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Mumbai Update: Thoughts Before Shiva

Mumbai Update: Thoughts Before Shiva

Associate Editor

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

In the wake of the Mumbai massacre, do you think we can give our Quixotic obsession with Jewish-Muslim “dialogue” a rest, at least until after all the Jews get up from shiva? Don’t worry, it’s only a few days, then all the professional dialoguers can go back to dialoguing all they want.

Speaking only for myself, not for The Jewish Week, I find it obscene for there to be any ecumenical activity with any Muslims in the next week, not even with “the good ones,” as vague and obscure they are, other than to receive condolences. The Arab communities and the Palestinian Authority always display enough dignity to suspend peace negotiations whenever there are Palestinians (or any Arabs killed), and no one in the Jewish peace camp ever begrudges them their hours of pain. Let’s have a little Jewish dignity, for a change, and focus on the Jewish dead and the Jewish mourners.

I don’t want to hear dialoguers tell me that there is “Islamaphobia” in the Jewish community, not this week. If there can’t be enough pain and soldiarity in the professional Jewish community — including Jewish journalists — to suspend “business as usual,” and offer a primal scream, then let some Samson come and tear down the pillars, for we are no longer a functional community with any transcendent reason to exist. If there is business as usual this week, after Mumbai’s (and Chabad’s) 9/11, then we Jews have nothing left but our cute and essentially meaningless ethnic curiosities.

Alliances are fine, but there are times when if you don’t just keep quiet and mourn than the word you’re looking for is assimilation, not alliance, which presumes two parties of equal dignity, and an agenda that presumes some caring for your own and not just a surrender to the other.

Here’s a question for the professional dialoguers who don’t like Islamaphobia: At what point, last Friday, should the Holtzbergs in the Chabad House have gotten phobic?

I got news for you, after the 80 years (going back to the Hebron massacre) I’m getting pretty damn phobic, myself. To tell a Jew not to be Islamophobic is like telling a European Jew in the 1940s that there are some pretty terrific Christians out there who saved us. Thanks. The fact is, any European Jew who wasn’t Christian-phobic in the 1940s was either dead or lucky, and any Jew who isn’t Islamophobic, until proven otherwise, in the 21st century, will likely end up the same. Funny, I know plenty of Upper West Side Jews who have more of a phobia about evenagelicals from Nebraska than they do about Islamists.

Here’s a story, “Rescue Workers Shocked At Chabad Massacre Site” from Yediot that is must-reading, with photographs that are must-viewing.

Foreign Minister Livni said today, “There is no doubt that among the targets chosen by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets, which are viewed as Western. The world is under attack, and it makes no difference whether it takes place in India or elsewhere. There are extremist Islamic elements who do not accept our existence and do not accept the values of the Western world…. The Chabad house in Mumbai is located at the end of an alley, and it is clear that it was chosen as a target.”

Go back over the newspaper stories, in The New York Times and elsewhere, and notice how absent the word “Islamist” is from the reports. Everything is blamed on “militants” or “terrorists” but who are they? What’s their great cause? Were they Hindus? Buddhists? Gay marriage advocates, or pro-lifers? Suddenly the greatest journalists choose to spare you the answer. You can bet if Jewish settlers who attacked the Tel Aviv Hilton or the Haifa Bahai, the Times would tell you right in the headline that these killers were Jews; in Mumbai, we were left to guess who these “militants” were. When do we get to have a dialogue about that?

I received an e-mail about one of the Mumbai victims, a Bobover chasid, whose story has been entirely ignored. Of course, there were so many victims, most stories, other than the Chabad couple, have yet to be told. I don’t have a link for this, or any verification, but in these unusual circumstances I’ll post some unverified excerpts from the Bobover e-mail:

“The residents of Kiryas Bobov in Bat Yam are having difficult accepting the painful news, that [Rabbi] Bentzion Chroman [also spelled Kroman] is no longer with them. He, too, was among the victims in the Mumbai Chabad House, a mashgiach for the Volover Rebbe of Boro Park Shlita. He is survived by a wife and three children, with the oldest being 3 and a half and the youngest 3 months….

“Bentzi, as he was known, was a popular figure … educated in his early years in Bobov Yeshiva in Bat Yam, and from there to Yeshiva Kochav Yaakov. He was married in 5762 to the daughter of Rav Dovid Levin of Ganei Tikvah. Shortly after their wedding they settled in Bat Yam, near Bentzi´s parents.

“The young couple decided not to burden the parents, and they purchased their home with their own funds, and Bentzi then entered into the kashrus world, deciding to be self-sufficient, not wishing to place the burden of supporting his family on anyone else.

“This however did not bring an end to his [studies], and he had a late night shiur and was a regular occupant of the large Bobov beis medresh in Bat Yam during the nighttime hours…. During the last Yomim Noraim [Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur], friends commented on the intensity of his tefillos.”

He visited India following Shabbos, Nov. 22, and was scheduled to return home on the fateful Wednesday. “He packed up his belongings in the hotel and headed to the Mumbai Chabad House to say goodbye to Rav Gavriel and Rebbitzin Rivka, to daven and to thank them for their hospitality. It appears the terrorists arrived shortly after him – and it is believed he tried to run for his life. His body was found on the fifth floor, shot at point blank range.”

A Brooklyn-based Kruman Foundation has been established to assist the Kruman family, backed by such prominent leaders such as Rabbi Aaron Twersky (Brooklyn Law School), Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld (Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills) and Rabbi Yechiel Kaufman(Cong. Anshe Sfard). The site has some beautiful pictures of Kruman and his young children.

Please visit Chabad for updates on the Holtzbergs, photos and videos of their life at the Rohr Chabad Center in Mumbai, and where to contribute in their memory.

When was the last time anybody reading this blog tried to have a dialogue — even a conversation, as we regular people put it — with a Bobover chasid, to better know him or her, to better understand them? When was the last time anyone tried having a real conversation with a Chabad emissary, to understand him or her? How many dialoguing Jews — who made fun of McCain for mixing up Shia and Suni — know the difference between Bobov and Belz, or really understand the Chabad teaching’s about Moshiach (and, for most, it has nothing to do with the rebbe.)

Click that link to to find the Chabad nearest you — there are links to more than 1,000 Chabads, with telephone numbers. Call them up. This is a week for Jews to dialogue talk to each other.

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