Wednesday, December 03, 2008

So Why Kill The Rabbi?

Michael Danby
Wednesday December 3, 2008

Mr Danby (Melbourne Ports) (9.36a.m.)- London's Times asks today: "So why kill the rabbi?" Indeed, why kill any rabbi? All Australians were outraged at the murder of our countrymen Brett Taylor and Doug Markell and the other mainly Indian citizens murdered in Mumbai a few days ago. I cannot surpass the insights of the columnist from the London Times David Aaronovitch about the people he calls "explanists", who make excuses for those who, with murderous ideologies, single out people who are Australian or British or American, or who are Jewish. Mr. Aaronovitch says that we cannot equivocate the heinous crimes committed by the terrorists with their struggle against Hindu aggression or Indian oppression. He says that there is no justification in killing innocent people, Christian, Hindu or Jew, or British, American or Australian.

The fact that nine people died in a synagogue, an outreach centre called the Chabad house in Mumbai is a particular tragedy for many Australian Jews. It is especially tragic for those who knew the couple who ran the centre, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, both of whom were murdered there. Terrible reports on various international news wires indicate that some of the victims were all tortured before they were killed. This kind of bestiality is hard to face up to but we must because it is being discussed in the international press. This young religious couple were a paradigm of kind-hearted and dedicated Chabad emissaries serving the tiny Jewish community in Mumbai, and helping people who were suffering from drug addiction and poverty. They offered their hospitality to Israeli backpackers and Jewish visitors, and treated them with uplifting spiritual experiences. Their Chabad house, their synagogue, served as a safe haven and an island for yiddishkeit for Jewish people travelling through Mumbai and India. They could stay at the centre and were offered free kosher meals, and could participate in services over Shabbat. Reb Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivka represented the ultimate in human kindness and selflessness. Their presence in Mumbai and on earth will be sadly missed.

Also killed in the Chabad House were Yocheved Orpaz, Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum and Rabbi Bentzion Chroman. Rabbi Teitelbaum was murdered as he was studying in the synagogue a book of Jewish learning. He was found slumped over an open Talmud. Norma Shvarzblat-Rabinovich was also killed in those terrible events.It is important to remember the names of all of these individuals. Sherri Mandell, mother of 14 year old Koby, murdered by Palestinian terrorists, argued in the Jerusalem Post:Don't let others tell you that your loved ones died for nothing. They died because they were innocent victims of ... Islamic hatred. They died because this ideology is vicious and evil and worships destruction ... It is paramount that you seek justice - but do not seek revenge. Revenge embitters you while justice elevates you. Justice is motivated by love; revenge is motivated by hatred ...Keep speaking about the evil that was perpetrated against your loved one. Don't allow the media or others to call the murderers militants or freedom fighters.Insist that your loved one's murder be remembered.I repeat her wisdom and raise my voice in this national Parliament and praise the memory of those innocent kedoshim who were killed in the Chabad house in Mumbai, only because they were Jews.As these innocents were being buried in Israel, her president Shimon Peres lamented the plight of the Holtzberg's young two-year old son, who was orphaned from the attack.

In Melbourne last night, a memorial function was held at Bnai Brith for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. Rabbi Mendy Groner told people that all of the murdered victims, be they Indian, Australian, British, American, Christian, Jewish or Hindu, were equal in their merit and innocence. He explained that when we know people, when they are part of our family or our community, we naturally grieve more intensely.

No one has put it better than a member of the professional staff at RMIT, Isaac Balbin, who led the davening at my shul, Elwood Shule, during the recent Yamim Noraim. He said of Gabi and Rivki in a moving essay on his recollections of India and these two martyred shlichim:

"They were not small-minded, slogan-bearing chanters or flag-wavers. Like Chassidim of old, yet under 30, they were involved in doing; not chanting. They loved and were loved. They didn't estrange."

Jews across the world mourn all the victims of the attacks on Mumbai. The murdered Brett Taylor and Doug Markell of Australia and Rabbi Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivki Holtzberg and all other victims of terror will be in our hearts and minds forever.

Link to article by David Aronovitch in The Australian 3 December 2008

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