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Jewish Journal

Chabad rabbi and wife reportedly killed

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 27, 2008 | 11:25 pm

Rivka Holtzberg

Despite previous reports that everyone at the Nariman House in Mumbai had been freed, the Economic Times of India is reporting that the Chabad rabbi and his wife have been killed. There is no official confirmation from Indian authorities. The Chabad website reports that Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg are still unaccounted for:

No one has heard from the Holtzbergs for almost 24 hours. Soon after the attacks began, Gavriel Holtzberg called the Israeli Consulate, but the conversation cut out. Since then, a suspected Islamic terrorist reportedly used Holtzberg cell phone to call India TV.

According to a transcript of that conversation, the man, 25-year-old Imran Babar claimed that there were five other persons with him at the Nariman House, where the Chabad House is located.

IBN, CNN’s sister network in India, aired footage of what appeared to be seven released hostages walking away from the Chabad House. Further reports from other sources, however, indicated that the people, who appeared to be local residents, may have come from neighboring buildings. Lights remained off at the Chabad House, and Indian commandos appeared ready to reenter the building.

Like yesterday, Twitter has been abuzz all day with reports and rumors from India. With constantly conflicting tweets it’s been particularly difficult to tell what has really happened at the Nariman House, which is owned by Chabad. (Update: @acarvin says IBN, CNN’s Indian sister organization, has confirmed that the Holtzbergs were killed.)

More on the Holtzbergs from The New York Times:

“For our movement, this is a very somber day,” said Rabbi Sagee Harshefer, who heads the Chabad house in Ness Ziona, Israel, about 12 miles south of Tel Aviv. “But there is hope.”

Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg were born in Israel, though he and his siblings were brought to Crown Heights as children by their parents. The couple married a year before they went to Mumbai, formerly Bombay, to fulfill a role that Rabbi Zaklikowski said fit perfectly with Rabbi Holtzberg’s personality.

“He has a huge heart, always willing to help somebody in need,” the rabbi said. “It’s only natural that he would give himself to the community.”

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who directed the Chabad emissaries’ conference, said of Rabbi Holtzberg, “He is a very dynamic, energetic individual” who turned Mumbai’s Chabad house into “a home away from home for thousands and thousands of Jews.”

At midafternoon in New York on Wednesday, the first reports of the attacks in Mumbai hit the news, but no one in the Crown Heights Lubavitch community knew exactly where they had occurred — and no one suspected that the Chabad house had been hit. Still, some friends wanted to make sure that Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife and son were all right, so they phoned. There was no answer.

Yacov Young, Rabbi Holtzberg’s cousin, said he had been at home in Crown Heights, celebrating the birth of his son and a brother-in-law’s marriage, when his phone rang about midnight.

“Our hearts sank when we heard the bad news,” Mr. Young said as he dashed into the synagogue.

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