Dozens of rabbis from around the world have attended the emotional reopening of Mumbai’s Jewish centre after it was stormed by terrorists almost six years ago.
Six Jews were killed in the November 2008 attacks, among them Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his pregnant wife Rivkah, 28, who ran Nariman House, the Chabad cultural centre. Their two-year-old son, Moshe, survived. He was found crying next to their bodies by his Indian nanny.
“This is a message for the whole world,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Chabad-Lubavitch, after he helped to rebuild the five-storey centre.
“You can overcome challenges, even the most horrific of challenges,” he said. “You can and must rebuild, and this project serves as a beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail.”
Pakistan-based banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for the two-day attack, which was perpetrated by a well-trained and well-armed terrorists who arrived from the sea after hijacking an Indian fishing boat.
They split up and attacked a luxury hotel, a train station, a popular cafe and the Jewish centre, which was only secured after dramatic TV footage showed Indian commandos who rappelled down from a helicopter to kill the gunmen.
A total of 166 people were killed in a terrifying 60-hour ordeal, during which all but one of the gunmen were killed by security forces. The surviving member of the ten-man team was executed in 2012.
The building’s memorial includes a recreation of the murdered rabbi’s home and videos about Jewish culture, according to lead designer Nick Appelbaum, after it was reopened on Tuesday following a multi-million pound refurbishment.
The visiting rabbis were given a tour of the new building, the two top floors of which have been turned into a £1.5m museum. The rest of the building includes a synagogue, offices, guest rooms, a restaurant and security rooms.
Reconstruction was delayed due to court proceedings, as Holtzberg’s parents sued Chabad-Lubavitch in a legal spat over who would control the redesign.
While pleased that the centre was once again open, some were worried that there would be “a lot of inconvenience for residents, a lot of security, a lot of blockades”. Noting the advance of Islamic State, a local jeweller said: “Just pray nothing happens this time around.”