New York joins the world in mourning the horrific and senseless terrorist attacks in Mumbai last week, during which over 188 people lost their lives, and grief and fear flooded India’s financial capital. As home to one of the world’s most flourishing communities of Indian émigrés, New York shares a brotherly bond with Mumbai, now doubly reinforced by our own recent history of enduring terrorist violence. Just as the world’s hearts went out to New York after 9/11, New Yorkers now lean toward the citizens of Mumbai.
The terrorists chose to include among their targets potent symbols of Mumbai’s flourishing economy—the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi hotels, and the bustling Leopold Cafe. Just as the 9/11 attackers wrongly believed that bringing down the World Trade Center would send a viable message against the American way of life, those behind the Mumbai siege are pathologically misguided in believing they can build an argument against a democratic, free-thinking, economically robust India by murdering innocent men, women and children.
One hopes the remarkable way in which New York has recovered and renewed itself since 9/11 may provide a helpful example to the people of Mumbai. The heightened role of the New York Police Department in preventing terrorist attacks, and in assisting in monitoring terrorism worldwide, may provide a model for Mumbai’s own security forces, as the specter of urban terrorism will not fade anytime soon. And just as in the aftermath of 9/11 New York’s business community worked hand-in-hand with City Hall to reassure residents, tourists and investors that the city was safe and its future in good hands, so, too, must Mumbai’s civic and private leaders do what they can to build optimism concerning Mumbai’s rich culture and climate of commerce.
Steps taken to secure the future do not, of course, ease the grief of those coping with the raw and terrible losses of last week. Nowhere is the loss felt in New York more than among members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community, which has its world headquarters in Crown Heights. The Chabad House in Mumbai was among the targets, and the young couple who ran the house—Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, who grew up in Crown Heights, and his wife, Rivka—were among the victims. Over 3,000 Chabad Houses are operated in 73 countries by the Lubavitch Hasidic movement, providing crucial religious, social and cultural services to Jews living or traveling abroad. Mr. Holtzberg, 29, had helped open a house in Thailand; he and his wife opened the Mumbai house in 2003. “He had a huge heart, always willing to help someone in need,” said Rabbi Sagee Harshefer, of the Chabad House in Ness Ziona, Israel, of Mr. Holtzberg. “It’s only natural he would give himself to the community.” Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gavriel and Rivka’s 2-year-old son, Moshe, and to their parents and families.