Moshe Survives Mumbai: Out of Tragedy, Hope


Juxtaposed against the tranquility of our nation’s celebration of Thanksgiving were the brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai, killing and injuring hundreds in multiple locations. Among those slain were the directors of Chabad of Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, and all four of their guests, who included another American rabbi and Israelis. In addition to those killed at the Chabad Center, two other Americans, Alan Scherr and his daughter Naomi, were also killed by the terrorists.

Miraculously left alive in the wake of this senseless tragedy (primarily through the bravery of his nanny) was the Holtzbergs’ child Moshe, who turned two on the heels of the death of his parents. The survival of Moshe is a gift to not only his extended family, but to all of us. For he is a living reminder of what Chabad does in this world, and of why it is so important that we never give in to the insanity that feeds the minds of any terrorists, whether their goals be religious, nihilistic or anarchic.

Chabad is an acronym for three Hebrew words — Chochmah, Binah, Da’at — which mean Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.

With centers around the world, Chabad serves to help Jews — ALL Jews, not those of any particular movement — better connect with our beliefs, our religion, our culture. In St. Louis, Chabad is a shining beacon in providing outreach services to Jews both on campus and in the general community. Through education, celebration and joy, Chabad brings us closer to G-d and to our own intrinsic reasons for being.

The Holtzbergs had no selfish reason whatsoever to be in Mumbai. Their raison d’etre was clear; they were there, to borrow from the millions of words distributed online over the past days, “to create a bastion of love and warmth, of holiness and purity. They open their home to thousands of people, Jews from every conceivable affiliation and background — providing a meal, an embrace, a home. Every single night they served warm kosher dinners to dozens — the American businessman and the Israeli backpacker, the successful and the destitute. They provided counseling and help for people caught up in unhealthy behavior, and spiritual inspiration to the many seeking it.”

This is something that someone — anyone — would want to destroy? Certainly no one of right mind.

Tearing the world and lives asunder does not comport with the essential elements of any of the world’s great religions. Those who coach and deploy terrorism are nevertheless more than willing to create a mass psychosis, a parallel reality, that tells a story devoid of love, hope, peace and compassion. It is a story that only exists by playing on fear and hate, by trying to destroy what others create.

And yet Moshe survived.

We’ve seen it throughout history. Israel lives with the specter of terrorism hovering on a daily basis. Yet Israelis not only survive, but serve as a light of democratic success for the Middle East and the world.

New Yorkers experienced it during 9/11. And we shared their anguish and stood alongside them and together, we survived. And we collectively said to those who would take us down, that we will persevere and celebrate life with all our passion and our might.

This is the language of Chabad, the true understanding of why we are here, the understanding, wisdom and knowledge that says, Let us Remember the Past but Embrace the Future.

Love. Peace. Hope. Joy. Righteousness. This is what the world owes Moshe. This is the language that speaks to us as we look and pray upon his young visage.

That Moshe and his contemporaries will lead our world forward once again, past the pain and suffering, toward a better world, a more just world, a world filled with the meaning and spirit of G-d’s creation.

L’dor Vador. From generation to generation.