Members of the local Jewish community crowded the Chabad meeting space at 6047 Stow Canyon Road on Wednesday evening to mourn the passing and honor the lives of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivka, 28.
The couple were gunned down along with their guests in the Chabad House in Mumbai last week during terrorist violence that has been attributed to a militant Islamic Pakistani group. About 179 people, many foreigners, were killed in the attacks. The Holtzbergs’ 2-year-old son, Moshe, was saved by his Indian nanny who managed to escape with him 10 hours into the hostage situation.
“They were fine examples of selfless individuals who really dedicated themselves to their mission in the most profound way,” said Rabbi Zalmy Kudan of the Santa Barbara Chabad. “Santa Barbara is one place to live, but India is quite another. As far as the Jewish community goes, (the Holtzbergs) were pretty far away from the central community.”
The couple were emissaries of the worldwide Hasidic movement, Chabad-Lubavitch. They had been living in India for five years and were directors of the Chabad House in Mumbai, one of 73 centers in the world operated by more than 4,000 husband-wife couples that serve as a hub for local Jewish communities.
“We all do the same work and try to reach out to everyone; add a little light and godliness, and Jewishness, if you’re Jewish,” Rabbi Kudan said.
The memorial was organized by several local Jewish groups including Chabad of Santa Barbara, Chabad at UCSB, the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara, Congregation B’nai B’rith, Santa Barbara Hillel, the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation and Young Israel of Santa Barbara, as well as theSanta Barbara Anti-Defamation League.
Wednesday’s short memorial service was also a means to allay the shock and frustration the local Jewish community felt when they heard about the slayings. “There’s a lot of questions that don’t have a lot of answers,” Rabbi Kudan said.
The event included an address by the head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, Ron Zonen, and a discussion by Rabbi Yosef Loschak, head of the local Chabad center, along with a film on the lives of the people at the Mumbai Chabad House.
The memorial ended with a request for residents to make a commitment that will be forwarded to the families who lost a member in the attacks, in an attempt to comfort them and honor the sacrifice they have made.
Rabbi Kudan said the service was also a call to the community for peaceful solidarity in the face of violence. Instead of reacting with a violent attitude and hatred, he said, now is the time for even more peaceful work.
“I think that retaliation in dealing with the terrorists as a threat, that we’ll leave to the government,” he said. “As individuals, I think that the best way to retaliate against the terrorists is to do more goodness and more kindness to people.”
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