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The Response

On Monday I was on a high. I had just returned from the annual Chabad conference held every fall in New York City. The event gathers Chabad rabbis for five days of inspiration and revitalization; reuniting, albeit briefly 3,000 colleagues representing communities around the globe.

I had planned to share my thoughts on how re-energized I felt following the conference, in this space.

Then, on Wednesday we received word that there may be a hostage situation at the Chabad House in Mumbai, and by Friday morning, the news of the brutal murders of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg had reached us.

Gabi and Rivky were in Mumbai as Chabad emissaries since 2003. Two years ago they moved their operations from a hotel penthouse to the five-story “Nariman House.” Their Chabad House served as a home-away-from-home for many Israeli backpackers and other international tourists, as well as the small local Jewish community. The care and devotion with which they served all who visited was legendary. Everyone knew they can count on the Chabad House for a warm kosher meal, a prayer service or a Torah class, and sometimes even a place to sleep.

The reaction to the senseless murder of two beacons of light, along with hundreds of other innocents, can be mixed. On one hand, we do not begin to comprehend how G-d can allow such atrocities to be perpetrated in His universe. It is beyond our capacity to understand how two beautiful lives can be brought to such a horrendous halt.

But, with all the grief and mourning, we must fight back. We are challenged by forces of evil and darkness throughout our lives, and at times these forces seem to peak and take over. It is at moments like this that we must double our efforts to dispel this great darkness.

The tragedy in Mumbai has united the worldwide Jewish community like never before; the heartening expressions of care emanating from all walks and denominations of Jewish life are astounding. Since these horrific events, Jews around the world have been resolving to perform Mitzvahs in memory of the Holtzbergs. Men who have never laid Tefillin before are doing so now, and many women have lit Shabbat candles this week after not doing so for many years.

Darkness can only prevail in the absence of light, and we battle darkness by kindling a small light, which grows to a much greater flame. The smallest Mitzvah we perform can have world altering effects in the face of darkness. And the more Mitzvahs we do, the further we eradicate evil and darkness

The intensity felt at the Chabad conference last week should not be allowed to wane. The Jewish world has the ability to harness its great unifying power. Let’s use it for the positive.

Please join us for a memorial service for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg this Tuesday, December 2, at the Jewish Federation building. More information to follow.

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