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Mumbai attacks hit home in Bklyn - Community mourns loss of young couple

The 183 victims of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India included three with strong Brooklyn roots.

Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivkah, 28, formerly of Crown Heights, and Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, 37, formerly of Borough Park, were killed during the attack.

The three were among six dead found in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Chabad House in Mumbai after the terrorists targeted the site.

The Chabad or Lubavitch movement is headquartered in Crown Heights and its mission involves spreading and enriching Jews’ lives worldwide.

The Hasidic sect has established 3,500 Chabad centers in 73 countries, where they entertain and serve the local Jewish community, and in some cases Jewish travelers.

The Holtzbergs ran the center in Mumbai, and when the terrorists overtook the center, they, along with Teitelbaum and three other Jews, were shot to death.

The Holtzbergs’ two-year-old son, Moshe, survived the attack after the boy’s nanny reportedly swept him up in her arms and escaped.

“Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.

“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,” he added.

Kotlarsky said the couple also ran a synagogue and Torah classes for five years where they helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty.

The Holtzbergs arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to serve the small local Jewish community, visiting business people and the throngs of tourists, many of them Israeli, who annually travel to the seaside city.

Although the Holtzbergs were born in Israel, Gavriel moved to Crown Heights with his parents when he was nine and grew up in the community.

A Lubavitch spokesperson said the couple married in Israel, but spent a good deal of time in Crown Heights.

Teitelbaum was born and raised in Brooklyn. His father is a rabbi at a large synagogue in Borough Park.

According to the newspaper Hamodia, Teitelbaum’s father was also one of the foremost kosher certifiers in the Jewish food industry.

The paper stated that the younger Teitelbaum was in the family business and he substituted for his father, who was supposed to have traveled to Mumbai to certify food to be kosher.

Teitelbaum is survived by his wife, Frume, and eight children.

Borough President Marty Markowitz expressed sadness on behalf of all of Brooklyn on the deaths.

“The monsters responsible for these attacks are attempting to undermine democracy in peace-loving nations everywhere, but this savagery only strengthens our resolve to eradicate terrorism and such atrocities against innocents of all faiths, wherever they exist,” said Markowitz.

“The Holtzbergs could have lived a simple and quiet life in Crown Heights, where Rabbi Holtzberg grew up, but their sense of religious duty took them to India to run Mumbai’s Chabad House, which, under their stewardship, became a comforting home away from home for thousands of Jews.

“Rabbi Teitelbaum, the son of the Volover Rebbe from Borough Park, was in Mumbai as a kosher food supervisor. We are inspired by their commitment to others. The prayers of Brooklynites, New Yorkers and the global community are with the family and loved ones of Rabbi Teitelbaum, as well as those of the Holtzberg family, especially their two-year-old son, Moshe, in this tragic time,” he added.

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