Mumbai Chabad wrangle over attack site

Rabbi Nachum Holtzberg lights a candle before a portrait of his late son and daughter-in-law

Rabbi Nachum Holtzberg lights a candle before a portrait of his late son and daughter-in-law

The second anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks in India has been marred by a legal battle over the future of the Chabad House, the site of one of the attacks.

Six Jewish hostages at Nariman House, the Chabad Centre, were among 175 people killed by Pakistani terrorists on November 26, 2008.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, who ran the Chabad House, were murdered. Now, in the Mumbai High Court, the couple's parents are fighting Chabad headquarters (which sent the Holtzbergs to India), over the future of the building, still scarred from the battle between the terrorists and the Indian commandos.

While the families, all stalwart members of Chabad, insist that the building should serve as the local Chabad House once again, the New York centre of the movement wants to make it into a museum and continue operations elsewhere in the city.

Beneath the surface lurks a deeper tension between New York's Chabad HQ and some of the 4,000 shlichim (emissaries) it has sent to 76
countries.

In theory, the shlichim are representatives of the movement. But in practice, each shaliach must fend for himself and his family wherever they are sent, including fundraising which they are expected to carry out. This is what lies at the heart of the current dispute in Mumbai.

The families claim that since Nariman House was bought and run with funds raised by Rabbi Holtzberg, some from a mortgage on his own flat in Israel, the building now belongs to the families and should be renovated and used in the future as the Mumbai Chabad House.

New York insists that the young rabbi was their representative and that the funds he raised came mainly from people who believed they were donating to Chabad, and therefore it should be their decision.

    Last updated: 10:06am, December 3 2010