Terror in India Jews targeted for first time


28 November 2008 Terror in India Jews targeted for first time The Islamist terror attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai is a watershed with potentially serious ramifications for ORT and the rest of the Jewish community in the city, according to Indian Jewish Federation Chairman Jonathan Solomon, who was chairman of ORT India between 1986 and 2000. The assault on the Chabad House and the taking of its rabbi and his wife hostage has been a lightly reported aspect of this weeks attack on Westerners, hotels and transport hubs in Indias commercial capital that has left more than 100 dead. But Mr Solomon confirmed that this was the first time that terrorists who have staged several spectacular and deadly operations in Mumbai in recent years have targeted the tiny Jewish minority, leaving it with a greater sense of vulnerability. We have been worried about this happening for a long time. Now its happened, Mr Solomon said. The Jewish community has been deliberately keeping as low a profile as possible because we are so few. But now our worst fears have come true. Sharon Galsurkar, pictured, the Head of ORT Indias Jewish Education Resource Centre, which conducts Hebrew-language training programmes, agreed that the Jewish community now had a heightened sense of insecurity. The threat always existed because we knew that there were elements here that could be dangerous. But [the Jewish community] has never had an attack like this; Bombay has never had an attack like this, Mr Galsurkar said. We have to be extra careful now all the organisations, all the synagogues will have to improve security. The horror of the days events came close to Mr Galsurkar, who is a good friend of the Chabad rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg. Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were reportedly still being held hostage today (Friday) at the Chabad centre in south Mumbai. When I heard what was happening I went to the Chabad House with a friend, Mr Galsurkar said. While I was there, their 18-month-old son Moshe came out with the nanny, a male servant and an elderly Jewish woman. I dont know if they were released or had escaped. My friend took the nanny and Moshe to the ORT boys hostel, where I live, on his bike because there were no taxis. Later they were called back to the police station to give their statements again. Because of my familiarity with Chabad House I was able to help the security forces understand the layout of the building. Mr Galsurkar confirmed that Moshe Holtzbergs clothes were stained with blood which was not his own. He was tired and hungry but too young to understand what was going on, he said. We should all be praying for the family. It is sad to have a friend in a situation like this but I am happy that so many people from around the world are calling and showing interest. It shows that Jews really do care for Jews. Mr Solomon said that relations with Indias Muslim communities were traditionally cordial. He feared that this weeks atrocity marked the importation of an anti-Jewish ideology that may pave the way for further attacks by foreign terrorists or poison the minds of some local Muslims. Now foreign terrorists are coming in and the targeting of Jews has become a real possibility, he said. We have got a lot of local support but were an easy target for extremist groups. I dont see any easy option or solution except for supporting each other. The main ORT India centre was in a relatively safe part of Mumbai, he said. But its male dormitory, which is being refurbished to house Bnei Menashe from north-east India while they undergo ORT pre-aliyah training programmes, is situated in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood close to the Magen David Synagogue. But Mr Solomon said that seeking funds to pay for extra security for ORT and other Jewish communal buildings could not provide the safe environment that had prevailed before this week. We will have to impress on the political and police authorities to protect Jewish institutions and not to ignore them because were such a small minority, he said. It will be much more helpful if everyone knows that the police and the authorities are closely monitoring our institutions than having a guard on the door. What could a guard do against people like this World ORT Director General Robert Singer said this weeks events in Mumbai were an horrific reminder of how important it was for the Jewish People to show solidarity. Time and again we have learned from history that ultimately the Jewish People have to be able to depend on each other both in word and in deed, Mr Singer said. ORTs mission is just one expression of that sense of mutual responsibility.