moishe Holzberg mumbai chabad 248.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Chabad held a memorial dinner on Wednesday in honor of Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka, who were killed when terrorists raided the Chabad house in Mumbai a year ago on the Hebrew calendar.
A crowd of well over 2,000 guests filled a massive tent in Kfar Chabad set up outside the replica of the Rebbe's house in Brooklyn. A service manager said over 100 people worked the event, including at least 80 waiters. Organizers said the demand for tickets was "enormous" and that thousands of people who wanted to attend were turned away.
The event was a bittersweet celebration of sorts, as the Hebrew anniversary of the terror attack also fell on the third birthday of Moishe, Rabbi Holzberg's son, whose life was saved when he was spirited away from the attack by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel. For Orthodox Jews, a boy does not cut his hair until his third birthday and the event is cause for a celebration.
Across a blue-grey curtain on the wall of the womens' section of the tent, dozens of blue and white balloons spelled out "Moishe, three years old." Moishe himself was carried in by Sandra shortly before the beginning of the event, and stood before a gaggle of reporters and cameras, calmly, even lazily, taking in the spectacle.
The celebration and memorial was organized by the Chabad Youth Organization, with their slogan "with all the love to everyone" splashed across banners throughout the tent, alongside silhouette drawings of the Holzbergs and Moishe.
Gavriel and Rivka, who was five months pregnant at the time of the attack, were gunned down along with four others when Pakistani Islamists struck the Chabad house as part of coordinated attacks throughout India's largest city that left at least 173 people dead.
The Head of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel Rabbi Yosef Aharonov said that although the attack was a tragic event, the terrorists "only killed their [the victims'] bodies; their spirits and what they stood for, and what the Chabad Rebbe taught about Jews helping Jews all over the world lives on."
Aharonov added that there was "no question" that security had been beefed up at Chabad facilities worldwide since the attack, but that it was a concern addressed by local security forces in the countries in which Chabad operates.
Rabbi Holzberg's father, Rabbi Nachman Holzberg, told The Jerusalem Post that the outpouring of support for his family has been tremendous over the past year, and that Moishe was doing very well. Holzberg also expressed his hope that the tragedy "will only bring the entire world closer to redemption."
Samuel, surrounded by a sea of reporters and swarmed by well-wishers from the moment she entered with Moishe, said that she was feeling a mix of emotions at the event, both great happiness that Moishe was doing well and sadness at the fact that his parents could not be with him.
Samuel said that "the baby is fine, he's a normal kid, he plays, he jumps."
She added that while she was happy in Israel and the country was beautiful, she would probably only stay another one or two years because after that Moishe would no longer need her. Sandra said that although he suffered a great loss, Moishe had received great support from his family, and especially from his grandparents.
When asked if she had a message to give to the world, she said, "to carry on life, be strong and that's it."