she adds. “And that’s when we realized there was no question after all. Painful things happen all the time, but that shouldn’t stop us from feeling numb and forgetting. It’s our job on earth to remember.”

Klein echoes Rosenfeld’s point: “Naming our daughter Rivkah is a constant reminder to what happened, to the incredible people who died while doing the work of G‑d.”

Holtzberg himself regards each of the babies with a small, personal joy.

Rivkah Citrin is believed to be the first to be named after Rivka Holtzberg.
Rivkah Citrin is believed to be the first to be named after Rivka Holtzberg.

“All the children named Gavriel feel like my Gavriel,” he says. “In a way, it feels like my son's life continues.”

In addition to the parents who have chosen for the Holtzbergs’ memory to carry on through their own children, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and Jewish communities stretching from the Caribbean Sea to Australia, Jerusalem to Washington, have established or renamed centers honoring the couple and their self-sacrifice. The list, of which a part can be viewed in a Mumbai tribute section on Chabad.org, includes synagogues, preschools, and a hospitality home for families of Jewish hospital patients near the Albert Einstein Medical Center in New York City.

The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick, N.Y., established a fund named after the Holtzbergs to provide financial help to parents of children enrolled in the center’s preschool. Rabbi Shimon Kramer, the center’s director, says that the thought behind the initiative was inspired by the Holtzbergs’ son Moshe, who was orphaned just before his second birthday.

“Moishele is so young and touched everyone’s hearts,” explains the rabbi. “We wanted to do something for Moishele himself, to honor him in some way.”

For his part, Holtzberg says that such efforts should preserve the feelings of goodwill generated in the wake of the attacks, and strengthen Jewish pride.

“Above everything, we need to remain strong and united. We must continue to grow as a nation,” says the father. “G‑d forbid their sacrifice should be for nothing.”