Vigil For American Rabbi Killed In Mumbai

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Among the Americans killed in the Mumbai terrorist attacks was an ultra-orthodox rabbi and his Israeli wife. Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg was found dead after Indian commandos stormed a Jewish community center in the city. The center was one of 10 targets attacked on Wednesday.


Next, we go to India and the latest on the attacks in Mumbai. Indian commandos are fighting at least one remaining gunman at the Taj Hotel. Since the attacks were launched Wednesday, at least 150 people have been killed, and the names of the American casualties are beginning to come out. In a moment, we'll hear the story of a father and daughter from Virginia; both were shot to death. First, Indian security forces stormed the Jewish Community Center today, where attackers had taken hostages. Inside, they found five bodies. Among the dead were the young couple in charge of the center, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. They were part of an ultra-orthodox group based in Brooklyn. NPR's David Folkenflik sent this report from the group's headquarters.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement streamed into the synagogue at its headquarters in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights today to pray, hoping against hope that the Holtzbergs and the others held hostage might somehow emerge alive.

(Soundbite of crowd talking)

FOLKENFLIK: Rabbi Abraham Leader(ph) said Holtzberg's family was headed to Israel.

Rabbi ABRAHAM LEADER (Chabad-Lubavitch): What I saw these last few days, the suffering of the family - the sisters and the father and the mother - I took them last night to the airport. To see them crying - they don't know what's going on.

FOLKENFLIK: But official word came later. Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky oversees Chabad's educational efforts around the world, and he spoke during a press conference at a nearby museum.

(Soundbite of press conference, November 28, 2008)

Rabbi YEHUDA KRINSKY (Chabad-Lubavitch): This news is fresh and the wound is raw. Words are inadequate to express our outrage and deep pain at this tragic act of cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children fueled by causeless hatred.

FOLKENFLIK: Gavriel Holtzberg's last known telephone call went to an official at the Israeli consulate. He revealed there were gunmen in the center and then the phone went dead. Five years ago moved to Mumbai to tend to Jewish residents, tourists and business travelers. They raised money to pay for land for what became called Nariman House. Rabbi Krinsky said it was a big success.

Rabbi KRINSKY: In a very short time, their home and center became a thriving hub of goodness and kindness, as they dispensed their blend of gracious openheartedness to the local Jewish community and to thousands of tourists and businesspeople who frequented Mumbai.

FOLKENFLIK: Rabbi Holtzberg was 29. He grew up in Crown Heights. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky spoke tearfully of him at the press conference.

(Soundbite of press conference, November 28, 2008)

Rabbi MOSHE KOTLARSKY (Chabad-Lubavitch): Never saw him without a smile. In the most trying of times, he was always cheerful. He greeted everyone pleasantly and the reports that we've always heard from around the world was one of a real Mensch.

FOLKENFLIK: His Israeli-born wife Rivka was 28. Her parents are traveling from Israel to Mumbai to take custody of the slain couple's infant child, who was rescued unharmed by his nanny. Upstairs at the second floor of the Lubavitch museum a group of young bearded men gathered. Rabbi Abraham Leader said they were starting to pray.

Rabbi LEADER: They're putting their prayers for strength, you know, for the family. Prayers for the death, you know, and this helps you some (unintelligible) with what we're going to say today.

(Soundbite of Hebrew chanting)

FOLKENFLIK: The couple's son will turn two on Saturday. His parents will be buried in Israel, probably on Sunday. They were set to oversee expansion of a new Chabad center in Bangalore. As for the Chabad outreach abroad, Rabbi Krinsky said, quote, "nothing deters us."

(Soundbite of Hebrew chanting)

FOLKENFLIK: David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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