BY HEIDI RUCKNO, The Citizens Voice
KINGSTON — Malka Seewald and her husband, Rabbi Mendy Seewald, opened their Rutter Avenue home to more than 40 people on Friday and prepared a traditional Jewish Sabbath feast in memory of those killed last week in the Mumbai, India, terrorist attacks.
They especially wanted to honor the legacy of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rifka, who were gunned down inside the Jewish community center where they lived and worked. The Holtzbergs’ 2-year-old son, Moshe, escaped with his nanny.
“Her father said at her funeral to do good deeds in her memory,” Malka Seewald said of Rifka Holtzberg.
The Holtzbergs ran a Chabad house, or Jewish outreach center, in Mumbai. They prepared traditional kosher Sabbath meals for weary Jewish travelers and gave them a place to sleep. Every Friday night, they would have 20 to 40 people at their table, Mendy Seewald said.
The Holtzbergs went to great lengths to prepare a Sabbath meal, said Malka’s sister, Chanie Spalter. Every week, Rifka Holtzberg prepared 200 kosher chickens and made 400 pounds of Halta, a traditional Sabbath bread, Spalter said.
Malka Seewald thought the best way to honor their memory was to prepare a similar meal. The idea came to her over breakfast on Thursday, said Rabbi Seewald, the principal at the Bais Menachem, a private school for Jewish boys on South Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Malka Seewold invited every Jewish woman she knew to light Shabbat candles in the Holtzbergs’ memory. She and her husband encouraged everyone in attendance to participate in the ritual.
“The lighting of the candles is just one of the ways that we mark the start of the Shabbat,” said Rabbi Roger Lerner, of Temple B’nai B’rith.
The Shabbat, or Sabbath, begins at sundown on Friday and lasts until sundown on Saturday, Lerner said. Strict observers are forbidden to do any work during that time.
In a traditional Jewish home, the woman of the house is tasked with lighting the candles. She lights one for each member of her family.
The candles are a symbol of peace and tranquility, and serve as a reminder of the spiritual significance of the Sabbath. After sundown, the candles cannot be extinguished.
Militants stormed three luxury hotels in Mumbai on Nov. 26-29. The three-day siege in India’s financial capital left 171 dead and 239 wounded, according to The Associated Press.
The surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, told Indian authorities the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba sent him, although a group leader said his organization does not believe in killing civilians, The Associated Press reported.
The group reportedly used an Indian national to scout terrorist targets in Mumbai.