All eyes were on Moshe, the two-year-old son of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka (z”l) at an homage ceremony organized by the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai, held yesterday. Moshe, who was rescued by his nanny during a siege of the Mumbai’s Chabad House and the subsequent murder of his parents, repeated “Ima, Ima, eifo Ima?” (“Mommy, mommy…where’s mommy?”). Antony Korenstein, JDC’s Country Director for India who attended the ceremony, described the scene as “heartrending.”
Coordinated terrorist assaults in Mumbai, India on Wednesday, November 26, shocked the country’s commercial capital and the world at large. The brutal attack on the Chabad House in the Colaba district, which took the lives of six Jews—including Gavi and Rivka—has shaken the local and global Jewish community. In a community like India, where Jews have lived for thousands of years in relative peace among their neighbors, the impact of these attacks is indelible. JDC is saddened and shaken by the horrific acts and extends its condolences to the families of the victims.
Upon news of the siege, JDC, with its history of responding in times of crisis, mobilized quickly to ensure the safety of the local Jewish community, JDC staff and volunteers, and assisted in helping locate missing individuals. JDC’s local office and the JDC-sponsored Jewish Community Center—though located a substantial distance from the Chabad House—closed during the attacks. But even in the midst of the horror and uncertainty, essential services such as Meals-on-Wheels for homebound Jewish elderly continued. JDC’s three Jewish Service Corps volunteers in India were evacuated at the height of the crisis and remain overseas. JDC is currently assessing whether conditions now allow for their safe return.
JDC initiated a meeting of leaders and representatives from the full spectrum of local Jewish community organizations and movements, who demonstrated a“sense of urgency and purpose,” according to Korenstein.“The events of the past few days have been shocking and horrifying, and the leaders were pleased for the opportunity to come together to begin formulating a common response,” he added.
Further collaboration will be facilitated by JDC to ensure the safety of the Indian Jewish community and its institutions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
The bodies of the Rabbi and his wife have been flown back to Israel, but local Jewish community leaders will hold a memorial service for Gavi and Rivka next week. Along with the rest of the city, JDC operations in Mumbai returned to normal yesterday (Monday). And though life has resumed and a heartbeat has returned to the bustling city, something has changed—for India, for Mumbai, and for the country’s 4,500 Jews.