Diverse cultures of Queens condemn Mumbai attacks

Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center, prepares to speak at Bayside’s Queensborough Community College during a memorial service for people killed during the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks. Photo by Joshua Zirschky
By Nathan Duke

Representatives across numerous borough faiths gathered at Bayside’s Queensborough Community College last week to condemn the late November terrorist attacks in Mumbai and commemorate the 172 victims who died, including a Brooklyn rabbi and his wife.

More than 20 speakers representing the borough’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jain communities, as well as diplomats and Queens elected officials, spoke out against the attacks and signed a condemnation of terrorism before lighting 18 candles, each of which honored 10 of the tragedy’s victims.  Indian government estimates of the death count were lowered in the recent days. Nearly 300 people were estimated to have been injured in the attacks.

“The basis of a group of young men mounting an attack on innocent victims and killing indiscriminately is the consequence of prejudice,” said Queensborough President Eduardo Marti. “Let us be the beacon of civility in a troubled world.”

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) drew a comparison between the Mumbai attacks and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

“We realized that there are people in the world who do not share our values,” he said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100 people. “If there are countries where terrorists are hiding, they must root them out or we will do it for them. Mumbai’s fight is our fight.”

Bayside’s Rabbi Yosef Blesofsky, director of the Chabad House of North East Queens, said Brooklyn’s Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, who was killed with his wife, Rivka, during the attacks, helped thousands of people at his chabad in Mumbai. The Holtzberg’s 2-year-old son, Moshe, survived the attacks and is now staying with his grandparents in Israel.

“All of us must respond to these attacks by showing as many acts of kindness as we can — those will be our weapons and the best way to memorialize those killed in the Mumbai massacre,” Blesofsky said.

The Holtzbergs had been emissaries for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a Brooklyn-based group dedicated to reviving traditional Judaism across the lines of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox affiliations.

Ruthie Golan said the Holtzbergs, with whom she became close friends, always made her feel at home in the chabad house.

“It was a community and a home and it was open to everyone,” she said. “You’d see business men, students, backpackers and even ex-prisoners all sitting at the same table.”

Speakers from the borough’s Muslim community condemned the Nov. 27 attacks and said the world would not live in fear of terrorism.

“An attack on innocent civilians is an attack on all of civilization,” said Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center. “Terrorists do not know God. We cannot let them undermine us or distill fear among the people.”

Borough President Helen Marshall said the attacks hit close to home for a number of Queens residents.

“When tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, someone is left grieving in Queens,” she said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.


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