ORT Indias response to terror


05 December 2008 ORT Indias response to terror Armed guards, high walls, locked doors and windows, and closed-circuit television cameras are set to become part of ORT Indias daily reality in the wake of last weeks Mumbai terrorist attack. After centuries of peaceful co-existence with Muslim neighbours, the Jewish community in India is deeply concerned about its safety following the targeting of the Chabad Jewish outreach centre in Mumbai by Islamist terrorists the first such targeting of Jews in the country. Despite the challenges of devising and implementing hitherto unnecessary security initiatives and, with World ORTs help, finding the money to pay for them ORT India National Director Benjamin Isaac found the time to praise Sharon Galsurkar, the Head of ORT Indias Jewish Education Resource Centre. Mr Galsurkar had, he said, done an absolutely outstanding job supporting security forces, helping survivors, representing the Jewish community to local media and leading post-massacre volunteer efforts. He is too modest to acknowledge the extent of his contribution, Mr Isaac said. But he has been on the front line from the beginning to the end, personifying the ideal of a Jewish response to such a tragedy. He has given of himself to the point of exhaustion and sought nothing in return. His spirit of solidarity is one that has made us all at ORT India very proud and, as an organisation, we have been happy to support him in his efforts. Mr Galsurkar, a close friend of Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who were among those murdered, raced to the Chabad House as soon as he learned of the siege there. He immediately advised security forces on the layout of the building. And when the nanny managed to escape with the Rabbis two-year-old son, Mr Galsurkar provided hospitality at ORT Indias boys hostel. After the massacre, Mr Galsurkar and his friends helped members of Israels Zaka rescue organisation to find accommodation, provided them with kosher food, volunteered to help them clean the Chabad House and retrieve body parts for burial, and joined those who recited tehillim (Psalms) as the bodies were taken to the El Al plane to Israel. As a Jew this was a duty for me, he said. He added that he was now concerned for his and his familys safety and asked that his photograph not be published. Similar safety concerns have been expressed by ORT India clients. Mr Isaac said that absenteeism was high at ORT programmes immediately after the terrorist assault. Some of our students are not Jewish and their parents were worried about sending them to a Jewish school, he said. However, operations were returning to normal even as ORT India was consulting with police on how to improve security. We were totally unprepared for this, Mr Isaac said. We are based in a safe part of Mumbai; we dont even have grills on the windows. But now were doing our best to give our students and their parents a better sense of security. We have a police guard at the premises, although this is just temporary until we can organise our own guards. He reiterated that the attack on the Chabad House was a deliberately targeted assault against Jews. It was not an accident; they must have surveyed the place in advance, he said. While the international media seemed to downplay this anti-Semitic aspect of the days events, some local media were actually reporting that the Chabad House was a base for the terrorists. Some of them were transmitting this disinformation until Sharon spoke to them and explained to them what Chabad actually was and that the people there were victims, not culprits, Mr Isaac said. After this clarification they didnt report what Sharon had told them but at least they stopped reporting their disinformation. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said local police had been responsive to ORTs representations for greater protection and added that a private security firm was also being consulted. The security recommendations will be implemented, Mr Singer said. We take seriously the feelings of the community and the security needs of our students and teachers. Thankfully no ORT India staff or students were hurt but ORTs mission is one of shared responsibility and we will provide whatever assistance we can to those affected.