The Nariman House, renamed as Chabad House (Hebrew: בית חב"ד Beit Chabad), is a five-storey landmark in the Colaba area of South Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The building was home to a Chabad house, a Jewish outreach centre run by Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who owned the building since around 2006. The centre had an educational center, a synagogue, offered drug prevention services, and a hostel. The building was attacked and six of its occupants, including Holtzberg and his wife, who was six months pregnant, were killed during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Their two-year-old son Moshe survived the attack after being rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel and Zakir Hussain.
Front view of the Nariman House a week after the attacks
|Former names||Nariman House|
|Alternative names||Chabad house|
|Address||5 Hormusji Street, Colaba|
|Elevation||17 m (56 ft)|
|Owner||Chabad India Trust|
It is one of 4,000 such houses in 73 countries, typically run by husband-and-wife couples. In 2003, this Chabad House, the first in Mumbai, was opened by Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, newly married and run by them. It catered to Israelis who are on their way to "party hotspots" such as Goa and Rajasthan, in addition to the city's local Jewish community and traveling Jewish businessmen. The Holtzbergs also ran a synagogue and taught Torah classes, in addition to the rabbi conducting weddings for local Jewish couples. It is the Chabad headquarters for Mumbai. The place was open to anyone who wanted a place to pray, eat kosher food or celebrate Jewish holidays. In a film in 2006, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg said that anyone who visited the center was welcome. It was not unusual for the Rabbi and his wife to have 30 people for dinner. Gavriel (born 1979, raised in Brooklyn, New York) and Rivka (born 1980 in Afula, Israel) Holtzberg came to Mumbai in 2003 after completing a mission in Thailand.
Three flights a week bring hundreds of Israeli travelers from Israel to Mumbai and in an interview Holtzberg said he understood the nature of their needs. The young rabbi, who was born in Israel but grew up in Brooklyn, said that they "need relief" from the army, from work, from real life. He said, "they come here to do everything the army didn't allow them to do. Their shoes had to be polished and tied—here they wear sandals. They had to cut their hair—here they grow their hair long."
In addition, "Jews from all nationalities stopped there—primarily Israelis, but also those from Singapore and other places. It was almost like a second home to them," said Elijah Jacob, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's country manager for India. "Our country director used to say it was like a second home to him because of all of the Jews there on Shabbat."
Gavriel also helped with some of the local synagogues. He helped them gather donations, do fund-raising for the synagogue T'feret Israel, in central Mumbai in Jacobs Circle, and helped build a mikvah there. Also, he was officially a shochet, making chickens available to the local Jewish community, making challah for the community, and the couple was "available for the community," there to answer Halakhic principles of the local community.
Chabad officials said they were certain the Mumbai house would reopen, and within hours of news of the Holtzbergs' deaths, young Chabad couples from around the world offered to move to Mumbai to continue their work.
These are the services this Chabad House offered.
Nariman House was seized and attacked during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. At around 21:45, on Wednesday, 26 November, two attackers named Babar Imran alias Abu Akasha and Nasir Ahmed alias Abu Umar launched an attack on the centre. Newscasters[who?] were calling it the "final assault". The building is near the Leopold Cafe, another establishment attacked during the strike. However, a later report alleged that Nariman House was actually the main target of the series of attacks and the rest of the targets were only to amplify the effect.
Initially it was reported that six Israeli Jews were being held hostage. Later, Chabad spokesman in Israel, Moni Ender, said that there were at least eight Israelis inside the house, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka. The rabbi's two-year-old son Moshe was rescued by his nanny, Sandra Samuel, who had worked for the centre for the previous five years. The hostages were allegedly tortured. Some of the victims had been bound.
It was reported that gunmen fired indiscriminately towards those present. Late on 27 November, unnamed Maharashtra government officials said that eight hostages had been released. Later, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the eight people seen near Chabad House were not Jewish hostages but local Indians from a home in the same compound. Early on 28 November a large blast was heard at the centre as fighting continued, even though other sources were reporting that the building was under the control of Indian security forces.
During the siege U.S. Chabad official Rabbi Levi Shemtov talked with one of the attackers on Holtzberg's cell phone. The FBI and other negotiation experts helped guide him through the process, which included around five phone calls. Having to find an Urdu speaker to speak with him, they were unable to directly speak to any of the hostages, but Shemtov did say he heard the voice of one woman screaming in English, "please help immediately."
Shortly before dawn, Indian security forces began an attack on Nariman House that lasted until after sundown. The operation began when 22 NSG Commandos rappelled out from an Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter on the roof of the building. NSG Commandos were in position in the adjacent buildings to provide cover fire to the assault team if needed. Commandos entered the building from the top and two loud blasts were heard followed by heavy gunfire. Most of the operation was broadcast live on television as news footage showed troops abseiling from a helicopter into the building and soldiers on the ground closing in. Initially it was reported that five hostages were killed, but it was later upgraded to six deaths, eight by Saturday morning after two missing Israelis made contact with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. When the raid ended at sundown everyone inside the building was dead, including the rabbi and his wife. An Indian commando, Havaldar Gajendra Singh Bisht, was killed during the operation. According to ZAKA members,[clarification needed] at least one hostage, Holtzberg, might have been killed in the crossfire when the commandos moved in; this was rejected by government authorities as stories and irresponsible comments.
Some of the other hostages were killed by the attackers on the first night and the following day. Rivka Holtzberg and Yocheved Orpaz had been killed many hours before Nariman House was retaken.
|Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg||29||Brooklyn, United States (and dual Israeli citizenship)|
|Rebbetzin Rivka Holtzberg||28||Afula, Israel|
|Bentzion Kruman||26||Bat Yam, Israel (and dual US citizenship)|
|Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum||37||Brooklyn, United States|
|Yoheved Orpaz||62||Givatayim, Israel|
|Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich||50||Mexico|
- Chabad-Lubavitch – Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch released a statement that read: "Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice. As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community, as well as with visiting business people. For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty. Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started."
- Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told more than 1,000 people at a memorial service organised by the Australian Jewish community at the Yeshiva Centre, Melbourne, that Holtzberg and his wife had "devoted their lives to acts of goodness and kindness and compassion for others ... but they lost their lives in a senseless act of hatred. In the face of this terror we must not bow to fear.
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