The message was clear Tuesday night at Northern Colorado’s Chabad Center: The worldwide Jewish community vows to continue the work of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, who were tragically slain in a series of devastating terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India last week.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, who leads the Northern Colorado branch of the organization, stood in front of the group of about 35 students and community members and called for a global campaign of peace to combat terrorism.
“Hatred. This is what we must combat,” Gorelik said. “This is what we must eradicate.”
The deaths of Gavriel, 29, and Rivkah, 28, who led the Chabad headquarters in Mumbai, which is the second most densely populated city in the world, drew Jewish communities across the U.S. together to mourn the tragedy and honor their lives.
Four other hostages died in the attack on the Jewish center. Members of the organization had waited in the Mumbai center Wednesday as terrorist gunmen invaded the city in a bloody rampage that left nearly 200 dead and hundreds more wounded.
And when they finally stormed the five-story Chabad building, Gavriel said in a phone call to the Israeli Consulate, “‘The situation is not good,’ and the phone went dead,” according to a video account of the rabbi’s life that was played at the memorial.
About 12 hours later, the couple’s 2-year-old son Moshe, bloody and crying for his mother, was rushed through the streets that were still in chaos to safety by his nanny in the face of intense violence.
And on Friday, a team of Indian commandos took the building, discovering the bodies of the dead hostages.
Gorelik had been in Estes Park at the time of the attack with no means of getting back to Fort Collins to be with the community. But he stayed in close contact with rabbis from the East Coast throughout.
“We were just waiting and praying for a miracle, like everyone else was,” he said.
Govriel and Rivkah had become well known in the Jewish community for having established the center and expanding it to accommodate the Mumbai Jewish population, which numbers about 4,000.
“They exemplified the ideal of commitment to Judaism and their people,” Gorelik said Tuesday.
Max Brodsky, the president of the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance, said that, while the deaths are a tragedy, the world must move forward in times of sadness and make a good impression.
“It is a tragedy, but you can’t logic your way out of death. What needs to be done from us is to celebrate life and do good.” Brodsky said. “All we really can do is be better people from it.”
Gorelik echoed his call for peace in his speech with a cry of longing for it.
“I’ve never wanted it so much. “Imagine a world of total peace,” he said in an interview.
Development Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at email@example.com.