Local Jewish community reacts to India's attack

November 28, 2008 9:27:38 PM PST
There are new details about the terror attacks in Mumbai. Four Americans are among the more than 150 people killed since Wednesday night.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]
[IMAGES: Photos from Mumbai (Warning: Some are graphic)]
[IMAGES: Slain NY rabbi and wife]

A team of FBI agents is going to India to help investigate the attacks. A second group could join them, if needed. U.S. citizens still in the city of Mumbai were warned their lives remain at risk and at least nine gunmen have been killed and one has been arrested.

Commandos gained control over the Oberoi Hotel after killing the last two gunmen. However, they continue to battle at least one militant inside the Taj Mahal hotel.

The Americans killed are a father and his 13-year-old daughter, who were traveling with a Virginia-based spiritual group, as well as a rabbi from New York and his wife. Their bodies were found in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish Center. The rabbi and his wife had moved to India to help others of the Jewish faith.

The Orthodox Jewish Community here in Houston is mourning the couple's death but says this won't end their mission.

They were part of the Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish educational and outreach organization. Houston is headquarters for the Chabad in Texas, where there are 19 branches. Grieving local Orthodox Jewish families are finding comfort in each other and looking to their religious leaders for guidance.

As Indian commandos stormed the headquarters of the besieged Jewish Center in Mumbai, it didn't take long for news of the grim discovery to reach Houston's Orthodox Jewish community.

"There are no words that can deliver comfort to someone. A person needs to grieve and I think that's where the community is right now. We're in a moment of grieving," said Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff with the Lubavitch Center

Though he did not know them, Rabbi Lazaroff of Houston's Chabad Lubavitch Center is related to two of the victims by marriage. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, are among the five hostages who were killed during the terror attacks. The couple left Brooklyn, New York, five years ago, the epicenter of Orthodox Jewish life, to promote peace and goodwill and create a place in Mumbai where Jews passing through the city could find a sense of community.

"Whatever they may need, whether it's kosher food, kosher meal, a holiday service, Shabbat service, a daily service, they could find that at the Chabad House in Mumbai," said Rabbi Lazaroff.

The Holtzbergs are survived by their son, who turns two today. He was smuggled out of the center by a nanny just hours before Indian security forces arrived. He is now with his grandparents.

"What was his crime? Just because he was doing good things in faraway places," said Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff with the Lubavitch Center.

Local Orthodox Jews who recently visited the Chabad House in Mumbai posted pictures on the Chabad Center's website. The Torah teaches Jews the only way they can truly be comforted is through action. Rabbi Lazaroff says this tragedy has only reaffirmed his faith and commitment to continue their work.

"Regardless of what occurs, we keep trucking and we in the face of adversity still and will continue with our missions and not only that, we will redouble our efforts," he said.

We spoke with both rabbis this morning before Shabbat, also known as the Jewish Sabbath, which began Friday at sundown. On Friday, the four Houston area Chabad Centers had a special service that the community is invited to attend.

The India House restaurant will host a prayer service Sunday for victims of the Mumbai attacks. The restaurant is located at 8888 West Belfort. The prayer service is set to begin at 4pm.

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