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VIDEO – The Holtzbergs Were Special People

mhh.jpg[HEART-BREAKING VIDEO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE] After commandos secured the building, Israelis were permitted to enter the building, the Mumbai Chabad House. On the first floor they found the body of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg HY”D. He had been shot in his head and chest. On the second floor was found the body of his wife, Rebbitzin Rivka HY”D, who was also murdered from point blank range. Her body was covered with a tallis, which officials believe Rav Gavriel managed to do before being taken to be executed by his captors. Five years the young couple worked laboriously to bring Yiddishkeit to Mumbai. They were together in life and in death.

The vision was one of horror, giving testimony to the murderous intentions of the terrorists. Just hours after one of the occupants of the building waved a tallis from a window, the carnage became evident to those who found the bodies, some bound and gagged. Blood-stained sifrei Torah were witness to the horrors. A picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L was found amid the chaotic bloodied scene, on the floor, unbroken.

Rivka’s parents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg were already in Mumbai. They were taking care of 2-year-old Moishe Tzvi, who was rescued by a family caretaker, Sandra.

On Shabbos, Moishe celebrated his second birthday with the Rosenbergs, his bubbie and zaide. Moishe really does not know them because they live in Eretz Yisrael. Moishe does not want to leave Sandra’s arms, the only person who remains from his short life with whom he is familiar. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef Aaronoff, the director of Tzeirei Chabad, is working to arrange for Sandra to come to Israel to accompany Moishe.

Unfortunately, to the elders, the Holtzberg and Rosenberg grandparents, tragedy is no stranger. Three years ago, the eldest of Rav Gavriel and Rivka, Menachem Mendel, died of illness. Another child remains in a long-term rehabilitation facility in Eretz Yisrael with a difficult disease as well.

Avraham Holtzberg, Gavriel’s brother, explains that his brother and wife were special people, people that were not interested in traveling, making money or the finer things in life. Their only interest was to spread yiddishkeit and chassidus. “Their door was always open. They received everyone with a smile” he adds in a pained voice.

As soon as the Rosenbergs, who live in Afula, heard of what was taking place they began making arrangements to travel to Mumbai. Their youngest, Chayke, spent Shabbos with an older sister.

Shortly before Shabbos, Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman Shlita, rav of Migdal Ha’emek was made aware of the deaths of the Holtzbergs, but he withheld the information from the family in Eretz Yisrael until after Shabbos. While most in Eretz Yisrael were quite aware of the reality, the Rav did not give the confirmed information until motzei Shabbos.

In a live interview moments before candle lighting in Eretz Yisrael, the Rav told Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) “The heart cries but the brain says time for Shabbos,” calling on Am Yisrael to accept the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael and to tear down the barriers of Sephardim, Ashkenazim and so-forth.

The Knesset committee in charge of special ceremonies will convene on Sunday to begin making arrangements for the funerals.

17 Responses

  1. This hurts so so much….This is so heartbreaking. Just trying to imagine the scene is almost impossible. The Rabbi having to cover the body of his wife? How can one even begin to fathom that? We must learn Ahavas Yisroel & caring for one another from these special people. These yidden had love for any jew in the best & worst of times. May they be an example to everyone of us. Learn to love one another. We are all one. Hashem Yirachem. Bisuros Tovos.

  2. Unbelievable, one family with so much tzoros, they lost one child, another is ill, and now they have lost their own life, they most have been spacial neshomos, suffering for Klal Yisroel, this reminds me of the עשרי הרגי מלכות

  3. My heart has been smashed to pieces by this brutal senseless evil. Gavriel’s last devotion to Rivka speaks much louder than all the evil of the world, may we listen to their example.

  4. i think phone clals should be made to the israeli consulate, to demand immediate israeli citizenship to this tzades mehaumos haolam, sandra! even if she does not take it, and decides to remain in india, the citizenship should still be made. the state of israel has given citizenship for the righteous among teh nation through yad vashem. what good is doing that, if we dont continue to bestow this award on people in this generation, who risk their lives without monetary gain, which is the condition of citizenship, to save a jewish life. the phone number is (212) 499-5000 (press 1 for Consular Services).

  5. a letter written on the shluchos forum. the shluchim and shluchos communicate with one another via their forums.
    Letter For “our nephew” Moshe

    Dear Moishe,

    My wound is fresh, my tears have not yet dried, and my heart is broken
    but still I want to wish you a Happy Birthday. I thought of you on
    your 2nd Birthday and so did thousands of other Mommies. Your mommy
    was probably planning a beautiful birthday party for you in your
    Chabad house, singing “Happy Birthday” at your Shabbos table while you
    clapped in delight as all the Shabbos guests joined in, smiling and
    admiring your absolute cuteness. Then she and Tatti would lovingly hug
    you and shower you with millions of kisses and bentch you in front of
    everyone that you should grow to be a Chassidishe boy a Yiras Shomayim
    and a soldier in Hashem’s Army and the Rebbe’s army, but the Aibishter
    had other plans for your parents and the Birthday was not a happy one.
    Your Upshernish, Bar Mitzvah and every birthday in between and after
    will be also your heilige parents Yartzeit! Moishele you are the
    Mumbai Miracle, thanks to Sandra and the Aibishter who guarded and
    saved you. You are here because you will be the living legacy for your
    parents and carry on all that they stood for. You have their koichois
    within you! Although you are way too young to understand, one day soon
    you will realize your parents are kedoishim and gave their lives Al
    Kiddush Hashem Mamosh. They lived in India, far from friends and
    Bubbies and Zeides and relatives. They sacrificed all comforts of
    living back home where kosher food, Chassidishe education, and decent
    living surroundings are readily available, all to be able to bring
    Yiddishkeit to any person traveling or living in India. Moishele, in
    the five years your parents lived there do you know how many lives
    they’ve touched? So many people put on Tefillin, light shabbos
    candles, and keep kosher all because of your mommy and tatty. So many
    people have written stories and letters about your parents and how
    special and amazing they are. People around the world even those who
    don’t know them, love them and feel pain and at a loss of words that
    they are gone. For me, dear Moishele I have no words of comfort to
    express to you, that you have lost both your parents. I feel as if I
    lost a brother and sister. I feel as if you are my nephew. My children
    feel as if you are one of them. Moishele, the only words of comfort
    that we can offer you is that wherever you go in this world whether it
    is anywhere in the United States, China, Russia, Australia, Africa,
    Israel, Canada, or anywhere in Europe you will always have thousands
    of “mommies and tatties” “brothers and sisters” who will welcome you
    with open arms and loving hearts just like your parents did for every
    single person. In memory of your parents we will all fight harder and
    stronger in the Rebbe’s army. We will do more and encourage others to
    do more. In the last few days thousands of people around the world
    said extra tehillem, did an extra mitzvah, lit Shabbos candles,
    accepted tefillin, and determined to do extra acts of kindness all in
    the z’chus of your parents. You see, your parents continue doing
    shlichus even from shomayim, they don’t give up. Moishele when I tuck
    my kinderlach into bed at night I will think of you. When I read them
    a story, say Shema, and turn off the light I will think of you. When I
    hug my youngest son Shneur Zalman who is your age, your image will
    also be in my mind. Your parents were a part of MY family and you will
    always be MY family. You may have lost your biological parents but you
    have over 3500 “mommies and tatties” around the globe. We love you
    Moishele and you will always be on our minds. May Hashem avenge the
    blood of your parents and send us the Geulah immediately, so you can
    be reunited with your real mommy and tatty once again.

    With lots of love and heartfelt emotion,
    Shlucha and Mother,
    Tzippy Weiss
    Miami Lakes, Fl

  6. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef Aaronoff, the director of Tzeirei Chabad, is such a tzaddik! This is exactly the right thing to do- Sandra is a widow, and all she has is Moishy. She lived in the Chabad House. Moishy is very attached to Sandra, and was with her all the time.
    I agree with the comment that Israel should give her citizenship.
    I’m concerned also about other members of the Chabad staff there- Renu and Jackie and others. Some lived there, and none have any other source of income for their families.

  7. Gavriel & Rivka Holtzberg z”l
    From a personal tribute by Benjamin Holzman, ex-Habonimnik from Sydney, 28/11/08:

    …I lived in Mumbai for 6 months last year, and would go to the Beit Chabad with friends for a Shabbat meal about every second week. Over the course of 6 months, we got to know the Rabbi and his wife quite well.

    They were wonderful people; warm, inviting and engaging. Gabi would get visibly excited to have so many guests for Shabbat, you could tell it really made his week. He would have a grin on his face almost the entire meal, including during his Dvar Torah. He was always so eager to create a communal feeling that he insisted everyone go around the table and say a few words to the group, giving guests 4 options: either delivering a Dvar Torah, relating an inspirational story, declaring to take on a mitzvah, or leading a song.

    As most of the guests were Israeli backpackers and other passers-through, they might have found this quite novel. For us regulars, it was just Gabi’s shtick. I can still hear him reciting those 4 options to the group now, as if he had discovered some miraculous way to make everyone involved in the Shabbat with no escape, impressed by his own genius week in and out. He had a devilish smile, you could really see the child still in him, just beneath the surface.

    Gabi was also exceptionally thoughtful. Though most of the guests were Israeli, Gabi would give his Dvar Torah in English for the sake of the few of us English-speakers there with sketchy Hebrew, so we’d understand. Sometimes he spoke line by line first in English, then Hebrew. Gabi would start discussions and made it his personal mission to get everyone talking, to make a group of disconnected Jews feel like a family. It worked. That was Gabi.

    Rivki was a certified sweetheart. She’d generally sit apart from Gabi, to spread herself out, and usually sat with the girls. She too relished Friday night dinners—I think she needed her weekly female bonding time. She’d talk to the girls about the challenges of keeping kosher in India, and share exciting new finds at the market together. You could tell she was far from home, in this dense Mumbai jungle, but she was tough and really made the best of it. She would balance Gabi’s presence, occasionally making comments to people at her table while Gabi was speaking. Not as a sign of disrespect, but to keep the people around her having a good time, perhaps in the same way a youth group counsellor would, when the kids were bored by another counsellor. That was Rivki. Brave, fun-loving, and super sweet.

    Perhaps the greatest testament to their character was simply the fact that they lived in downtown Mumbai for years on end. Having lived there for just 6 months, I understand how incredibly taxing just existing in the city is. Even when trying to relax, the city still seems to suck the life out of you. Living as Westerners in modest conditions in the thick of Mumbai, with the restrictions of kashrut and Shabbat, is certainly no small feat.

    I’m not sure if they were thrilled with their placement in Mumbai, but they certainly made a good go of it. They were only a few years older than me, in their late 20s, and despite being far from friends and family and perhaps not in the most exciting Chabad placement (compared to Bangkok, Bogota or Bondi), they kept positive and built a beautiful bastion of Jewey goodness. They chose a life that demonstrated such altruism and care, in the truest sense. The Mumbai Chabad really made a difference to my time in India, and made me feel that much more at home in such a foreign country….

    …Chabad lost two soldiers today, emissaries and keepers of the Jewish people. Let us honour their work and their lives in our prayers, in our thoughts, and in our deeds, and let us pray for the families of the dozens of other victims of these attacks. May all souls rest in peace, and may we see an end to violence in our time. [Amen

  8. I agree that all should be done for sandra, showing her hakaras hatov etc.but the question is whether it is a good idea for sandra to be part of his life. He will go to e”y,live with family etc.

  9. First of all, my greatest sympathies to all the families who lost friends and relatives around the world.
    Also, i feel that ther remaining frum people in Mumbai should be helped financially and emotionally during this time to rebuild that which has beeen destroyed. They should be given support, and helped through this diffucult time.

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