By Megan Graham, Jennifer Wheeler – DailyIllini.com
More than 100 members of the community gathered at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life Thursday night to honor the victims of the terror attacks last week in Mumbai, India.
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life officiated the memorial service, which also paid tribute to victims Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, with whom Tiechtel was close friends.
The Holtzbergs were the directors of the Chabad of India, which is a Jewish community center in Mumbai used to provide educational and outreach activities for the city’s Jewish population of 4,000.
“They left the comforts of home to a lifelong commitment to help a community with their needs,” Tiechtel said.
Community members, including Chancellor Richard Herman, state Sen. Michael Frerichs and Rabbi Naftali Rothstein of the Hillel at the University, among others, spoke at the event.
Members of the Indian Student Association also shared words, and the Hindu Student Association shared a prayer in Sanskrit. The messages contained a common theme of battling evil with goodness.
“There is strength in our collective grief, power in our collective prayers,” Herman said.
Although the attacks in Mumbai, India, upset many, Rothstein said it is important to note that it forces community members to realize the similarities that run through them.
“Many people will be there from different backgrounds, different ethnic, different ages, students, community members, all kinds of leaders,” Rothstein said. “It will be very interesting and it means something that we are all coming together in one place.”
The idea of bringing community members together was the reason why Gail Schnitzer, graduate student in political science and multicultural chair for Hillel Center, decided to help organize the memorial.
“The purpose of having this religious memorial as an open program to the community is to take a stance and say we are all in this together,” Schnitzer said.
Rothstein said he is telling individuals with whom he has spoken two things: to note the tragic events that have occurred and to remain strong and united.
“What terrorists want is the world to be depressed, to give in to the terror,” Rothstein said. “We have to continue living and being as strong as we were before, not to give in.
Tiechtel encouraged that same message, urging the attendants to do mitzvahs, or acts of kindness, to help move forward.
“We’re here to look for comfort, but there is no comfort,” Tiechtel said. “There is no theological explanation for why this happened. I don’t know why this happened. But I do know that we need to move forward.”