New Mumbai rabbi highlights worldwide Jewish mission

Tue Sep 7, 2010 1:25pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As they prepare for the High Holidays this week, the Jewish community in India's financial capital Mumbai has good news to report two years after its rabbi there died in an Islamist assault on the city.

A new rabbi has arrived, a new community center is open and their worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement is once again at full strength in Mumbai pursuing its mission to support Jewish life wherever Jews can be found.

The three-day siege in November 2008 claimed 166 lives, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and three others at the Chabad House near the luxury hotels, railway station and cafe also attacked by the Pakistan-based militants. Rabbi Chanoch Gechtman recently arrived from Israel with his wife Leiky to continue Holtzberg's work in a new center a short walk from the original house badly damaged in the assault.

"The Mumbai Jewish community definitely wants to move beyond 26/11," Gechtman, 25, said in an email from Mumbai. "We need to focus forward on helping the many people who need our assistance, so Jewish life flourishes here."

This kind of dedication is the hallmark of Chabad, a Hasidic movement that has built community centres, synagogues, schools and camps around the world in recent decades to promote Jewish observance and bring less devout Jews back into the fold.

"I'm totally impressed, but not surprised, by the fact that they're already reopening the Chabad House in Mumbai," said Henry Goldschmidt, author of a study on Chabad and the Jewish enclave that has grown up around its world headquarters in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Judaism's High Holidays begin on Wednesday evening and run for 10 days, from the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, and ending with the Yom Kippur day of atonement.