There was standing room only at Johannesburg’s central Chabad House, as hundreds converged to pay tribute to the victims of last month’s Mumbai massacre. A diverse crowd spanning a host of communities attended this emotional event, another sign of the global Jewish unity that this horrific incident has generated.
“Tonight is not simply a memorial, but a call to us to respond to a tragedy that has touched us all,” said Rabbi Ari Shishler as he introduced the event.
Rabbi Avraham Tanzer, Rosh Yeshivah of the Yeshivah College schools, led the community in Tehillim. He was followed by Rabbi Yossi Goldman, who recited a special Hazkorah for those slain.
Emotion spilled over throughout the hall as people watched the superbly produced JEM video on the Rabbi Gabi & Rivky Holtzberg HYD and the Chabad House of Mumbai.
South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein addressed the crowd, calling for all present to concentrate on Jewish unity. He highlighted how such terrorist attacks represent the clash of tyranny with our Jewish value system that embraces life and light.
Israel’s new ambassador to South Africa is yet to take office, so the embassy’s spokesperson, Mr. Elias Inbram addressed the crowd. An Ethopian Jew, Inbram recounted how Chabad in Israel had hosted his bar mitzvah, along with that of his fellow emigres.
“Today, Chabad attends to the embassy staff’s needs in Pretoria,” he continued, “They come to us weekly, with Challot and Shabbat candles, and they invite us regularly to join them for Shabbat. In fect, I spent this past Shabbat with Chabad.”
India’s Consul General for Johannesburg, Mr. Navdeep Suri drew attention to India’s history of benevolence to its Jewish citizens. “This is the first time in 2000 years that Jews have been attacked in India. Throughout your difficult history, you have never suffered persecution in our country,” he emphasized.
Rabbi Mendel Lipskar, the head Shliach, then spoke, challenging the crowd to translate their pain and distress into growth and achievement- invoking Rivky Holtzberg’s father as a symbol of the courage to increase commitment to Shlichus despite his devastating loss.
He extended words of comfort to the families of all Mumbai’s victims and especially those murdered at the Chabad House.
“But, I would like to extend a special word of comfort to one family in particular- an amazing family, who serve the community with absolute commitment and sacrifice- the family of Shluchim. To us, Gabi and Rivky were a brother and sister. Their murder has torn at the heart of all us Shluchim. What they did in Mumbai, Shluchim all over the world are doing. Some are more talented than others, some more successful than others- but all are equally dedicated to their mission- to find Jews and to assist them in every way.”
Rabbi Dovid Masinter, director of the central Chabad House, rounded off the evening by calling people to action. He announced a new citywide hospitality initiative, an annual “Yarchei Kallah” Torah study program and an “Acts of Random Kindness” non-denominational children’s program that Chabad House would launch in the Holtzberg’s memory. Masinter also announced a “Proudly Jewish” day, where all men would be encouraged to wear a kippah to work for a day. He also challenged every person present to take a Chanukah Menorah home with them and get one other Jew to light it. Before the evening had ended, there was not one extra Menorah left to hand out.