News Flash! - February 3, 2009
Charred remains of ASCENT eductional materials were found in the Mumbai
in memory of Rabbi Gabriel-Noach and Rivka Holtzberg (the sister of Ascent's
executive director Rabbi Shaul Leiter's daughter-in-law), Rabbi Avraham Teitelbaum
(the cousin of Ascent's managing director, Rabbi Yosef Moshe Spira), and the
other martyrs of the Mumbai massacre.
[The following was received
by email from a veteran Tsfat resident]
From Rivki Holtzberg's
Sister in Tsfat
By Chana Besser
Rivki Holtzberg's sister,
Sara Leiter, spoke last night, Motzi Shabbat Dec. 13, at the home of her in-laws,
Chaya Bracha & R. Shaul Leiter, the executive director of Ascent. She is married
to their oldest child, Yaakov-David, and lives here in Tsfat (Safed). Here are
some of the anecdotes she told, mostly from people who came to pay shiva calls
at her parents' home in Afula.
The first thing that Sara told us was
what the old Klausenberger Rebbe (who passed way in the same week as the Lubavitcher
Rebbe! --yt) had said. She said it is giving the family a lot of strength and
encouragement. Here is a translation from Geulawatch, a Yahoo group:
"In 1981 the Klausenberger Rebbe, zechuso yagen
aleinu [may his merit protect us], during parshas Lech Lecha, gave a shiur
[Torah discourse] about the times before Mashiach. He said that when Mashiach
comes the world is going to have to recognize the Jews as the chosen people. But
there are millions of people who don't even know what a Jew is... He said that
one day a Jew is going to die in India and [that is how] the millions of people
there will learn what a Jew is."
He said this 27
years ago! If you don't believe it you can listen to the recording of it by dialing
212 990 7399 then press 2. It is in Yiddish but understandable
(if you don't speak Yiddish, find someone who does and have him translate).
Then Sara shared some of the stories of the people who came to the Rosenberg
house in Afula during shiva. One person said that he lived at the Holtzbergs'
Chabad House for 3 ½ years. Sara asked him what one thing Rivki said those
3 ½ years he lived with them that he remembered the most. "Hashkacha
Protit (Individual involvement [by G-d of everything in Creation])",
Six people came to shiva together who lived in all different
regions of Israel. They said they wanted to come together, even though they hadn't
seen each other in years. The six of them had traveled together thru India and
had spent time at the Chabad House together with Rivki & Gabi. So they dropped
everything -- work, school, exams - and came together to pay the shiva call.
One guy told how Rivki & Gabi were the only ones in all of Mumbai that
would take him in with his dog. He had money to stay at a hotel, but none of the
hotels would let his dog in. So he came to the Chabad House - and left his dog
with Rivki & Gabi for 2 weeks while he stayed at a hotel!
in India was giving a wedding. Weddings in India are celebrated for 7 days straight,
morning to night. They needed a place for their kosher guests to eat. Rivki &
Gabi "gave" the wedding for the kosher contingency of their wedding
party - for seven days straight, 24 hours a day. Rivki shopped for special wedding
decorations & fancy service to make the "wedding hall" at Chabad
House more festive for their wedding.
Two Israeli guys came to pay a
shiva call. They told of how they arrived in Mumbai tired and hungry and without
any money, and couldn't find a place to stay. They had heavy backpacks. They were
told about the Chabad House and spent hours, exhausted, looking for it. Finally
they found it and knocked on the door. Rivki & Gabi took them in, rushed to
put out Israeli salads & bread, offered them hot showers & clean beds.
When they got up in the morning, there was tons of food for breakfast -- really,
really good food. They said they were leaving to travel some more. Rivki packed
some sandwiches for them to take along. The Holtzbergs offered to keep some of
their luggage in storage so that the guys could travel lighter. One guy left his
backpack for two weeks. He was embarrassed when he came back to get it. Rivki
said, "Two weeks is nothing. We watched someone's motorcycle once for six
Sara told us how funny Rivki was, always making people
laugh. Rivki was like that since she was a little girl. Her most outstanding feature
was her big smile. Everybody remembers Rivki's smile. (Sara has the same megawatt
smile, and looks so much like Rivki that nobody who entered the room had to ask
which woman was Rivki's sister.)
A woman who knows the family said that
when she spoke to the nanny, Sandra, on the phone, she automatically assumed that
Sandra was a Jewish religious woman. Because Sandra was telling her about putting
Moishe to bed and saying "Krias Shma" and about "bentching"
after eating - referring to all of our Orthodox everyday mitzvos, using the same
language that we use to describe them. It came as a shock to her when she learned
later that Sandra is not Jewish.
Rivki & Gabi left a key outside
the door. They didn't want any Jewish traveler to be locked out if they were sleeping.
(When the terrorists hit the hotels, Gavi quickly took in the key. They had to
break down the door.)
Sara says they are still getting tons of calls.
Most terror victim's families get lots of people at the funeral and shiva, and
then people go on with their lives. Rivki's family is still swamped with calls
& communications from Jews and non-Jews, from Israel and from India, calling
to tell them about the impact that Rivki & Gabi made in their lives.
A Jewish lady wrote how she was shocked when she once went up to the floor
where the Holtzbergs lived. It had a simple bedroom for them, and a bedroom for
the baby. It was not decorated at all, just the most basic items were in the room,
and a few simple photos on the wall. The paint was peeling off the walls. But
all the lower floors, where the Jewish tourists and business people visited, were
beautifully decorated, with marble floors, beautiful wall coverings & furniture,
and had air conditioning, a luxury in India.
I went to the funeral of
Rabbi Teitlebaum, the kashrut supervisor who was the son-in-law of the Toldos
Avraham Yitzchak rebbe in Meah Sharim, and heard his oldest child, a boy 13, speak
in Yiddish. He said only about 5 sentences, but his was the best of all the eulogies.
He said that a lot of light and goodness will come into the world now because
their deaths sanctified G-d's name. And he said that he and his family must now
continue to carry on in the way that their father had lived. All of the women
were bawling when he spoke, a square block full of us. So pure!
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