Tag Archives: Crown Heights

Jews of the Week: Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg

In Memory of a Holy Couple

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg

Gavriel Noach Holtzberg (1979-2008) was born in Kiryat Malachi, Israel to a Chabad family, and grew up in Crown Heights, New York. A young prodigy with a prolific memory, Holtzberg had memorized an entire order of Mishnah word-for-word (a total of 681 passages in 88 chapters). He was a two-time champion in Mishnah competitions, and placed second in an international Talmud competition. He studied to be a rabbi and mohel in New York and Argentina, while doing community service through Chabad in Thailand and China. Holtzberg married Rivka Rosenberg (1980-2008) of Afula, Israel in 2002. A year later, the young couple moved to Mumbai, India to open a Chabad House of their own. Mumbai had a Jewish community numbering several thousand, along with countless Israeli tourists. The Holtzbergs provided vital Jewish services, including kosher food, a mikveh, and a place to pray, with Rabbi Gabi shechting his own chickens, officiating at Jewish weddings, and performing brit milahs. The couple would regularly host thirty or more people for meals every Shabbat. They also oversaw the conversion of a number of Indians to Judaism (including former Jew of the Week Sarah Avraham). The Holtzbergs were so popular that by 2006 they had raised enough money to purchase a six-story building known as the Nariman House. This became known as Mumbai’s “Jewish headquarters”, and in addition to being a synagogue and a Chabad House, also provided aid for the poor and ran a drug addiction clinic. During this time, the Holtzbergs suffered the loss of two of their three children who succumbed to Tay-Sachs disease. Then came the worst of tragedies: exactly ten years ago, on the 26th of November, the Holtzbergs’ Chabad House was attacked by Muslim terrorists who had descended upon multiple key targets in Mumbai. The couple was taken hostage, and were murdered the following morning, along with four of their guests. (A total of 164 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks.) It was later revealed that Rivki was five months pregnant. The Holtzbergs’ two-year old son Moshe was saved by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel. Five years ago, a new rabbinical couple was sent to Mumbai to continue the holy work of the Holtzbergs, and the Chabad House has now been rebuilt. The centre continues to grow, and now runs a nursery and Jewish school, too. A second Chabad couple is on its way to help. Among other things, the Chabad House is currently working to construct a rooftop memorial for all 164 victims of the attack. Moshe Holtzberg will have his Bar Mitzvah at the House next year.

Moshe Holtzberg: Ten Years Later

The Mumbai Doctor Who Smashed His Idols and Converted to Judaism

Words of the Week

I vow that we will avenge the deaths of Gabi and Rivki. But not with AK-47s, not with grenades and tanks. We will take revenge in a different way. We will add light. We will add good deeds…
– Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky

Chabad’s new Mumbai emissary, Rabbi Kozlovsky, lights the city’s Chanukah menorah.

Jew of the Week: Samuel Reshevsky

Chess Prodigy Shmuel Reshevsky

Szmul Rzeszewski (1911-1992) was born near Lodz, Poland. By age 8 he was easily defeating skilled adults in the game of chess. In 1920, his family moved to the U.S., where the nine year old Reshevsky was supporting his family financially through his earnings playing in chess tournaments. In 1922, he was the youngest ever to compete in the New York Masters Tournament. This caught the ire of the government, since Reshevsky was not attending school. Thus, he gave up chess for 7 years while he zoomed through his formal education (and became, officially, an accountant). Reshevsky returned to chess and immediately won the US Open Chess Championship. He would win the championship an amazing 8 more times in his life. He still holds the record for most championship matches (21), most games played (269) and most games won (127). He was equally successful globally, winning his first international tournament in England in 1935, and receiving the title of International Grandmaster in 1950. Following this, Reshevsky won an 8-game match billed as the “Championship of the Free World”. Most famously was a 16-game match with rising star Bobby Fischer in 1961. Reshevsky would win many more awards over his career, and participated in a record 11 World Championships, defeating 7 world champions. Reshevsky also wrote several popular books on chess. Perhaps most impressively, he was a fully-observant Orthodox Jew, studied Torah every day, and never played a match on Shabbat. He once considered retirement and asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice. The Rebbe suggested to keep playing, for it was a great Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of God. In the Jewish community of Crown Heights where he lived, he would always be known as “Shmulik der vunderkind”.

Words of the Week

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
– Lao Tzu