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A Last Shabbat With The Holtzbergs in Mumbai

Seattle, Washington

Responses and condolences from people worldwide continue to fill the inbox of's email. Some, like Olga Daniela Bakayeva, had the privilege to visit the Chabad House in Mumbai. Below, she shares the experience of the Holtzbergs' memorable hospitality in what was to be the last Shabbat of their lives.

( I met the Holtzbergs last week during my first Shabbat in Mumbai. I emailed them a month before coming to India , and then again when I finally landed in Mumbai. I got an immediate reply with an invitation to join them for the Shabbat, which I promptly did.

Being in their house took me back to my time in Israel. I thought of the house itself as an Israeli house. Maybe it was the marble floors, careful and practical use of an available space, custom made bookshelves filled with books, Jewish art on the wall that made me think of an Israeli house. And then there was a wonderful Shabbat table, already laden with food, with kiddush cups and Rivka's challahs placed at the head of the table.

I had some private time to chat with Rivka, which we mostly spent on playing "Jewish geography." Then the men came from the shul, Gavriel made Kiddush, and all of us enjoyed a great meal and wonderful company. We talked and argued politics, discussed economics, shared our personal stories, played "Jewish geography" once again, and had plain wonderful and good time at their house

A number of us wanted to know why Gavriel and Rivka decided to come to India, how long it took them to pack to move from USA to India , how long they planned to stay in the country. Both of them were brimming with energy, force, and utter dedication to their cause.

I remember looking at Rivka, and admiring this petite, slender, young woman, who had the energy to have guests day in and day out (they had daily dinners at 8 PM), and still look and remain so serene. I remember telling two other young women at the table that I am always amazed by shluchim Chabad ladies. I am amazed at their patience, I am amazed at the endless supply of energy, I am amazed at their strength and stamina with which they manage their families, while cooking up huge meals for never ending string of guests, giving lectures, and being their husbands' right hands. And Rivka was amazing, to do what Rivka did in India was no small challenge.

When I came back home after the meal, I was bragging to my fellow volunteers about wonderful meal I had at Chabad; my Facebook status was about the best cholent I had in a long time. I bragged about how lucky I was to be placed in a location where I am a 20-minute cab ride away from being home away from home. When I packed for my trip to India, I told my friends how much I was looking forward to hanging out at Chabad, going there for meals, meeting new people, and celebrating Hanukkah with them. We even joked that with so many Jewish backpackers going through Mumbai's Chabad house, I should ask the Rabbi and his wife to set me up on a shidduch date.

Whenever I go traveling, I always know that no matter where I go, there is always Chabad to call and ask for anything: help with a place to stay, a meal, a question, etc. It was Chabad in Italy that hosted me for Shabbat. It was Chabad in Hungary that helped me with Passover meals while I was stuck in Budapest. It was Chabad in Seattle that I stayed with for a week when I moved there from Baltimore . And it was Chabad in India that was my home away from home.

I had almost gone to their house for a meal on Wednesday night, but ended up not going because I decided to go for a walk at Marine drive. When I said "Shabbat Shalom" to Rivka and her husband last week, we left off with them inviting me to come back as soon as possible, and me saying that I will be back during the week for a dinner, and come back again for next Shabbat.  The next Shabbat was this past Shabbat, and Holtzbergs are not with us anymore, because senseless and baseless hatred cut the lives of a wonderful couple short.

One way to honor the Holtzbergs' memory, support and continue their  efforts is to help to re-build Mumbai Chabad house, so that no matter where our travel takes us, all of us can always find home away from home at Chabad house.

To contribute to the Mumbai Chabad Fund, click here: Mumbai Chabad Fund. thanks Mrs. Dena Levin of Palo Alto, CA, for sharing this with our readers.


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