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Column: Jewish couple's goodness shines on

As I looked at the pictures of the young Jewish couple killed by terrorists in India, I was swept with emotion and fear. This couple left behind friends and family in New York to move across the world to reach out to the Jews, largely Israelis, traveling through and living in Mumbai.

For me, this tragedy hits close to home. We are Jewish and grew up secular, but we also have been learning the past few years with Rabbi Yossi and Dina Eber in Trinity, part of Chabad Lubavitch, the same Brooklyn-based Hassidic Jewish group that sends emissaries around the world to reach out to unaffiliated Jews.

"They work so hard over there, doing such great work. They literally gave their lives away to be there," said Rebbetzin Dina Eber when I spoke to her after the tragedy.

At first she sounded drained, not her usual self, which is to be expected. But she quickly shared what her father, the spiritual dean at a Yeshiva in France, told her: "This should not shatter our faith even a little bit. We have to take it and move on and do more and more good. That's the way we fight evil."

Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg ran a synagogue in Mumbai, gave Torah classes, invited guests for Shabbat meals, and even offered a drug treatment program to the community. They look much like the young Chabad couples I've met.

Chanie and Mendy Yarmush moved to Wesley Chapel this year with their newborn baby. And there are about eight other Chabad emissaries in the Tampa Bay area teaching Judaism to Jews, and more than 4,000 Chabad houses in more than 100 countries around the world, in many obscure, far-flung places.

The common thread among them all is the bravery to leave behind all that is familiar, start from scratch, and share the religion they love and live with other Jews.

Seeing Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg's young, smiling faces splashed across newspapers and on TV reminded me that bad things do happen to good, even holy people.

But what I admire most about the Chabad organization is the way they turn even the most brutal tragedy into something spiritual, and find a way to grow from it.

That's the plan in Mumbai — a new rabbi and his wife will move there, rebuild the synagogue, and go on.

Rabbis are encouraging all Jewish women to light Shabbat candles at sundown Friday night, even if you've never done it before. This Friday, Shabbat begins at 5:18 p.m. in the Tampa Bay area.

As Rebbetzin Eber said, "The way we fight evil is by bringing more light into the world."

Column: Jewish couple's goodness shines on 12/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 5:31pm]
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