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Memorial Evening for the Shluchim in Mumbai

Over 3‚000 people‚ including the Rebbe's emissaries in Israel and their supporters‚ as well as members of the Rosenberg and Holtzberg families‚ participated on Wednesday‚ in a very emotional memorial evening for the Shluchim‚ Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivka Holtzberg‚ may their blood be avenged. The evening also served to salute the extraordinary work of all the Chabad emissaries in Israel.

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Over 3,000 people, including the Rebbe's emissaries inIsrael and their supporters, as well as members of the Rosenberg and Holtzberg families, participated on Wednesday, in a very emotional memorial evening for the Shluchim, Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivka Holtzberg, may their blood be avenged. The evening also served to salute the extraordinary work of all the Chabad emissaries in Israel.

The highlight of the evening was the upsherin, or first haircut, of young Moishie, the son of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka. He went up to the stage with his grandparents. Everyone present was deeply moved at that moment. "The murderers thought that they'll be able to put out the great torch that the Rebbe has lit, but the army of emissaries were  empowered in the aftermath of this massacre," said the organizer of the event, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Aranov, Chairman of Chabad in Israel..

A large tent, elegantly decorated, was erected during the past few weeks near the "770" building in Kfar Chabad in Israel. It was to this venue that the crowd of thousands streamed.  

The evening was opened by the emcee, Rabbi Naftali Lipsker, who heads the department responsible for all the branches of the C.Y.O. throughout Israel. He addressed the many guests with warm words of welcome and then invited Rabbi Joseph Rosenberg, the Chabad emissary to the Ramot neighborhood in Haifa, and Rabbi Meir Rosenberg, brothers-in-law of the couple murdered in Mumbai, to read the special chapters of Tehillim in memory of Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife, may their blood be avenged.

The Rebbe's chapter, chapter 108, was read aloud in unison by the whole assembly, and lead by Rabbi Yossi Swerdlov. It was a highly poignant moment for him and for everyone because this day was also the shloshim (the thirtieth day) since the death of Rabbi Swerdlov’s precious daughter Shula o.b.m. who was killed in a traffic accident in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, Rabbi of Kfar Chabad, spoke words of blessing to the assembly. He talked about the concept of closing a circle. The funerals of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka, may their blood be avenged, started out from the "770" building and now, a year later, thousands of Shluchim were celebrating little Moishie's first haircut, and celebrating the work of the emissaries in Israel, in the same place. The closing of this circle is living proof that no terrorist will ever stop or prevent the work of the Chabad emissaries.

To everyone it seemed that Gabi and Rivki were looking down from Heaven on the thousands gathered in their memory.

Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, Rabbi Gavriel Noach's father, was invited to come to the podium to address the crowd. He spoke about his son and daughter-in-law's extraordinary work in Mumbai, and the fact that, since the tragedy, more than 500 children world-wide have been named after them. He spoke about the 15 Torah scrolls written in their memory, and about the general spiritual awakening which came about in the aftermath of the tragedy. He said that the family constantly receives phone calls with words of encouragement from the many friends who visited the Chabad House in Mumbai and who enjoyed Gabi and Rivki's warm hospitality.

"Gabi and Rivki, you aren't here physically but your spirits are here in this hall, and surely you see us from above and are proud of us," he said in an emotion-choked voice.  He talked about how on this evening the family was celebrating Moishie's first haircut, little Moishie who miraculously survived the tragedy. He called upon everyone present to add more good deeds in memory of the Rabbi Gavi and Rivki, may their blood be avenged.

Rivki Holtzberg's father, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, spoke warm and highly moving words. He told the crowd that the family had requested that the celebration of Moishie’s haircutting be held in the courtyard of the Agudat Chassidei Chabad  House "770", at the very same place from which the funeral had departed exactly a year earlier, rather than holding the ceremony in a larger place. He thanked the Chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Aranov, who took upon himself the organization of this moving evening.

Rabbi Rosenberg related that not long ago, a friend of the Chabad House in Mumbai told him that once, when he fell into serious debt, he asked for financial aid from Gabi and Rivki. Without requesting any guarantor, they immediately transferred  a large sum of money to his bank account. “That’s who Gavi and Rivki were,” Rabbi Rosenberg said. He also reminded the audience that another part of the day’s events was celebrating the miraculous escape of little Moishie, who, without the help of Sandra, his governess, would never have survived the massacre. He thanked Sandra for her love and loyalty to Moishie.  

The Chassidic singer, Reb Avraham Fried, brought a spark of beauty to the evening with his wonderful, lyrical songs. He dedicated a very special song, "Little Leaf", to Moishie who was eagerly awaiting his upsherin.  Fried told the audience that, at the request of Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, he wrote and composed the song in memory of the Rabbi Gavi and Rivki. "This is a Shlichut (mission), and this is a Shaliach (emissary),” Fried sang of the emissaries whose home was open to all, and who were murdered sanctifying G-d's name. "Moishie will yet be a great emissary, and upon the resurrection of the dead, they will once more stride together."

The memorial evening was honored by the presence of Minister Yossi Peled, Chairman of the Justice Department, Cabinet Member David Rotam, Chairman of the Shas party, Cabinet Member Avraham Michaeli, Vice Education Minister, Cabinet Member Menachem Porush, and Cabinet Member Michael Ben Ari.

The moment everyone was waiting for arrived: the first haircut of little Moishie. He came up to the stage accompanied by his grandparents to music from the orchestra of Yuval Stopel, which played throughout the evening. Moishie was very excited as were his family members and the audience. Under a large, impressive yarmulke with his name on it, Moishie’s innocent, bright  face shone from every giant screen in the hall. There was not a dry eye anywhere.  Little Moishie, who had undergone a tragic year with the loss of his beloved parents, courageously smiled at the crowd. He clearly understood the importance of this special day.

One after another, people were invited to come up and cut the beautiful curls on his head, both Rabbis and V.I.P.s. During the ceremony, a large birthday cake was brought to Moishie, accompanied by joyous music. Tomorrow, the haircutting celebration will continue at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Miron.

The whole evening was testimony to the motto of Chabad: The strength to give.

Mr. Ilan Ben Dov, who stands at the emissaries' side year in and year out, was invited to speak to the audience. He spoke of the tragedy that had befallen the great family of Shluchim, and the fact that what happened at Mumbai brought to the attention of the whole world, the work of the Shluchim and the mission of the Chabad movement. He spoke of Chabad's motto: To give to everyone, everywhere, without waiting for any reward. He spoke of his long-time acquaintance with Chabad's emissaries in Israel, and thanked Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Aranov for organizing this evening and for heading Chabad's activities throughout the land ofIsrael. "There is no other organization in the world that sends 5,000 Shluchim to every corner of the world," he said.

Following his speech, the lights went out and everyone’s attention turned to the large screens around the hall. A moving video was shown of Chabad's world-wide Shlichut program., and of the Shluchim in Mumbai who were a shining example of the activities of all the Shluchim throughout the world.  The movie showed video excerpts of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivki Holtzberg, may their blood be avenged, which were filmed at various occasions in the Chabad House. Their hospitality to each and every Jew was so very clear. "If I'd remained in Israel, I would never have merited hosting so many people as I've merited here," said theShaliacha Rivki Holtzberg, whose simple words poignantly expressed their activities in Mumbai. The movie, as well video excerpts and photos also showcased the extraordinary activities of the 500 families of Shluchim in Israel, who head 257 Chabad Houses throughout the country, from Kiryat Shemona in the north to Eilat in the south. The large audience saluted the Shluchim with thunderous applause.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the Mercaz L'Iyonei Chinuch, who was in close contact with the couple in Mumbai, spoke with great emotion. "The world will never forget little Moishie" he said, reiterating that for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, may their blood be avenged, their whole life was aShlichut. He told the crowd that a few years earlier, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg was invited to speak at the world conference ofShluchim, and he spoke words whose message is relevant for us today.

"No day goes by that we don't remember Gavi and Rivki and promise ourselves to carry on with their deeds. A day will come, and Moishie will take over for his parents in Shlichut," he said, and continued, "Your acts add much light to the world and we have to continue in their path and rebuild the Chabad House which was a symbol of hospitality and welcome to every Jew." Rabbi Kotlarsky concluded, "I'm certain that when Moshiach comes and all the Synagogues and Shuls all over the world will go up to Yerushalayim,  the first one to go up, attached to the Third Beit HaMikdash, will be the Chabad House in Mumbai.”

Avraham Fried again took the stage and brought everyone to their feet in an enthusiastic dance that turned the great hall into one  large circle of dancers.

Moishie's uncle, Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, the Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek who heads the Migdal Or institutions there, spoke emotionally about the great trial that confronted us with the massacre in Mumbai, and the uniting power of 3,000 people joining together, among them one thousand emissaries, at this wonderful and impressive evening organized by Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Aranov, Chairman of the C.Y.O. "The Rebbe is here with us, and is looking at all the Shluchim sitting here together" Rabbi Grossman said and turning to the bereaved parents, he said, "Joyful are you, for having merited such children who sanctified G-d's name".

Rabbi Grossman called upon everyone present to leave the evening empowered to spread Yiddishkeit even further and to open more Chabad Houses throughout the land. At the end of his speech Rabbi Grossman turned to Sandra, the loyal governess who had  saved Moishie and said: "The daughter of Pharaoh saved Moshe from the sea, and you saved Moshe from the inferno.” He blessed her for her deed.

The evening was brought to an emotional conclusion by Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Aranov, who had taken upon himself the organization of this unforgettable event. He is the strength behind all the Chabad projects in Israel. He is the Chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization as well as Chairman of Agudat Chassidei Chabad in the Holy Land.

Rabbi Aranov praised the activities of the Shluchim in Israel who had gathered together for this special evening to memorialize Rabbi Gavi and Rivki Holtzberg, may their blood be avenged, and to share in the milestone of their son’s upsherin, as well as to celebrate the extraordinary work they have all done throughout the country. "The large distances from the ends of the country didn't prevent the brothers and sisters of the Shluchim in Mumbai – the Shluchim in Israel -- from coming together in their memory and to ensure the continuation of the Shlichut which spreads the light of Torah and Chasssidut throughout the world,” Rabbi Aranov said.

He continued, "The accursed murderers came specially to destroy the Chabad House, as was released this week. Their aim was clear: To hit a place of light, a place of Torah, a place of hospitality. They thought that by their acts they will extinguish the great torch that the Rebbe has lit in the world. But the army of Shluchim in the world prove that precisely because of the darkness, we emerged with great strength, determined even more, to disseminate Torah and Yiddishkeit."

Rabbi Aranov spoke of the unprecedented awakening in the aftermath of the tragedy, and of the great number of Jews who turn to the Chabad centers world-wide, requesting aid and support, spiritually and materially. He concluded by turning to the deeply appreciated supporters and partners of the Chabad Houses and calling on them to continue their wonderful and generous support and aid for the Shluchim. He asked them to put their strength into the development and prospering of this holy work.

As the evening drew to a close, the final speaker was Mr. Parker, American consul in Israel, who spoke in English about the activities of the Shluchim who were murdered and the activities of the Chabad movement in the world.  

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