A mix of emotions ran freely at the Chabad-Lubavitch center serving Israel’s Technion University as more than 500 students, faculty and area residents turned out to dedicate a new Torah scroll written in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the fallen directors of Mumbai, India’s Chabad House, and the four other victims found there.

“It was very vibrant, very electric,” said third-year medical student Marshall Rovner. “Everybody was happy.”

Nevertheless, the Lehigh Valley, Pa., native felt conflicted when he considered the pain endured five months ago by Rivka Holtzberg’s older brother, Rabbi Yosef Rosenberg, who directs Chabad of the Technion and Ramot.

“Given the circumstances that brought this about, it was sort of bittersweet,” Rovner, 26, said of the occasion, which was attended by Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, Israeli Minister of Science Daniel Hershkowitz, and Haifa Chief Rabbis She’ar Yashuv Cohen and Shlomo Chelouche. “But one can’t help feeling joy for this family.

“Still, losing your parents is just sad,” he added, pointing to two-year-old Moshe, the Holtzbergs’ orphaned son, who is now being raised by his grandparents in Afula, Israel, and attended the Torah dedication.

Rovner said that in the days and weeks after the November attacks, the community rallied around Rosenberg.

“I felt really horrible, all of us did,” said the student. “We were in a state of shock.”

Kissing the Torah

The ceremony last week was designed to take some of that pain and shock and channel it into positive energy, said organizers. A friend of Rosenberg’s had approached him just before Purim, offering to dedicate a Torah in memory of the rabbi’s sister and brother-in-law.

When they found out about the celebration, students throughout the Technion, an elite scientific institution, decided to come as a tribute to those lost in Mumbai.

Michal Morgenstern, who is pursuing her master’s degree in environmental engineering, attended the event with friends and neighbors from the school’s graduate housing.

“They came to be a part of the celebration and honor Gabi and Rivky’s memory,” said Morgenstern, whose cousin in South America was a regular at the Holtzbergs’ Chabad House during his travels through India. The Mumbai tragedy “affected everybody. It touched a lot of people.”

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, father of slain Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rivka Holtzberg, holds a Torah scroll dedicated in her memory.
Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, father of slain Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rivka Holtzberg, holds a Torah scroll dedicated in her memory.

Dancing and singing along the way, hundreds of people accompanied the new Torah scroll to the Chabad House, where a youth program with stories and prizes greeted the estimated 100 children who joined the procession.

“It was a beautiful event,” said Morgenstern, who also works for the Israeli Air Force. “A lot of people brought their children to come see the Torah.”

For her part, Morgenstern took her toddler Nessia. That night, when they recounted the day’s events, the daughter acted out kissing the Torah.

“Kids really get a lot out of it,” said Morgenstern, “even at a young age.”

For his part, Rosenberg surveyed the scene and proclaimed that his sister would be happy.

“It was beyond anyone’s expectations,” he said of the turnout. “Beyond the fact that it is any emissary’s dream to have a Torah dedication at their Chabad House, that this was done for the elevation of Rivky’s and Gabi’s souls makes it so very meaningful and powerful.”