Friday, November 28, 2008

Remembering the Light

Rest in Peace. For those lost in Mumbai. Over 130 Indians have been killed, along with people from Australia, America, Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Canada, China, Italy, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Mauritius, Jordan, and Israel.

My great condolences to the people of India, whose reputation has been smeared by fanatics who gave no thought to the lives and welfare of those they would destroy in their mad drive to kill foreigners.

My thoughts and prayers with the families of the dead tourists, who were trying to enjoy their lives in a beautiful country.

And my tears for the rabbi and rebbetzin of the Mumbai Chabad House, a couple about my and SG's age. It is rare in this world, particularly in America, to find people in their early twenties be so devoted and dedicated to an ideal that they are willing to actually sacrifice for it. There is little doubt that in going to India, that is exactly what the Holtzbergs were doing.

I have little love for Chabad. But, as I have been arguing over at Failed Messiah, that is not what this is about. There is a world of difference in arguing over philosophical, religious, and moral failings of a movement (and there are definitely some in Chabad-- as there are in many others, Jewish an otherwise) and in wishing suffering or death on its individual members. One person at Failed Messiah made a disgusting claim that all of us mourning the Holtzbergs were hypocrites- that we were "like the terrorists" fighting to "shut down" Chabadnikim- be they the Rubashkins in Postville or the Holtzbergs in Mumbai. This person essentially argued that opponents or critics of Chabad "should feel pleased" that the Holtzbergs received "the same treatment" as the Rubashkins.

To me this is insanity. I do not want anyone to be murdered in cold blood, particularly Jews. That the Holtzbergs happened to be Chabad has nothing to do with it. I didn't agree with Meir Kahane but that doesn't mean I wanted him shot dead. Differences in ideolology does not equal wishing someone dead. That is true in general but especially when dealing with the extended Jewish family of the world.

There are plenty of things I dislike about Chabad. But I also admire the spirit of the movement, espeically their shlichim. I admire their conviction, though I disagree with it. I admire their willingness to put their money where their mouths are, to try to help people and not write off anyone not like them as beyond the pale. Chabad fights to stay relevant to the greater Jewish world instead of blanketly condemning it or shutting themselves off from it. If the Holtzbergs were members of most any other haredi group they never would have even been to India, much less have died there.

The Holtzbergs, like many Chabad schlichim, exemplified some of the best things about what Chabad can be-- what it IS, to many people in small pockets of Jewishness around the world. If they have nothing else, I hope their families can be proud of that legacy- for five years, they did what so many young people cannot-- not only were they self-sufficient, but they passed things on. They ran a Chabad House on their own, putting aside their own needs and helping others. For five years, they reached out to the world and made it better in small, little ways. They were rays of light in an age where many people tend to be closed, isolated, and self-absorbed.

Lastly, my hopes for the Holtzberg's son, who will turn two on Saturday. I hope their families will tell him their story. I hope he will know who his parents were, and not spend his days thinking about the terrible day that they died, but of the precious years that they lived.

In this world, many young people spend all their lives desperate to be consequential, signficiant. To matter. This drives a lot of selfish, even destructive, behavior. But by their example, the Holtzbergs show us another path, how we can matter by, in small ways and big, unselfishly making the world better.

Let their example- and memories- be for a blessing.

Baruch Dayan Emet.


rickismom said...

I can not imagine anyone being so stupid as to say you should be happy, just if you are not pro-chabad.!!! THAT is discusting.
The Holzburgs did SO much for non-religious Jews. May their memory be a blessing.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Indeed. At one point my grandfather was involved in Chabad (before he decided they were off-base and that HE was actually the Messiah). This person's argument makes about as much sense as accusing me of rejoicing at my grandfather's death.

maffy said...

The last 8 years reduced the public dialog to "if you're not with us, you're against us", so I shouldn't be surprised that there was some looney out there thinking anyone would be happy to hear what happened in Mumbai. It's heartbreaking. Thank you for such a thoughtful and moving post.
Indeed, may their example and memories be for a blessing

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