(lubavitch.com) Lubavitch World Headquarters has appointed Rabbi Chanoch and Leah Gechtman of Israel to serve as full time Chabad representatives to Mumbai.
Since the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008, during which Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg, along with other visitors at the Chabad Nariman House were murdered, Chabad services were maintained in Mumbai through rabbinical students working there on an interim basis.
The Gechtmans and their baby will now take up permanent residence in the city, though not in Nariman House, which is under repair and will be dedicated as a visitors’ center and a memorial to the Holtzbergs and the others killed there.
Rabbi Gechtman spent time Mumbai as a rabbinical student, helping his good friends Gabi and Rivka in their outreach work. More recently, in the summer of 2009, the couple spent time in Mumbai while considering the idea of settling there.
There are a lot of emotional and physical adjustments to make to a move like this, they admit. “But,” says Leah, “we found a real need here, and a tremendous amount of potential; it became clear to us that we are meant to do this.”
The couple expects to continue the work of the Holtzbergs, serving visiting businesspeople and international travelers. “Gabi created an exceptional atmosphere of openness and warmth together with a love for Torah study,” recalls Rabbi Gechtman of the time he spent with Gabi in Mumbai.
In an interview with Lubavitch.com, Rabbi Gechtman emphasized that he and his wife are also interested in turning their focus to the local Jewish community, made up of some 4,000-5,000 Jews.
“There is a great need to reach out to this community made up of many, many poor families. My dream is to establish a center that will help these people in an immediate way, but also give them the tools to become self-sufficient.”
The Gechtmans will be moving to Mumbai in several weeks. Officials at Lubavitch Headquarters confirm that security arrangements have been addressed.