Tag Archives: Mohel

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: Lev Leviev

King of Diamonds

Lev Leviev

Lev Leviev

Lev Avnerovich Leviev (b. 1956) was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (then part of the USSR) to an observant Bukharian-Jewish family, the son of a mohel. In 1971, the family moved to Israel, where Leviev dropped out of school and apprenticed at a diamond-polishing factory instead. After serving in the IDF, he started his own successful diamond business. When the USSR collapsed, Leviev took advantage of the opportunity to expand his enterprise into the former Soviet Union. With the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, his business flourished tremendously, and Leviev soon expanded his reach into other ventures, including real estate, construction, and the chemical industry. Today, his net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, with diamond mines in Angola, Namibia, Alaska, and Russia. Now the world’s largest diamond cutter and diamond polisher, he has been nicknamed the “King of Diamonds”. Meanwhile, Leviev has joined the ranks of the top Jewish philanthropists in the world, with estimates of donating over $50 million every year. As one of the main financial supporters of Chabad, he has sponsored over 300 rabbis and 10,000 other Chabad staff around the world. A staunch supporter of Israel, Leviev’s philanthropic (and business) activities also include funding Israeli settlements, along with other Israeli institutions. He is also the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (former Soviet Union), and the president of the World Congress of Bukharian Jews. Leviev’s main charitable organization, the Ohr Avner Foundation (named after his father), funds countless Jewish schools, synagogues, educational institutions, kindergartens, and youth programs in over 500 communities around the world. Incredibly, Leviev also carried on the old family tradition of being mohels, and has performed over one thousand circumcisions himself! He remains fully observant; his businesses closed on Shabbat. Leviev has nine children, and currently resides in London, England.

Words of the Week

For me, Israel, Jerusalem, and Haifa are all the same. So are the Golan Heights. As far as I’m concerned, all of Eretz Israel is holy. To decide the future of Jerusalem? It belongs to the Jewish people. What is there to decide? Jerusalem is not a topic for discussion.
– Lev Leviev