It was 2007. I was studying at a Chabad yeshivah when an exciting opportunity came my way: I would spend my summer with Chabad’s “Roving Rabbis” program in India. We arrived at the Chabad House in Mumbai and were given very general tips for our goal of finding Jews in Bangalore and Auroville. With G-d’s help, our summer was successful, meeting dozens of Jewish families and cultivating what was to become the permanent Chabad Center in Bangalore.
In a sense, it was Rabbi Gabi Holtzberg's understated demeanor which spoke loudest. There was no controlling ego or hang-ups that things be done his way. It was about the mission and getting it done. He would embrace a Jewish traveler he was meeting for the first time with sincere interest. “How can I be there for you in your time of need? What can I do to help facilitate your Jewish needs?”
Time and again during my short “shlichut” in India, I witnessed something extraordinary. Naturally, whether due to ideological differences or differing levels of observance, we all put up walls between each other. In India I was able to see these artificial walls melt away in seconds. When you meet someone who is deeply committed to the Jewish people and lives by that mission, people respond in kind.
Rabbi Gabi did not have it easy. He had more than his share of personal challenges, having lost one child to Tay-Sachs and spending most of the summer we were there flying to Israel, tending to his second child diagnosed with the same illness, to which he ultimately succumbed. Perhaps it was Rabbi Gabi’s purpose-oriented life that gave him the ability to forge ahead with a sense of equanimity.
During the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, we marked 10 years since the Mumbai massacre in which Rabbi Gabi and his wife died. Jews have shown a tremendous character. We face evil and choose to build, to rededicate ourselves to the work at hand.
As we mark 10 years from the terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai, we ought to recommit ourselves to the example these special souls have shown. We can’t get hung up on petty things; the task is too important for our egos to get in the way. Reach out to your fellow with love, and they will respond in kind. JN
Rabbi Bentzy Stolik directs Chabad of Olney in Maryland.