Rabbi terror victim doing heroic work: Queens Chabads

By Nathan Duke

Northeast Queens rabbis in the Chabad−Lubavitch movement said they were heartbroken after hearing news that a Brooklyn rabbi and his wife were killed in last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai and urged members of the movement to continue practicing good deeds.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivka, 28, were among the more than 150 people killed during a series of terrorist attacks in India last week. The couple, who had served the Mumbai Jewish community for five years, had two children, both of whom are currently with relatives.

The couple’s 2−year−old, who was covered in his parents’ blood following the attack and rescued by his Indian nanny, cried for his mother at a Mumbai memorial service Monday.

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.

Rabbis from Bayside and Little Neck said they did not know Holtzberg but were shocked and saddened by the parents’ death.

“Right now is a time of mourning and grieving,” said Rabbi Eli Shifrin of the Chabad of Little Neck. “[Holtzberg] was 29 years old and now has a 2−year−old child who won’t have a parent. It’s a tragedy that such a young life should be lost like this. It’s heart−wrenching.”

Shifrin said the Holtzbergs would aid young backpackers who visited their Mumbai chabad. The city has a Jewish community that dates back several hundred years.

Shifrin said members of the movement should not be deterred from helping others.

“We should not be controlled by terror and continue to do good deeds in this world for everyone,” he said. “We should continue to help others look for spiritual guidance.”

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, of Bayside’s Chabad of Northeast Queens, said the Holtzbergs’ children were staying with grandparents in Israel. He said there will be fund−raising efforts to provide money for the couple’s children.

Blesofsky said the chabad movement was a “spiritual peace corps.” He said the couple was brave for setting up their own operation so far away from home.

“The guys who go to the far−flung corners of the globe are very special,” he said. “You have to pick up your family and move to India or Thailand or Siberia, where living conditions are not that sympathetic. That takes a certain amount of self−sacrifice. Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife were heroes.”

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

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