Global Chabad community shocked as goodwill emissaries become terror targets
The terror attack on the Chabad center in Mumbai on Wednesday was the worst attack in the movement's history, sending shock waves through its worldwide delegates network. Chabad emissaries, spread in almost every corner of the globe to help Israelis and Jews, have themselves become terror targets.
"It's still early to say what this will do to us. At the moment we're all very worried and occupied with what's happening in Mumbai," Rabbi Yosef Kantor, Chabad's executive director in Thailand who is also in charge of the center in Mumbai, told Haaretz.
Earlier this week the network held its annual conference in New York, which was attended by some 4,000 delegates from all over the world.
"It was a huge display of power of a project that grows bigger every year. You see young families who set out with great enthusiasm to work in the most remote places on earth," said Chabad spokesman Rabbi Menachem Brod, who returned from New York.
The mission was a central theme in the teachings of the last Lubavitcher rebbe. The importance he assigned to "setting off for places where there isn't even a minyan of Jews" made it a prestigious task for Chabad youngsters to be part of.
Until Wednesday, Chabad centers worldwide were seen as extraterritorial compounds where the rebbe's work was being done.
"We've joined the rabbi's army," says Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, smiling, in a video clip about his work in Mumbai with his wife.
Some 12 Chabad delegates operate in India alone. The Mumbai center was founded five years ago by the Holtzbergs and about a year ago it moved to its new home in the five-floor Nariman Building. The two live with their 2-year-old son on the top floor. The building also has a synagogue, dining room, mikveh and Internet services.
Unlike other Chabad centers, which are intended mainly for Israeli hikers, the Mumbai center serves as a community center for the city's small Jewish community, and many of the Israelis staying there are business people.
On weekdays some 30 people live at the center; on weekends their number rises to 80. A regular staff of eight also lives in the house, said Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, father of Rivka Holtzberg.
Yossi Goldberg, a Chabad emissary in Bangkok, spoke of the "tension and dread" yesterday and of increased security in the movement's centers in the Thai capital, itself in the throes of a political crisis.
"It's a difficult feeling but we'll continue working more energetically," he said. "Such disasters won't make us reduce our activity and the terrorists will not dictate the extent of our activity, only the rebbe's commands. This Saturday in Bangkok will be a big event, because many Israelis are stuck here due to the riots. We'll continue our work and hope that our large Sabbath feast will be a thanksgiving feast for the release of all the hostages."