Twenty-five rabbis from across Asia, including Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong, were present at the ceremony to mark the reopening of the six-storey refurbished centre, one of the city’s landmarks ravaged during the 59-hour mayhem by 10 young Pakistani terrorists who brought Mumbai down to its knees on November 26, 2008.
The assault on the Chabad House, also known as the Nariman House, in a narrow bustling lane in Colaba in south Mumbai, had left six people dead, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivika, who ran the centre.
The couple had come to Mumbai in 2003 to serve the local Jewish community. However, Moshe, the two-year-old son of the Holtzbergs, was saved by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel and the family’s handyman-cum-cook Qazi Zakir Hussain alias Jackie, a Muslim.
Moshe now lives in Israel with his grandparents and Sandra moved with him to take care of the orphaned child. The Israeli government honoured her with the title of ‘Righteous Gentile’, the highest award presented to non-Jews. It was a poignant day for all present, especially Rabi Nachman Holtzberg, father of Gavriel.
“It’s a very special day for his family and friends. Everybody remembers that terrifying day and the tragedy. The couple had spread the message of goodness, hope, tolerance and love. We need to ensure that their mission to spread love continues to grow. I would like to thank all those who stood with us,” a solemn Holtzberg said.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice- chairman of Merkos L’lnyonei Chinuch, the Jewish group’s educational arm, which helped rebuild the centre, described the reopening as “a moment of tears as also of joy”.
“We will not fight terror with AK 47, not with grenades. We will fight by spreading love. I had pledged rebuilding. We will continue their (the late couple’s) legacy,” he said.
“I think this is really a message for the whole world. You can overcome even the most horrific of challenges,” he said adding that “this project serves as a beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail. We did not leave Mumbai since the attacks.”