Eleven years after his parents were murdered in a chabad house in Mumbai, Moishi Holtzberg celebrated a bar mitzvah. His grandparents tell what they have been through since then: "He made us young"
Shimon and Yehudit next to "The House of Good Deeds", built according to the "House 770" model of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the USA
Dear Father and Mother, I am very excited to invite you personally to my Bar Mitzvah, which will be held, if God will, in Kfar Chabad. I am sure you will be with me at the Bar Mitzvah event, rejoice with me and always continue to accompany me. Love you with all my heart, Moishi. "
This exciting and creepy sentence is read by Moshi Holtzberg in his Bar Mitzvah video. Photo site: Olive Mountain Cemetery. Moishi walks among the tombstones, reaches his parents' grave, lights a candle and places an invitation on the tombstone to celebrate his bar mitzvah.
11 years after the Mumbai attack: Moishi Holtzberg celebrates a bar mitzvah
Moishi was two years old when his parents, Rebecca and Gabi Holtzberg, Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, were murdered in a terrorist attack in late 2008. His therapist, Sandra Samuel, escaped him from home and thus saved his life. Last month, 11 years after the attack, the 2-year-old baby took turns.
As a Chabad custom, before the event he invited the dead to attend the ceremony. The invitation was documented in an exciting clip, in which Moishi sings to his parents a song written by his grandmother Judith, who has been raising him devotedly since the disaster, with her husband Shimon. Like them.
"In general, that is what sits at the top of it," explains Judith. "His parents were emissaries, and he has a specific purpose - to be like them. The choice is his."
Moishi with the blessing he received from President Trump // Photo: Ohana Photographers Afula
I meet Judith (67) and Shimon (70) Rosenberg at their home in Afula, the home where they raised their 11 children, including Rebecca, the sixth child. Now they are raising Moishi, who calls them Zida (grandfather in Yiddish) and grandmother. They have just returned from shopping for Shabbat and are unloading the groceries from the vehicle. Moishi is at the school, Talmud Torah in Migdal Haemek, where he studies in the eighth grade. "We just landed," smiles at Judith. "Where are you from?" I wonder, and she replies: "From the bar mitzvah."
The story of Moishi's heroic rescue made him a heroic hero. Many celebrities, and just people, want to be photographed with him. The Bar Mitzvah party, held in Kfar Chabad, was divided into two: At the first event there were 300 members of the family and in the evening an open event was held for the audience.
Judith: "We felt the need to close a circle. Gabby and Rebeky's funeral was in Kfar Chabad, near the Rebbe's house in the village. Moishi's haircut at age 3 was in the village, and all the Rebbe's messengers were invited. Now the bar mitzvah was there, and with God's help, the wedding would be there, too. "
Shimon says that two thousand people came to celebrate with the boy, including the Israeli ambassador to Israel. President Trump sent a greeting. "It had to be a mass, because everyone wanted to be part of the joy. We had to tell the prime minister that it would be better not to come, because the security arrangements would not allow us to have the joy, but Bibi and Sarah sent a movie with an exciting greeting that was screened at the event." Participants in the event were distributed the booklet "Father, Mother, I Continue in the Light," which describes the story of Moishi's rescue miracle.
Judith: "At night, after the party, we went to the Old City of Jerusalem. We slept in the hostel, and in the morning the men dipped in the mikvah and left for the Western Wall in a large convoy, accompanied by an orchestra by Abraham Fried."
Along with the decision to have great joy, Judith defends Moishi as a lioness and refrains from exposing him to the media. "I do not agree that he will be a 'celeb.' He is an ordinary child. Now I am both a grandmother and a mother, and the responsibility to keep him is my responsibility. He will grow up like an ordinary child, and not in front of the media."
"Want the mission." The late Gabby and Rebecca
First of all, the Rosenbergs are the emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Afula. Maybe less glamorous than India, but involves less work. At the entrance to a wagon house with heaps of vegetables, which Simon receives from donors to the "Gabby and Rebeky House of Good Deeds," which they have erected on a nearby street. He arranges the contents of the large cart in cupboards and refrigerators, three in number.
In the center of the room is a long tablecloth, surrounded by cabinets with silverware. Pictures of Judith and Shimon with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, each of whom he met in the early '70s, hang in the corner modestly. Shimon leaves the house to hear calls from local residents, who need him at the "Good Works House".
Meanwhile, Judith organizes the volunteers who come to arrange food parcels, which they distribute to families' homes for families before Saturday. She apologizes for "the house that is a bit messy, because of the grace there are always things here that need to get to someone or vice versa, and it is never arranged to the end." I ask them how many guests will come to sit. "Not writers," smiles Simon.
Yehudit was born in northern Tel Aviv to Chabad parents who were also emissaries. "I grew up in a super-secular environment. We were there a bright spot, the alienation and polarity were not like today. Most of my mother's adults were Holocaust survivors, I was an only child with four brothers, on Saturday evenings we would sing aloud. There were no air conditioners, the windows were open. The neighbors would stand on the balconies and listen. It was clear to me that I would marry Chabad and go on a mission as well. It was my pride to be the Rebbe's messengers. "
Shimon was born in Lod, near the train station. His parents were in ten Chabad families who arrived in the city in 1949 as the Rebbe's emissaries. He met Judith in a match in 1972, and soon after they got married. "We decided to set up a Hasidic home on the basis of Torah and commandments and educate the children in that spirit. We wanted to be messengers of the Rebbe together. We wrote a letter to the rabbi that we decided to build a house, and we received a blessing from him. "
Chabad applicants undergo ordination for rabbinate after at least five months of hard study, in which they study law and law, so that during their mission they can also answer Halacha questions. Shimon went to rabbinical studies with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and met with him privately. Where to go on a mission.
"On the episode were Afula, Migdal Haemek and Nazareth Illit. The Rebbe encircled the word 'Afula' and promised to mention Judith and Shimon on the score (grave) of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in New York, to whom he would pray with all the requests he came to .
At the recommendation of the rabbi, they rented an apartment in Afula, where there were no Chabadese at the time. Judith began teaching at the Chabad school in Megiddo, and Shimon began operations for checking mezuzahs in houses.
Judith: "When we arrived in Afula it was a year of shemita, where no vegetables are eaten from the country, only goods from Gentiles. We would go to Jenin, buy vegetable crates. We opened the Chabad House in our house, and it was always open to guests. Sometimes Simon would gather people who were stuck on the way, or men who would bring women into the hospital and walk around the street on Saturday evening to search for a synagogue. Anyone who needs help. With some of the couples we have a connection to this day. "
Shimon and Judith in the Lubavitcher Rebbe Room // Photo: Tzahi Miriam
After a year, the Rebbe authorized them to buy an apartment in Afula. They bought a three-room apartment, then four. As the family grew, they bought the house they live in today and slowly expanded it.
Shimon: "In 1974, following the immigration from Georgia to Upper Nazareth, I was called to establish a Chabad school in the southern neighborhood there. There was a certain period I worked there from morning till night. I asked the Rebbe: 'Maybe I'll go to Upper Nazareth and come home only on Saturdays?' The Rebbe said, "Why move an apartment?" And so we stayed in Afula.
"In 1974, my sister was killed in a car accident. A month and a half after her wedding, she was traveling with several guys in a modern vehicle and on a straight road, and at the Latrun junction, the car was killed. The driver of Kfar Chabad, my sister and my brother-in-law. Following the accident, the Rebbe did not give us permission to buy a car. We took no action without asking the Rebbe. "
What are you doing today?
Judith: "Today, the Rebbe is asked through books called 'Sacred Epistles.' The books have a collection of letters the Rebbe wrote. We write our note, give charity in the Rebbe's room at the Good Deeds House, or in front of a picture of the Rebbe, and open The book is getting an answer. It's amazing that the answer is always accurate. "
During the construction of the personal home, the construction of the Chabad House, the work and the raising of children, Judith decided to document her life in a personal journal. "There are so many experiences in raising children, forgetting the little things. I bought 40-page notebooks and put them in the small kitchenette on the second floor. Anyone who wanted to write. I have 22 small memoir notebooks. "
Rivki, Judith and Shimon's sixth daughter, married Gabi at the age of 20. They lived for a year in Migdal Haemek and, according to Judith, "wanted the hardest and most challenging mission. Check many offers until the offer came from Mumbai. During the holidays in 2003, they traveled for three months to Thailand. We went for another two weeks in India and returned to packing luggage. In the end they decided on Mumbai, because they thought it was the biggest challenge - with the disabled on the streets, the foreign work, the travelers and the business people coming there. "
What did you feel?
"Single pride. Rise and succeed. There was no fear. Warnings of attacks came later."
For five and a half years, Rebecca and Gabi lived in Mumbai. "They started in a hotel room, and in endless work they set up the Chabad House, on its five floors. Obtained building and financing permits, built and operated. We gave a home to every Jew who needed him, and dreamed of setting up a kindergarten and a kiddie too.
Shortly before Moishi's birth, they came to Israel for birth. After the Alliance, they returned to India. On the night of the attack, Wednesday, November 26, 2008, a Jew was at home. Simon was in the synagogue. "Suddenly phones started coming home," she shivers. "People called and asked for Gabby's phone number. I didn't say anything, but I realized something was wrong.
"Always keep me accompanied." Moishi at his parents' grave, in his bar mitzvah video
"I called them, and there was no response. I sent them a fax, no response. Sitting at home, not knowing what's going on, say good news of Psalms. At 2 o'clock, a call came from the US, Gabi's cousin, and then we learned there was an integrated attack , And probably hit the Chabad House as well. It hasn't been published in the country yet, and he didn't know details.
"As the night progressed, the more details came from the US, until we learned that they had been hit. We decided that immediately they were flying to India. Before the flight we wrote a letter to the Rebbe. I asked for them to be good news.
“When we were at Ben Gurion Airport, our youngest son tried to dissuade me from traveling. Everyone understood what had happened. There was a report of a European-looking woman walking out of the building with a baby in her hands. This European look is Rivky. What about Gabi? Later we repaired to an 'Indian look', and I realized it was probably Sandra.
"We flew to India through Turkey, with kosher sandwiches prepared by our youngest daughter. We landed on Friday at noon and drove to the home of Israeli consul Ortal Elbaz-greeting. There we were waiting for Moishi and Sandra.
"The meeting was exciting. There were media teams from all over the world. Before I lit Shabbat candles, I contacted all the Israelis of the world through the media and asked them to light Shabbat candles, asking for Rebecca and my back, because it was a desire to ask for the name.
"I was close to the Psalms. And I also asked for a miracle. 'Even a sharp sword is placed on a person's neck.
Did you get any sleep?
"It's hard to say I slept. I prayed. From the heart. From the Psalms. Mixed."
Shimon and Yehudit at Tiferet Rivka
The 10 terrorist attacks in Mumbai were linked to the al-Qaeda organization. At the same time, they attacked ten targets, one of which was a Chabad house in the city. 207 people were murdered, including Rebeki and Gabi Holtzberg, and four guests staying in the Chabad house at the time. 694 people were injured.
The hard news came to Judith and Shimon Rosenberg on Saturday morning, just at Moishi's birthday. "The consul was not home, and her husband called us to a side room and told us the worst," says Judith. "It was very difficult. They were killed on Friday, the month of Kislev, and on Saturday Moishi was two years old.
"On the one hand, the eyes do not stop crying, on the other should make him a birthday. Sing with him. Applaud. These are the challenges that the Blessed One gives us. Sadness and joy rushed.
"I believe there is nothing wrong with coming down from above. Even what seems bad to us and not good is a challenge that the Holy One is giving us, and we rise from it to more lofty places."
Did you understand this even in the gospel moment?
"At that moment I just cried. I allowed myself to be a human being. We cried, my husband and I."
"We prayed 'the Father of Mercy dwells in deceit.' We cried with every word."
Does faith help overcome?
"Anyone who says it doesn't hurt will lie. Point. Even when there is faith, it hurts. In the case of Yosef and his brother, the Torah says he played it tough on the outside, but on the inside it hurt him. Also, the man who has faith and strength, cries inside.
"Faith gives strength to cope. We know that there is a Creator of the world, and that everything has a reason. Man does not see. Maybe we will understand later, and maybe never understand. The deliberate hand gives us the power to cope. We left the room where we got the gospel, wiped away the tears and walked. Celebrate a birthday to Moshi. "
Shimon: "It says in the Zohar that joy and joy are on one side of the heart, and the cry is on the other. Man's difficulty is to live with them."
Judith and Shimon, who were grandparents at the time, found themselves raising Moishi as a single son. Judith began to record in a personal journal the special moments of his life, landmarks, so that in the coming day he could know what he was going through. In diaries, she also began to write songs for him.
"He made us young," Simon smiles. "We crawled with him on fours, played board games, football, basketball, marbles. To this day, try not to be boring.
"On Saturdays, we make sure there are families with children his age. Games in all the games you can imagine. Sandra, the therapist, comes every Saturday. We want to feel like a normal family."
How does he deal?
Judith: "He is a boy with strengths. A strong boy. I don't like being told personal things about him. He likes to be first place in studies. Elementary. Does not deceive himself.
"But most importantly, he is a happy boy. A beloved boy. He lives the life of every child. He makes a muscle in the hand and tells me: 'Grandma, look what muscle I have.' And I tell him that his mother used to do such muscles all day.
"Moishi always wants to be number one in everything, and that creates quite a bit of difficulty. To overcome and teach him, I wrote him a jingle: 'No matter who's first / No matter who's last / we're all kids / hey ho.'
"In the first period after we returned to Israel he was close to Sandra, really sleeping on her, holding on to her. Slowly they had to be separated and taught him to sleep alone. We taught him that too by song. And to help him sleep alone, we gave him a prize for everything A night he sleeps in his bed. "
Does he remember anything from India?
"In the first year he mentioned things from home. Slowly he forgot. Today he remembers nothing."
Shimon: "It was hard for him to understand how the parents did not return with him on the plane, but are buried here. Once we traveled with him to Tiberias, to show him the graves of righteous people like his parents."
Judith: "From the age of 6 he started writing jokes. He always makes people laugh, knows how to say a joke in the right place." Judith writes Moishi's jokes in a special notebook and also illustrates them.
What do you think will be his mission?
Shimon: "To unite the people of Israel with the feeling of giving, with the partnership of pain and joy. Like the disaster, all the people of Israel have been with us, in pain and sorrow. All eyes of the people of Israel are married to him, expecting him to grow as he grows up.
"He knows he will continue on his parents 'mission, but many times wonder how it will work out. Ask us:' Will I have a Chabad house here, in Afula, and in India? How will I have money for workers here and there? '
"Judith makes sure he is as much a child as he is. He will be connected to the Torah and the Mitzvah, connected to the Rebbe's emissaries. He does not receive any discounts. We see Moshi as the missionary to bring the coming of Christ through his good, great deeds. Every Friday he goes to Operation Tefillin On the city, on Shabbat, he gathers children around the synagogue for prayer and tells them twelve verses of Torah that the Rebbe chose, telling a Chassidic story.
"At the age of 9, I got used to speaking to a public. I say Torah words at the Shabbat reception in the synagogue, the news of the affair, and from time to time give it to us.
Like Pharaoh's daughter, who was dragging Moses out of the clear, so Sandra Samuel removed Moishi from the inferno. Samuel (55) was born in India, where his two sons, aged 29 and 36, live.
After the attack, she refused to leave Moishi ("I felt he was my other half") and accepted Israeli citizenship. The American Jewish Committee awarded her the "Shield of Courage" for her valor. Until Moshi reached the age of 6, Sandra lived in the home of Judith and Shimon in Afula, and then moved to Jerusalem, where she was found working with limited people in the aliya association. She calls Moshi a "sumo boy" - the golden boy.
"For the first six years of his life, we were constantly together," she says in English. "Now he's grown up and has his life. He needs other things than he needed as a baby. He needs to learn. I can only give him emotional support. Every Saturday I come to him, he knows I'm with him. I can't go back to India yet because I Should be here for him. He still needs to get stronger. "
She talks to Rivkie all the time in her heart, telling her about what's going on Moishi. "Blessed be God (these words she says in Hebrew), in three years I can tell her that her son is strong and can be alone. Then I will return to India."
Sandra is a Catholic, who came to work in the Chabad House after her friend, who worked there, asked her to replace her for a month. "I love Jews, God said the Jews were chosen. I was very happy to work with Rebecca and Gabby, it was like a gift to me. "
This month turned into five and a half years. "After Moishi was born, Rebeki told me: 'From now on, you only take care of Moshe Boy. No cooking, no cleaning. I was responsible for him, because Rebecca had a lot of work. I slept with him in the same room. He said 'Shema Israel,' and I put him to sleep in his fifth-floor room. I went out of the room and went downstairs with Rebeki. Gaby slaughtered 200 poultry, and had to help clean them up and arrange them for delivery to India.
"Rebeky stayed on the second floor of the house, and I went downstairs. I exchanged a few words with a local employee named Jackie until Rebeky called him to clear the table where the guests had finished eating.
"Suddenly I heard a loud blast and gunfire. I didn't understand the meaning, I thought it was children's games. Suddenly the door opened, and I saw a terrorist standing in front of me and shooting in my direction. I fled back. He went up to the second floor, and in seconds I see explosives being thrown away. I realized what it is, India has holidays with big fireworks, and I still thought it was.
"The terrorists threw the furniture and there was a big noise. I called from the phone on the first floor about to ask him what happened. On the phone I heard a night of voices. I took off the phone and hung up the cord.
Sandra and Judith, at Bar Mitzvah celebrations // Photo: Ohana Photographers Afula
"My thoughts were especially on Moshe Boy, who was on the fifth floor, but there were shots and explosions all around and I had to hide, so as not to get hurt. On the first floor there were two huge freezers, and I hid between them. .
"Around a quarter to three, I heard wrestling noises. Tables shifted, and suddenly Rebecca's shout: 'Wait a minute, Gabi calm down.' Suddenly there was silence, followed by footsteps on the broken glass. I prayed to God.
"Jackie wasn't calm. He sat on Moishi's games, and his every move made noise. So hours of stress and anxiety, gunshots and explosions went by. I didn't know what was going on upstairs.
"At 10:45 in the morning, I heard Moishi shouting, 'Sandra. Sandra.' I said to Jackie, 'Let's go get the baby.' He told me, 'They'll kill you.' I overcame the fear and started climbing what were stairs And now everything was broken, and then I saw the horrible play - Gabby and Rebecca lying on the floor, and Moishi next to them.
"I realized the most important thing was to save Moishi. I picked him up in one moment, ran downstairs, and with Jackie I walked out the door. I didn't know where the terrorists were at that time. After the attack, they told me they were on the roof. "If I had a little more common sense, I would have taken her outside. All the people were standing outside, the police didn't help. When they told me later that everyone was dead, I was in the market. I couldn't believe it."
Are you talking to him about his parents?
"No, and he never asked me either. It surprises me, maybe he is scared to ask. When we came to Israel, he further asked, 'Where's Mum? Where's Dad?'. I told him they were in heaven. The fact that he has no parents. "
What would you like him to be when he grows up?
"Be like his dad, with an open mind and good for everyone. Not just Jews - Catholics, Buddhists, everyone. I want him to be like his parents, with an open heart."