MUMBAI, India — Rabbis from across Asia on Tuesday celebrated the reopening of a Jewish center targeted by rampaging Pakistani gunmen who stormed through Mumbai on a 60-hour killing spree in 2008.
The attacks on the Chabad center and other iconic locations in India's financial capital left 166 people dead. Among them were six people from the orthodox Jewish center, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife. Their infant son escaped in the arms of his Indian nanny, and the two now live in Israel.
Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, who now runs the Mumbai center, said the rebuilt six-story Nariman House would house a $2.5 million Jewish Museum as well as Mumbai's first memorial to those killed in the attacks, which also targeted a train station, a popular tourist cafe and the luxury Taj Mahal hotel.
The building's memorial includes a recreation of the slain rabbi's home and videos about Jewish culture, according to the lead designer, Nick Appelbaum.
"This is the day we can celebrate their lives and the message of light that they spread," the slain rabbi's father, Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, said through a translator to a roomful of rabbis who had traveled from centers across Asia set up by the orthodox Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch. The group has a presence in more than 80 countries and has grown rapidly in the last two decades in Asia.
Since the terrorist attacks, the Mumbai Chabad center conducted spiritual services and social outreach from temporary locations in the western Indian port city.
Reconstruction had been delayed while Holtzberg's parents briefly fought the New York-based Jewish group in a Mumbai court over who would control and redesign the property. The property title lies with the Chabad of India Trust, which Gavriel Holtzberg had helped set up in 2005. But the two sides dropped the case in 2011, with the organization assuming stewardship.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky from the Jewish group's educational arm said the reopening should be seen as a message to the world.
"You can overcome challenges, even the most horrific of challenges," he said in a statement, adding that "this project serves as a beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail."
Online: Chabad Lubavitch: www.chabad.org