December 03, 2008
Unspeakable Acts, But We Must Speak Out
Tuesday night I attended a memorial service at Chabad of Stamford for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg and other victims of terror in Mumbai. Hundreds of people packed the sanctuary to hear Fairfield County rabbis, Stamford Mayor Dannell Malloy and others speak.
The terrorists committed unspeakable acts, and my sense is they did so with glee and delight at the opportunity to have Jews in their claws. The blood-drenched walls of the Chabad House, the tears of the Holtzbergs' two-year old son, Moshe, the funeral on the Mount of Olives all testify to "Kiddush Hashem" -- the sanctification of God's Name through martyrdom.
At the memorial, the speakers addressed a great Jewish question: How do you speak about, and against, unspeakable acts? The rabbis combined grief with a Jewish version of Joe Hill's dictum: "Don't Mourn -- Organize!"
Rabbi Yisroel Deren said that weapons and violence are not the tool to combat terrorists. Rather, positive acts of kindness and Jewish expression, "a million points of light," will dispell the darkness. MC Leah Shemtov, in comments that were both low-key and extraordinarily passionate, spoke of the need to act. The memorial book for the evening had a page of mitzvot that enabled members of the audience to take action immediately. A table in the back had stacks of shabbat and Hannukah candles, kippot, brochures on basic Jewish concepts and tzedekah boxes.
The evening's emotional highlight was an 18-minute video on the life of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, from their childhoods through last week's murders. It showed Rivkah with members of her staff, including Sandra Samuel, who rescued Moshe and earned herself a place among the Righteous Gentiles of this generation.
As the evening progressed, I reflected on how local Chabad rabbis and rebbitzens have touched my life at key points. I attended a seder at Chabad of Westport in 2002 when I was getting divorced and nobody else in the world wanted me; my son studied at Chabad of Greenwich for a year, and spent two summers with the summer Gan program in Westport; I've heard Rabbis Laibl Wolf and Abraham Twerski speak at Chabad. Earlier this year, I visited the Rebbe's grave in Queens with Chabad of Stamford.
Those are all points of light in my life, memories of caring, acceptance and "ahavas Yisrael" -- the love of your fellow Jews. The spirit of the Holtzbergs lives around me, every day, with acts that show kindnes and speak out against the darkness.
Van | 12/03/08 at 05:06 PM | Categories: - Jews in odd places
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Anonymous | December 3, 2008 05:06 PM