Mumbai Terror Targets Jews Too, But Will Fail

Hundreds of millions of people heard the word Chabad for the first time yesterday, when it was revealed that the Chabad Jewish Centre had been one of the targets taken over by Islamist terrorists in Mumbai. The highly disciplined, well trained, and well armed attackers were after “foreigners,” the news reports said; apparently foreigners included not just Israelis, but Jews.

(Note: I discussed these events on CNN the same day I posted this: Konner on CNN )

Heavily armed Indian army commandos rappelled down from helicopters early Friday onto the roof of the Chabad building, known as Nariman House, and began an extremely dangerous counterattack aimed at freeing the hostages and killing or capturing the terrorists, after a harrowing 36-hour siege. At this hour (10 am EST, 8 pm in Mumbai, and 47 hours into the siege) the battle continues, but five hostages have been reported found dead inside the building.

At the outset Wednesday night a brave crowd of neighbors pelted the terrorists with rocks as they entered the building, but to no avail. The building was stormed, hostages were seized, and it was soon revealed how much danger they were in.

Sandra Samuel, 44, a cook in the Centre, and Zakir Hussein, 22, a caretaker, locked themselves in a room when a terrorist ran up the stairs. Samuel heard a child crying, opened the door, and managed to escape with two-year-old Moishe Holtzberg in her arms. “I just grabbed the baby and ran,” she said. The boy’s pants were reportedly soaked with blood.

The fate of his parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivki Holtzberg, was not officially announced, but it appears that they were killed along with three others. It’s a grave loss. They and their family represented the advance guard of Jewish outreach in Mumbai as their colleagues do in so many parts of the world. Whatever you think of Chabad outreach, you have to acknowledge the dedication and often the courage of the men and women who do it, trying to serve Jews and preserve Jewishness in an indifferent or hostile world.

The Holtzbergs, Brooklyn-born Israelis, were indeed foreigners to India. They started the Chabad House in Mumbai five years ago and help take care of the thousands of Israelis who travel there each year, often young people fresh out of the army and off to see the world. But Jews in general are no strangers to India. Of all the ‘golden ages’ of the Diaspora, the one in India was one of the best and longest.

There were three traditional Jewish communities. The Cochin Jews believed they came in King Solomon’s time; this can’t be proved, but around the year 1000, copper plates inscribed by the Hindu ruler granted them remarkable privileges. The Bene Israel may have arrived in the fifth or sixth century, from Arabia or Persia. More Jews arrived with the Portuguese, who established a colony in the 1500s. The “Baghdadi” Jews of Mumbai, who came from many Arab lands, were the most successful, including the Sassoon family, “the Rothschilds of the East.”

But eight centuries earlier the copper plates gave the Cochin Jews the privileges of high-caste Hindus. They could spread a cloth before the groom in a wedding procession or the infant on the way to his bris, carry a brass lamp or a silk umbrella, wear shoes made of wood and gold, and even ride an elephant. These were the privileges of nobility; what other country accepted the Jews so thoroughly or continuously for so many centuries?

The Cochin Jews used Hebrew extensively, kept Shabbat and kashrut, and observed all holidays and fasts, but they also borrowed practices from high-caste Hindus. These never violated halakhah but sometimes intensified it. While the Talmud says Passover preparations should start right after Purim, the Cochin Jews began after Chanukah, following Hindu standards of purity. As their neighbors prepared for the spring festival Holi by whitewashing their houses and draining and scrubbing their wells, the Jews did the same for Passover.

Simchat Torah was celebrated intensely. Hindus came to visit the synagogues, which were brightly lit and decorated with jasmine garlands. Women dressed in gold-embroidered dresses, and both men and women went from one synagogue to another to kiss the Torah. Everyone kept open house, with tables full of food and drink, and no invitation was necessary.

Jews had close friendships with Hindus and shared many customs. Women often wore saris and marked their foreheads with binis, the striking cosmetic colored dot that completes an Indian woman’s formal dress. The Sassoons of Mumbai were great philanthropists for both Indian and Jewish causes. It’s remarkable that the people who invented monotheism should have such close relations to the Hindus with their many gods, but this was so, and in many ways it still is.

Although most Indian Jews moved to Israel during the crisis of Indian independence—they feared civil war between Muslims and Hindus—many have moved back and commerce is very active. Israel and India have close relations, young Israelis love to travel there, and, unfortunately Jews and Hindus have something else in common: we are both hated by Islamist radicals. We must hope that the situation in Mumbai resolves quickly for the sake of both communities, but it is clear that the loss of life and the general shock are great.

Yet throughout the crisis, neighbors of the Chabad House expressed concern about the welfare of the rabbi and his family. When it is over, healing will gradually take place as it has in the past, and cooperation between Hindus and Jews, between India and Israel, will continue to defy the hatreds and nightmarish dreams of that small group of Muslims who say they love death more than life. Meanwhile, little Moishele Holtzberg remains with us, one of Abraham’s descendants promised to be as numerous as the stars, carrying the tradition into a new millenium.

Note: Many of the comments below refer to my appearance on CNN Friday night. Here is the link: Konner on CNN

I have answered many of them in a new blog entry.

78 thoughts on “Mumbai Terror Targets Jews Too, But Will Fail

  1. I completely agree with you on yours commands. India and Israel have so much in common. Both of these civilizations go back ages and will survive and grow stronger together.

  2. Im glued to the television since yesterday, following the correspondence on CNN. Thank you for adding your thoughts.Hopefully,this will end soon.

  3. Dear Mel,

    I just heard you on CNN international. I am very impressed by your articulation and erudition. I am very sorry about the grave loss for Judaism and Israel. I do apologize for our inability to protect our Jewish guests and friends. Please do not abandon India. We love Israel and Judaism dearly. We hold Israel in the highest esteem. The Indian minority in US tries to emulate the Jews. I hope that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are punished. I would like to thank you for your most generous words about India and Hindus on CNN.

    Regards,
    Binu

  4. Thank you for you good comment on CNN. I believe this will only strenghten the ties between the Jews and the Indian. Truth, justice and love will prevail in the end.

    Srimurugan

  5. As Jews are at home in India, so are Indians at home in Israel. I work in Israel and it is a facinating country.
    It has been a horrific nitemare in Mumbai, there has been killings of innocents of all origins. This has become a challenge for the Indian establishment. Now Indians want action from the Indian government. If we know that the terrorists came from across the border then it we need action i.e. severing economic ties, travel etc, but we need action and want to get the culprits to book.
    To this date no one from the previous blasts have been bought to book. As one Indian channel said – Enough is Enough!.
    I hope that the bond between Jews and Indians will rise through the dust of the Nariman house Amen!

  6. i saw your interview on CNN today morning.I am from a place nearly 70km from Cochin. I can tell you for a fact that indians love peace and jews and the jewish community always stood for peace and the jewish community in India just integrates with this common thread. unfortunately the elements on islamic radicals are hell bent in destroying this. in Islamic states
    1) people have limited personal freedom.
    2) most of them are autocratic.no democracy exists
    3) common people dont have a forum to voice their opinion.
    4) common people are forced to go by the radical way taught in some islamic centers – simply because this is what they have been hearing since they were born and simply because of lack of education.
    5) people dont have a way to express their views – essentially limited freedom of press and freedom of speech.
    6) since some of the states and people have been under western control till the early part of the last century, there is a sense of high insecurity among the common people – it is a fear which transferred from one generation to another and the ruling sect never curbed it; in fact they exloited this to stay in power.
    7) all these factors make a typical islamic youth to have very biased opinion about the world they live in.

    It is very easy for radicals, to make use of these frustration in the society and give them an Islamic cover and mobilize them to create havoc.
    Indians wont back down.It is a secular country.Jews be assured that you will be safe in India. We have good people who are even ready to sacrifice their lives to prevent such insecurity creeping in. lets stand together to defeat evil.

    Shalom.

  7. Dear Melvin, Thanks much for your interview on CNN.. I deeply mourn for Holtzbergs.. I pray to God to rest their souls in deepest peace..

  8. i have seen ur interview in cnn. you have made good points about hindus and jews. can u state in detail about any relation of the two religions.

  9. "He who touches you(Jews) touches the apple of mine eye", these words from our Lord(El Elohi Israel) will never fail and the innocence of these fundamentalist group which targets is to KILL peace and HATE love in the civilized and growing economy like India is PURE barbaric. Its a time for us to identify ourself and eradicate these extremist societies and states from the globe for the betterment of Tomorrow.

  10. I watched Dr Konner’s interview on the CNN on the afternoon (Sydney time) of 29 Nov when the news arrived that the Rabbi of the Chabad House in Mumbai and his wife have been killed by the terrorists before the Indian security commandos could rescue them. Dr Konner’s acknowledgement that nowhere outside Israel have Jews been treated so well as as they have been in the past 1000 years in India, was heatwarming. Swami Vivekananda, the great Hindu monk and reformer, referred to this in his famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893.

    However, DR Konner is wrong in saying that the attack on the Jews in Mumbai suggests a ‘reversal’ of this traditional bond between the Hindu and the Jew. The people who carried out the attack are fanatic Muslims for whom both the Hindu and the Jew are equally targets for elimination. I know for a fact how much we Hindus used to want India to establish formal ties with Israel in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was a schoolboy growing up in Mumbai. Therefore, this attack, if anything, should strengthen the relationship between our 2 peoples…rather than a ‘temporary reversal’. Also, let not any Jew think that the Indian security forces were any less concerned for the lives of the Israelis in Mumbai than the lives of others. The Indian armed forces are extremely professional and committed…it’s thier political bosses in New Delhi who are the problem….although in this case, the commandos spared no efforts to free the Rabbi and his family.

    I was pained to hear Dr Konner say that Hinduism gave the world ‘polytheism’. HIndu dharma is NOT POLYTHEISTIC (for God’s sake) !!! How many times have Hindu scholars to scream this assertion. Hinduism is ‘PLURALISTIC’ …the one Absolute Reality being adored in different names and forms (…and why not ?). God is with form and without form and He (or She) is beyond form and formslessness…He alone knows what he is. The Veda asserts ‘Ekam Sat viprah bahudah vadanti’ (Truth is One…the wise call it by different names). The Upanishads are all about how to realise Brahman …the eternal ground of existence, the One Universal Consciousness. How can this Infinite Reality be ‘Poly’ ? Yes, humans can be allowed to relate to this One (represented by the sound ‘Om’) through various names and forms such as Ganesha, Siva, Vishnu, Goddes Durga and so on OR as the nameless Isvara or Bhagavan or the beautiful Sri Krishna who was born on earth to guide mankind towards self-perfection. I refer you to the wonderful book called ‘Hinduism for Schools’ by Seeta Lakhani published by Vivekananda Centre, London.  

    Yes, Judaism is a very ancient religion, probably as old as the Vedic dharma, but the concept of God as the One Infinite Absolute Reality existed in the holy land of Bharat (India) since eternity. Recently, a bunch of Hindu relgious leaders from India were in Israel upon the invitation of the govt of Israel and it’s time the two great non-proselytizing religions of the world understood each other and benefitted from each other’s ancient wisdom and experience.

    May God bless you and the Jewish people.
    Om Tat Sat.
    Chandra Rangnath
    Canberra, Australia.

  11. Hello. Shalom.
    Please let me convey my condolence to all the people Jews or not who were killed.
    I want to ask all Jews and people of Isreal to come to India and prove the terrorist weak. India and Isreal must stand together.

    Thank you For your true comments about Jews and their status in India since old times.

    Thank you !
    Regards
    Ash

  12. Heard your comments on CNN. We sincerely lament for the loss of great Rabbi’ family. I am a Christian from India and truly believe that India has really been blessed by the God of Abraham by making itself a safe haven for Jews. Please continue to stay in India, and most likely, ties with Israel, will make India a stronger and smarter force against terrorism.

  13. I was terribly shocked on hearing  about this heinous act of crime by a bunch of fanatics. It made me think how barbaric can people be and what joy or pride they derive by killing innocent people just because they belong to a different religion. Whatever their purpose was, India will still be a safe country for people of any religion and it is sense less to blame the security for this incident. I was surprised by the remarks made by the Israeli government that the Indian troops were late in reacting to the attack. These kind of comments at such trying situations will not send the right message. The Indian commands are very well trained and it takes a bit of time for any country to assess the situationsbefore taking action in such a sensitive event when hundreds of people are held hostage. Even the might United States suffered terribly due to few islamic fanatics. Its time for all nations in the world to be concerned and pressurize Pakistan to seriously act to purge completely all such elements from their nation, unless they are prepared to pay the price some day.

  14. India has never supported one-state unilateralism ever since nation of Israel was established, and has shown solidarity to the plight of Palestinian people right from the beginning. Yasser Arafat was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Peace and Understanding in 1988 by Indian government.

    (Also unrelated datapoints: One of the failed freedom fighters for India Subhash Chandra Bose went as far as traveling to Germany to meet Hitler and cozy up to Nazi Germany in hopes of defeating their common enemy of the time – British. Aryan fundamentalist French woman Savitri Devi who knew Hitler personally, and was a National Socialist took refuge in India and took on Indian citizenship for her convenience during World War II. She delved into origins of pan-Aryanism in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism, and somehow claimed that the caste system with Brahmin racial superiority in Hinduism was well aligned to Aryan superiority beliefs of Nazis, the symbol Swastika which is holy for Hindus united the two ideologies etc etc etc.)

    Now with the globalisation and prospect of capitalistic money-making, as well as lines being drawn in the war on terror after 9/11, Israel and India have inconveniently started cozying up to each other out of necessity.

  15. I am a  Hindu woman. When my husband was in Mumbai- he had an opportunity to meet Rabbi Holtzberg, his wife and his son. His son was 1 year then. I remember my husband calling me  (I was in NYC then) and telling me about meeting an orthodox Jew in Mumbai. He mentioned about synagogue. He told me that Rabbi’s place was the perfect place for Orthodox Jews who could travel but could not eat outside.

    When my husband heard about Nariman house being captured- he was shocked. He clearly remembered that it took 45 minutes for him to locate the house when he visited that house. It is located in a very crowded neighborhood and it is not so noticeable. Those terrorists must have studied well about the location of the house.

    It is not only about Jews and Hindu. It is also about Muslims and Hindus. I am shocked to see how Hindus are now calling every Muslims "terrorists" here in India and asking Indian Muslims to leave their own country. I have moved to India now- and my landlord is a Muslim man. He and his wife are so kind. Last night my Muslim neighbor was trembling with fear worrying about her daughter’s future. How can this woman , who happened to be born as a  Muslim, be a terrorist, who is as terrified as I am.  

    I think we should understand that not everybody is bad. Terrorists have no religion. Their religion is to divide us based on religion and cause terror. We should not forget that there are still good people in this world- be it Muslims, Hindus,  Jews, or Christians. I think we should raise above this religion thing and spread love- even to Muslims.

  16. also a small correction to your blog- none of their children died. Their first child died of cancer. And their second child is in the hospital in Israel because he too have some disease (i think cancer again). Their third child was rescued by his nanny.

  17. I fully appreciate the good relations between the people of India, the Jews and Israel and like most sane humans condone the barbaric taking of innocent life.

    However we should not forget that anti-Semitism is still an “inherent” problem in the world.  These murderous terrorists obviously through meticulous planning selected Jews and Jewish targets, amongst others. We need to promote brotherly love, understanding and acceptance of the different, yet we still see time after time the appearance of this hideous behavior.

    I trust through the mourning and sorrow of those affected by this awful and despicable event that people will unite against the innocent killing regardless of race, color or religion.

    Tzion
    Kfar Saba
    Israel

  18. Very heart warming to know how the two culture lived together for so long, I’m just four hours drive away from Cochin and knew we had Jew community, but never knew it was so beautiful.

  19. We as people of india should take responsibility of taking care of Moishe Holtzberg…Whatever has been done cannot be undone but what can be done is to come together and get rid of this terror problem once for all.

    "Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood.
    Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
    the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled,
    reach to where is that supreme treasure of Truth"

    The Truth is God  ….and
    God is the Ultimate Truth…

  20. My condolences to the Rabbi’s family on the loss of such wonderful couple and their friends in the senseless attack in Mumbai. I saw your CNN interview and also the subsequent comments. Your comments were quite articulate and erudite. Of the guests comments, Deepti’s comments are so moving on this subject. India was alwasy a land of plenty and foreigners were always welcomed through the centuries because there was so much to share. Hinduisim as they say is not just a religion but a way of life and a spritual journey. If you see the most devout Hindus and enlightehed souls as saints and Rishis, they preach peace and goodwill – that is the nature of this great religion of tolerance. Judaism or for that matter Christianity or even Muslim religions were not considered as a competition at all and that is why the super majority of Hindus not only did not try to trample the growing religions but also provided adequate material support for them grow over the centuries. But with the onset of creation of Pakistan and the recent Islamic terrorism, the country and Hindus are faced with enormous challenges. Knowiing their intent, it is important for other countries such as USA and Israel and other religions such as Judasim, christianity and Muslims shoud declare utmost support . Mustlim Leaders should take this opportunity to not only condemn this attack but also treat this as attack on themselves. These terrorists are trying to hijack the Islam and create a wedge between the communities. I am sure this incident will be a milestone inthe fight against terorism and will harden the peace loving people to unite and take this to next level. It is going to take many more years but I can see that the terrorism will  one day be mostly eradicated. Shalom and Jai Hind

  21. This is a huge tragedy that will awaken the people of the world to the fact that terrorism is not only directed towards developed Western nations. I pray for all the people who were massacred by these senseless barbarians.

    On a side note, I think your article does not mention the Indian Jewish community that claims to be the oldest in the country – the Bene Israel. They believe that they migrated to India during the second century BC. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bene_Israel

  22. My heart-felt condolences to the family of the Rabbi as well as all the other people killed. I hope togetherness and world-unity will help fight this curse of terrorism. I would also like to point out a little detail on your comment on CNN. You mentioned "Judaism brought Monotheism and Hinduism brought Polytheism to the world". On the contrary, Hinduism is actually Monotheist, but poly-faceted. Just wanted to point this out, because this misconception has lead to a lot of differences, both in the past as well as the present.

  23. Rather than condolences time has come to unite and fight together. This attacks are targeted to disturb the united activities betwwen U.S, Israel and India. It purely depends on US how they want to takes it forward.

  24. Dear Mel,
    Yes I agree. Jews are the one who brought Gospel and Salvation of Jesus to India through missionaries like Jesus’ disciple Thomas and others.
    We truly salute you for the great work that Christians (from Israel who are Jews) did for our country.

    I believe these are signs of last days which Jesus mentioned in His Gospel. If all than nation of the world accept Jesus’ teaching of loving the enemy, forgiving sinners, accepting all as Children of God and giving them the hope to live a pure life for God, then this world would have not seen this kind of hatred propaganda by terrorists. I pity the terrorists how they are brain washed and deceived that their god is telling them to kill all infidels (like Jews,Christians,Hindus) so that they will get virgins in heaven.

    Let the peace of Jesus Christ prevail in the hearts of all human beings so that they will live in peace and purity till He comes again soon.

    God bless Israel and God bless India and God bless all the nations of the world.

  25. It is religious hatred and fundamentalism that the world needs to tackle urgently. Those who talk of poverty breeding fanaticism are living in a glass house. Why do we see much terrorism emanating from Saudi Arabia one of the very rich countries ? Why do we see so little of it in Buddhist countries, by no means are they rich. Rulers in Islamic countries should try to follow countries like Turkey which for most part have fought against extremism and intolerance.

    God Bless India, Israel and Thailand.

  26. Thanks Professor for explaining the relations, but i think we have to be very careful trying to narrate more on cultures, traditions, religions and believes. These may not be the impediment of evils. Critical analyses of the thoughts of minds, pertaining to injustices, jalousies, envies and hopelessness.

    The madness of a certain regime in the creations of concentration camps, in a period in history of the world, will not be because they are JEWS, but because they are jealous of the successes of the minority. Many still thinks persecutions is a thing of the past, but is not.

    They are using religions to commit many atrocities, these atrocities they will also commit even without the present of any religion. This is not the war against terrors, but wars against underdevelopments, injustices, insubordinations, modernisations and poverties. I think this is the time to get our priorities right, efficient analyses of the world challenges, instead of singing and dancing to the same old songs.

    He or She who loves and cherishes all forms of life’s, will fear deaths of many innocent souls.
    This is not a war, but a great misunderstanding between humans in general.

  27. Good info on the history between Jews and Hinduism. But India is NOT a Hindu country. Its a secular country and it strives to be at peace with Muslims and Christian or any other religion.  Even if there are some radical Muslims that hate Hinduism, its not in moral interest of anybody to hate Islamists.

  28. Dear Mel,
    I followed your interview in CNN. I was moved by your thoughts on India and Hindus. It was delighting to realize that these thoughts were mutual. I whole heartedly apologize for my governments and beurocrats incapability which led to this disaster. I always had and continue to have high esteem towards jewish community, mainly because they had since generations ared most suffered, toiled yet intelligent and tough. Their missionaries doesnt convert and force their way of life on other faiths
    Thank you

  29. My heart felt condolences to all innocent civilians and officers who lost their life in this ordeal. Its unfortunate that someone such as the Rabbi and his wife had to be held hostage and murdered in the process.

    Muslim extremist turned terrorist with evident links from Pakistan are the ones responsible in this terrorist attacks. I donot think and see a reason for Israel or USA to be dissapointed with the Indian administration in this incident, since India has been at the direct receiving end since most that perished are Indian citizens .

    It would be ignorant to describe the ties between Jews and Hindus as one that describe the harmony of different religious sects in India. Its similar as to call the USA a christian country, which is not true. India is not a Hindu country but a secular one.

  30. Dear Mel,
    Like many others, I was impressed with your thoughts and positivity in your CNN interview. In India we have a saying " Atithi devo Bhava", which means ‘Guest is like a God’. As an Indian I was feeling sorry for not being able to take care of our guests. Your comments helped me calm down.

    You made me believe that such cowardly acts of killing innocent people will not deter us from believing is the good things in life and we will fight terrorism together.

  31. Thank you so much for reminding us of the good relations between Hindus and Jews and of Israel and India. In a time like this, when people are hoping to polarise communities you have renewed hope and positive direction

  32. I really read with interest your blog. i was feeling so bad about the attacks in india. as a student in the US of indian origin I was really surprised at the connection my Jewish classmates had with India and how warm they were towards Indians in my class.

    I am sure the terrorists would not succeed in spreading hate between the two communities

  33. hi mel, i wonder, if you have any sympathy for Palestinian people? I can see your hatred towards Muslims and  you know 25% of world’s population are Muslims and we all agree Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, what happen in Mumbai is unacceptable in civilized society. we all truly condemned this act but what is the solution for it? Are they youth born terrorist? as i heard on al jazeera news channel, one of the gunmen was talking to the reporter saying "that did not you see what happen to babri mosque and  thousands of Muslims killed  in Gujarat?  also Indian police randomly arresting innocent Muslim youth. this is not a terrorism?"so my friend, if you want to live in peace you should be talking sensibly. As per your comment looks like you have already got the support of usa and  now you are looking at India and you only have a peace when you get out of occupied land of palestian…, now days a moderate Muslim also sick and tired of your behavior toward palestinains,. you like or not in my view all this so called terririorsim starts from creation of Israel since 1948 and you have already taken 78% land and  still you want to grab more,remember your sinister idea wont work in India we all Indians know how to live peacefully with each other,so better try to help peace and harmony among all mankind if you can. God Bless our planet.Jai Hind.

  34. Dear Melvi, Thank you for your great comments on CNN. My heart felt condolences to all innocent civilians and officers who lost their life in this ordeal

  35. Hello, Just wanted to point to the comment posted under "Proud Indian".. I am certain that this offensive and vulgar perception could not be from the mind of ANY Indian, and more particularly at a time when the whole country is mourning at this saddest moment.. Can you please look up the IP address of that comment and find out the country where it was posted, lest it might even be a muslim with hidden hatred.. who knows?

  36. i appreciate your blog very much,but i dont think its right to call them missionaries they are real people who want to help the jews who need help and want help and they dont bother anybody else,unlike missionaries,

  37. The blog is so true. We Hindu and Jews are so close to each other in USA. We Hindu had at least 2 camps in Malibu camp & temple. I prowdly show my picture of Sunset & Sunrise from the temple to my firends. We enjoyed the facility built & managed by Jews people. I personally have high regards to Jews.

  38. Dear Mel,
    My heart-felt condolences and pain for the family of the Rabbi as well as all the other people killed. I am practicing Hindu. We Hindus and Jews believe in one god
    G = Generator, Brahma (Hindu god responsible for creation of universe),
    O = Operator, Vishnu (Hindu god responsible for operation of universe)
    D = Destroyer ->  Mahesh (Hindu god responsible for operation of destruction at end of life cycle of universe)
    One single truth (‘sat’) G. O. D. represent by all Hindu scriptures as sound ‘Om’ which is the core of universe and all human being. And suppose to be the sound generated during big bang.

    Since the incident happen I was trying to think how we can stop and defeat evil forces. I sincerely think that it is because of the ignorant nature of we people towards the God, which lead to this type of pain in our lives. The only solution, which I could see, is to practice this knowledge (of God) of Hindus and Jews together. I would like to propose to start sharing and meeting of Jews and Hindus together to start this. Please let me know any please near by Chicago where I can go and learn more about Judaism and share my understanding of Hinduism. Terrorists represent the lake of knowledge and understanding of this universe and can only be defeated by practicing the knowledge. Lets start a practicing knowledge together.

    Hope to meet you in person!
    A Hindu

  39. Deep condolences on the passing away of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivki Holtzberg. Tons of affection and kisses for little Moishele. Hindus will always be with Jews. We love Israel and its people and glad that young Israelis come to visit India. I hope the centuries long friendly relationship will grow by leaps and bounds in the years to come and India will be a sanctuary for Jews always.

  40. Soul of India is Secular…and it has always been like that….the current attack is made by some extremists who want to disturb this…Irony is that they failed to achieve it. and the World actually recognzed what India actually stands for and what india has been going through since the early 1980s…Hope that people who perpetrate these heinous crimes realize that GOD never supports it and is an act of cowardice..for the rest of the world, We should try to eradicate the Terrorism and look at the root causes for its origin and heal it from the grassroots and up

  41. Thank you for your comments on CNN and here.

    An interesting note about Rabbi Holtzberg: After the 2005 Tsunami, Rabbi Holtzberg rushed to Thailand with food and supplies to help feed thousands of people who had been left with nothing. He didn’t ask what their religion was. He simply wanted to bring relief to the victims. That’s the kind of person he was. How sad and ironic that his murderers allegedly shared the same religion of many of the people who he helped in 2005.

    May Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hltzberg’s tragic deaths and the deaths of all the others killed this week in Mumbai bring peace loving peoples of all faiths closer for mutual understanding and healing.

  42. Sir, I am an Indian from UK and I feel good that the Jewish community that had arrived in India in the past had a peacefull and loving period. To be honest, I never knew that there were still some Jews living in India until this nasty terror attack in Mumbai. My heartfelt condolences to the Rabbi family and I also feel somewhat guilty and sorry that our lack of security could not do enough to save the Rabbi family. But as a human being, I feel, the more the terrorist attack us the more I will be united and give love to all communites. Jews are always welcomed in India and we welcome them with all our love. God bless the Rabbi family

  43. I am neither a Jew or a Hindu, I’m a Muslim.  I love all of God’s people.  In some ways we are all different, but in many more ways we are all alike.  My mother is a Muslim; my dad a Hindu and I attended Sunday School growing up, so I’ve been exposed to the many different ways in which we worship.  I hope that we don’t make this into everyone together vs. the Muslims… because that is not what it’s about.  A small group of fundamentalists are trying to ruin the world and we must all come together and fight against them.  I really don’t think God sees us as Muslims, Jews, Hindus or any other religion, he see’s us as his children and we should see each other as brothers and sisters.

  44. It was good to hear your interview on CNN.  Good to hear an explanation of Chabad that was helpful to people whom had never heard of it before.  Also good to hear your ability to put Jewish and Indian relations into historical context.  Of course, there was a golden age for Jewish people under Muslim rule in Spain, too.  So many people in this time do not have a context for the history of colonialism and how so many conflicts are rooted in more than ideological or religious beliefs.  Clearly these people, the people who carried out these crimes, are not coming from a religious perspective.  If they were, they might care about life.  

    And attacks against Jews are just tragic, there is a historical context for this targeting of Jewish people, of course.

    It is just all so very sad.  I will keep the whole community and Moshe in my prayers.  

    Your average Catholic in the Midwest, USA.

  45. Hello,
    First things first Hinduism doesnot preach polytheism. Its a misunderstanding about Hinduism that others have.. Hinduism says GOD is one but it is in various forms…It doesnot say that there are many Gods…(Actually, there is no religion as Hinduism we are Vedics)

    I was not able to understand one comment that you made on CNN that the terror attacks on Mumbai show a reversal of good relations between Hindus and Jews..To get it clear Hindus are not responsible for the killings of Jews if you feel it that way…Jews have been living peacefully in India with the Hindus and will do so..There was,is and allways will be peace between two communities..

    We are extremely happy with the Jew missionaries in India because unlike American or British Christian missionaries they donot believe in converting the  poor Hindus (by force or deception) , which you rightly pointed out.. and hence we respect your religion more…

    Regards,
    Mumbaikar

  46. My heart oes out to the people of India and for all the nationals caught up in the hotels and the nariman house (or as CNN calls it the chabad house) I hope the indian goverment can rebuld the taj to its original glory. I also Hope the Jewish Community will rebuild the nariman House Bigger,Better and safer.

  47. Mel, I thank you as a Jew for your comments. Jews all aroud the world are in mourning for what has taken place. It makes a difference when we see other people, non-Jews, show sympthy for tragedys like this, and makes us feel that we are not allone.

  48. Dear Mel,

    My heart is broken and I truly weep with you for your fellow jews who were targeted by the insanity of a demonically inspired ideology. May the God of all creation bless and restore the lives torn apart by this tragedy, as only He can. May little Moishe be raised in the atmosphere of love & light as his parents would have so desired., and receive the full blessing of Abraham!! May he know the love and guidance of his Heavenly Father all of his days! May he be used mightly of the Lord, as an agent of change and peace! May the God of redemption, bring only good out of this situation. (Psalm 23)

    I am a christian and have a special love for all Jewish people, they are my elder brother, and I stand with them!!  When they suffer, I do to. I will never stop lifting them up in prayer against a common enemy!!

    God radically bless you,
    Shalom,
    With love,
    Niki

  49. Most of you people posting comments here (as well as the blogger himself) are bunch of one-dimensional clueless simpletons, with no perspective of history, who think somehow governments of India and Israel could stand shoulder to shoulder singing Kumbayah and bring peace to this world. Fact of the matter is, foreign relations history between the 2 has been very complex, multi-dimensional, not following some "enemy of enemy is friend" logic.

    The only comment with some historical perspective comes from "Anonymous Saturday, November 29, 2008 – 04:12 AM" But even those comments somewhat misguided. Subhash Chandra Bose meeting with Nazi Germans had nothing to do with Jews or Israel. He was only looking out for India’s interests. He had no hatred for Jews, and due to his pressing problems didn’t think deeply about what Nazis were doing to Jews. Savitri Devi was a confused rich Nazi woman who was lost, and somehow sought refuge in Hinduism and Vedic culture to justify her hateful ideologies. Her getting Indian citizenship in no way confirms that she had been embraced by all of Indian population. Yes, yes, I am well aware of right-wing Hindu elements in India like RSS or Shiv Sena Bal Thakarey who have in the past made comments praisinig Hitler (and some idiots even going to the extent of declaring Hitler to be an avatar of Vishnu). Hitler was even reported to have been idolized by some college going youth in India, stating National Socialism policies are what is needed to cure India’s ills of today. But such extremists are very marginal in Indian populace, and not in majority at all.

    India didn’t even recognize Israel diplomatically until 1992 due to Palestine problem. Palestine problem is far more complicated than Kashmir problem. Proportion of Paliestine and Jewish population with respect to each other, as well as the small land masses they occupy does not compare with proportion of Kashmiri population to rest of India or big Indian landmass at all. Israel government is one of the most hypocritical in the world (another being Saudi Arabia) when it comes to resolving Palestine. It has even gone on to the extent of calling a respected foreign policy expert like Jimmy Carter an anti-semite and not willing to assure his security in Israel. This is one respected man who came closest to bringing peace between Israel and Palestine to fruition. India did indeed support PLO and Arafat’s causes. Foreign policy history of these nations has been a big complicated mess due to the evil which is known as "American foreign policy" towards India, which have themselves been heavily Israel influenced for a long time.

    It is indeed true that Ben Guiron identified Pakistan and its extremist Islamic ideologies to be bigger threat to Israel than even Saudi Arabia or Syria. But Henry Kissinger, one of the original architects of Zionism in American foreign policy, has been the nemesis for India and reason for its lack of proper relations with Israel. Due to India’s alignment with Soviet Union since Nehru and Indira Gandhi days, India was always mistrusted by American government dating back to Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Kennedy provided lavish treatment to then Pakistani president General Ayub Khan in White House, yet treated Nehru like a dirty minion due to Soviet suspicion, and lack of India’s support in Vietnam war. During first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Pakistan got heavy aid from USA. Kissinger actively lobbied Nixon for American government to support Pakistan against India during the war for Bangladesh independence. The child of Kissinger’s Zionist policies in later years are themselves what came to arm Taleban during Soviet invasion, strong-arm Saddam Hussein’s regime to keep Iran-Iraq conflict alive, support evil dictatorial governments in Pakistan alive ensuring perpetual strife alive in India’s neighborhood, as well as be in bed with the evil Saudi government for America’s dirty oil dependence (even though Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t even have diplomatic relations with each other). Now that Indian and Israeli military relations have picked up, old Henry Kissinger has been found in New Delhi and Mumbai sucking up to India. But back in the days, he was known to state "The Indians are bastards" and "Indira Gandhi is a bitch".  See this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4640773.stm

    To "Binu Friday, November 28, 2008 – 10:54 PM": As an Indian born Hindu who is now an American citizen, your following comment had me raise eyebrows: "The Indian minority in US tries to emulate the Jews."

    If by that you mean Jews like Albert Einstein, peace promoter Noam Chomsky, entrepreneur Andy Grove or fair media woman Amy Goodman, artist Yehudi Menuhin, all the great!! If instead you’re referring to secular, materialistic Jewish trash which has now pervaded Western mainstream culture – like Jerry Springer, Sarah Silverman, Howard Stern, (pornography king) Cable Rosenberg, (scheming money laundering thieves) Sam Waksal or Marc Rich, Zionist war mongers like Paul Wolfowitz, Henry Kissinger etc. etc. etc. – then I truly hang my head in shame, and feel sorry for you. India and its diaspora on its own has an incredibly rich cultural heritage, and doesn’t need a hollow, soulless money-worshiping "culture" the likes of above secular Jews have brought to this world to emulate. This mindless, hedonistic, capitalistic greed based Jewish "culture" is equally or even more dangerous than the opposing "culture" of Koran thumping radical Islam.

    And last, but not the least. Those singing blind praises of history of Jews in India, get a clue! For understanding the biggest legacy that Jews left behind in India, read up on this about the Sassoon family of Baghdadi Jews: http://inpursuitofhappiness.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/the-sassoon-opium-wars/  Yes, I know about the Sassoon Docks in Byculla, Mumbai as well as the library and Sassoon House in Mumbai and Pune dedicated in honor of his "legacy". Fact of the matter is, this David Sassoon and Sassoon family in general were responsible for bringing upon so much evil upon people of India and even lot of East Asia including China, by monopolizing the opium trade. Most of opium farming was done in Bihar in North India and systematically used to destroy populations in China, Singapore, amassing huge fortunes in the process. Capitalism at its best, huh?

    Hindu and Jewish diaspora have things in common only on surface. Concepts in Judaism such as calling rest of populations as gentiles or goyim does not in any way indicate inclusivity. Such concepts would be alien in all-inclusive Hinduism, which technically is not even a religion, rather a philosophy of life. Jews have more in common in Muslims than Hindus, since they both follow Abrahamic religions. Nothing of the sort of pluralism in Hindu Vedic philosophy.

  50. Hello, This is Proud Indian (Muslim) again and somebody has made a comment about my view posted yesterday. For his information when Mel makes blogs he expects to have different views on the topic, just like a talk back and I feel every person has the right for free speech and his opinion. For your information when me and my friends watching NDTV News Channel and they were broadcasting live funeral procession for our “Shaheed Heros” Himant Kurkare and Sandeep who gave their precious life to save thousands of lives, there was a song playing in the background (“AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYON”) and the other was (“AYE MERE WATAN KE LOGO ZARA ANKH ME BHAR LO PANI…”),hearing this and watching we could not stop our tears. The people who did this hyenas crime for whatever grieving they have is unacceptable in any society. As we all know  this area where Chabas Jew lives (Narimaan house) and also hundreds of Muslims live in that area with few Mosques and Chabas Jews lives with Muslims and Hindus in Harmony. Remember in this tragedy people of all faith got martyred. Our sincere condolence and  prayers are with them. I suggest to all visitors of this blog,please visit to this link and which I agree 100% with famous Deepak Chopra,who is a proud Indian and lives in USA." http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2008/11/27/intv.india.attacks.chopra.cnn "…………………………………..A last word..i want every visitor to read my precios comment couple of a times with openhearted to understand it.

  51. B"H

    I pray that Hashem will  console the families who lost their loved ones. I am sure good will come of this. Gam tzu latova.

  52. This is in reply to ANonymous Saturday, NOvember 29, 2008 – 10:18 PM

    Christian missionaries arent here to forcibily convert people to Christianity. Most of the people being converted are Adivasis (Tribal) who are NOT hindus but are nature worshippers. They donot believe in the Hindu religious scriptures at all.

    They are being offered help, education and a better place in society along with the hope of God and the best that christianity has to offer them.

    If the Hindus were so concerned about them being converted, why didnt the HIndus get there first and help these people?

    The truth is, most of these poor or tribal people are laborers at farms owned by rich hindu land lords. Thier education and their upbringing in the society would demean their position in the society and would have them lose workers and their positions being compromised.

    Do you want to see the religious tolerance that Hindu extremists in India have ?

    http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=GetehcKHN-A

    See this video, this is just one example. Arent Hindus and Muslims given the religious freedom in the West? Are they treated in such uncivilized manner as how the christians are being treated in India?

    The world must also know the number of churchs that were destroyed and missionaries killed, beaten and raped by Hindu extremists.

    Its a shame that the government hasnt done anything to protect the christians in India and bring the culprits to justice and it is a shame that I being an Indian an scared to talk about my faith and express my views.

  53. The Holtzberg tragedy has reverberated throughout the Chabad community the world over. I am a Chabad girl, living in LA. I have never met the Holtzbergs, nor has anybody that i know personally. Still, all of us sat glued to our computer screens through the long hours, waiting for information.
    In our schools and synagogues and community centers, we gathered to pray for their safety.
    And when we heard the news, we cried, we couldn’t sleep, we searched endlessly for irrelevant information to dull our senses, we asked unanswerable questions, and gave ourselves unsatisfying answers.

    It’s a war of good against evil.

    I choose to be on the side of goodness.
    It’s the winning side.

  54. To comments posted by Anonymous on Sunday, November 30, 2008 – 12:09 AM

    While you do seem to have a PhD in History, I think History could be used to some extent to put things in perspective and not be held on to so strongly. That in my opinion is practicing a form extremism. Foreign policies among countries are based on alliances and may change due to a given situation. And that is just one level of interaction among people. havign lived in India for about 24 years, I can tell you most Indians in India dont know much about Israel or Jews. Thank God we are busy producing engineers and doctors…well, mostly.

    Being a moderate Hindu, born in India, and moved to the U.S. I can tell there is a lot in common between a moderate reasonable jew and a moderate reasonable hindu in terms of value and committment to education, family, friends, and society, and of course I can extend these attributes to even moderate Muslims. Basically, intelligent people who have the sense to forget history (or remember the good bits like this blogger) to make a better society and world.

    I will also go further to say there are similarities between orthodox jews and orthodox hindus, in that, in my experience they practice their religion/beliefs/philosophies peacefully. Needless, to say this is where I am hesitant to include some orthodox muslims and christians, who, again in my experience, intrinsically feel the need make the rest of the world adopt their religion. Some may not go as far as physically coercing someone, but it is just wired into their brains.

    I have had many Muslim friends and I can tell you that many of them just felt a strong sense of belonging to Pakistan even being Indians. Not in a way that they wish bad for Indians or India. But just that Pakistan is very dear to them as well.

    I would like to add that I come from an educated middle-class family and my observations are based on my interactions with people across a broad cross-section of society with people from different religions and socio-economic background.

  55. I do want to add that I completely denounce atrocities against any human being and especially people helping the poor. Am referring to the post about Christian missionaries in India.

  56. Thanks for your reply comment, "Proud Indian’. But I guess my reply was more for terming Jewish interests as ‘sinister ideas’ and reasoning that creation of Israel the foundation of terrorism… And, FYI: Muslims has demolished the Ram temple to build the Babri mosque – and terming this as a valid reason for terrorism could not be validated!  But thanks for your second comment, it looks more moderate, though to be fair to my mind, I am not sure (after reading your first comment) if you are really a moderate Muslim or trying to look like a moderate but push extremist ideas.. (Sorry to be frank, but I am just saying what your writing meant to me..)

  57. Hi Konner – interesting blog, I really don’t understand why people want to kill each other. We are just here for 60 yrs to survive and we are all humans to have a wonderfull life presented by GOD.

    Its time for HUMAN’s Vs Terrorists …lets fight and make this world a peacefull place to live.

    Jai Hind

  58. Professor,
    I just saw your interview on CNN about the terrorist attacks in India. Thank you for the history lesson and for your message of hope for the future. However, I do have to comment on your use of the term "missionaries" when referring to Chabad emissaries. This is absolutely not true and as a Lubavitcher, I found this insulting. THe Lubavitcher Rebbe, obm, taught us to reach out to every Jew regardless of level of observance, with love and compassion wherever they may be in the world, and teach them about our heritage, history and the beauty that is a Torah way of life. We are to teach non-Jews about the 7 Noahide laws given to them as well so they will know how to observe them. G-d forbid to be missionaries! No one is ever forced to do anything against their will. Perhaps it is time for a (re) visit to YOUR local Chabad house, right on your doorstep, at Emory. You don’t have to go far to be in touch with Rabbi Lipskier, the Chabad Rabbi at 404-441-3199 or email him at chabademery.org  Also, you might like to speak to Rabbi Lew, a Chabad congregational Rabbi in Atlanta who was just interviewed on CNN as well to learn more about what Chabad is all about before going on national television again.

  59. Dear "Indian Christian"

    God bless you & keep you under HIS WING of PROTECTION as a minority in India, but not under heaven!!

    Yeshua gave his life not for a few, but the whole world. His desire is that the jew & gentile would become ONE NEW MAN, that the wall of separation would come down; a new race, a new creation filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, manifesting HIS love & Power on the earth to heal, deliver, restore, and break the back of poverty & hopelessness. He is the very essense & vibration of LIFE, in all of its fullness!
    The cross offers redemption in every form and for all humanity.
    Christians are the wild olive branch that were joined to the jewish branch.(somehow this was lost through the pagan practices and aristolian thinking of the early church)
    We have a jewish messiah and we were meant to come under the umbrella of Judism, benefiting from every blesssing covenented to father Abraham, not to forget the supernatural miraculous power of Jehovah!!
    Joined as brothers, we are to be!!!
    That is why when our Jewish brothers hurt, we suffer too!

    May the peace of God rest upon Mumbai and all of its citizens. May the Father release the Holy Angels to attend to those who are hurting. May the Lion of Judah roar over all the desolation & bring His Light of wholeness to all!
    May those who have eyes to see, witness the burning fire of compassion  and love in Yeshua’s eyes!

    Shalom

  60. Why does this happen? Families get destroyed for ever – still nothing can be achieved doing this

    it is so sad to see what has happened

  61. It was really interesting to read on about what Prof. Konner wrote. I listened to him on CNN as well. It makes me feel so good to know that we had such strong ties with Jews. I as an individual always had a soft corner for jews and I had visited the synagogue in Kerela in India. I am so sorry for the two little kids of the rabii and his wife.My heart goes out to them but they are not alone. The whole world will watch over them . My prayers are with them. I lighted candles on the sabbath day 18 minutes before sunset as told on CNN by one rabii from Newyork. May the lord almighty take care of the the two little angels. I pray for the soul of Rabii Holtzberg and his wife. may their soul rest in peace.
    Lastly I will do anything to keep up this wonderful relation that we have between hindus and jews.

  62. Dear Dr. Konner,
    We had a terrible week watching the Mumbai attacks last week…the feelings were akin to the 9/11 attacks which we lived through in NY.

    But this email is about something else…(I actually tried to send it on your other website…but it didn’t go through, so I’m posting it here which is more public…my apologies for that….but I think it’s a point you really ought to correct.  Hope you read it…I know some folks never look at the comments).

    I just saw a clip from CNN with your explanation of Chabad (following the Mumbai tragedy) which was good.  What is incorrect however is the remark that Hinduism is polytheistic.

    Please correct this…Hindus hear this all the time, and usually shrug it off as another mis-characterisation by the West, but you’re a TEACHER and writer…it is not ok for you to misinform people on national TV.  Please break this pattern, or at least don’t comment on matters with no first-hand research to back it up.  What’s worse, it seems to stem from the kind of facile and shallow stereotyping of exotic Hinduism via ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ silliness.  Please don’t tell me that American professors (practically the last bastion of intellectual integrity and cultural liberalism in the country) think so little of it as to not even bother to read a basic description of the philosophical tenets of one of the world’s oldest and most-practised religions, esp when comparing it to another one!!!

    I am an Indian woman, currently living in Hyderabad, India with my family, where we relocated from Brooklyn some years ago.  My husband is a native New Yorker, who, by the way, is Jewish.  Though I practise Hindu spirituality, I believe in the equal validity of all religions as different means to reach the same God.

    When possible, I try to better inform many people here for whom the reference ‘Jew’ naively suggests either the Merchant of Venice or the guys who did away with Jesus.  I do it not to promote a religion, but because I dislike silly or negative stereotypes, which lead to faulty and, sometimes, dangerous conclusions.

    So please…as one educator to another, get it right, do.  Education is the only way out of this mess, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    Thanks in advance,
    Usha Kutty Juman

  63. Dear Mel,
    No one in his right mind would approve of the recent atrocities witnessed in Mumbai and which claimed the lives of so many innocent people, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, of so many different ages, races  and nationalities.
    We all feel deeply saddened by those events and by the tragic devastation they have left behind.

    Yet, Dear Mel and this is a big YET….
    Should we not also spare a thought to the young militants who carried aout tthese acts and sacrificed their own lives in the process.?
    Nobody is born a terrorist and no one craves killing innocent people.
    I believe we may do well to give some due consideration to the reasons that may have pushed these young men to such desparate actions.
    Maybe their own families or townships were decimated in one of the US attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Palestine.
    I am just speculating and I am not in anyway justifying the painful events of Mumbai. It just seems to me unthinkable that these young men went to such lengths of planning, organizing and self destruction just in order to see blood on the streets of Mumbai. They must have been driven to such a desperate and ultimate denial of their own and others’ lives by no lesser atrocities perpetrated against them.
    I feel sympathy for all those who lost their lives in this tragic event, including the militants and their families who, I am sure, must be no less bereaved than the families of those they killed. It is all very sad  but we must rise above the horror of the moment and look deep into past and future in the hope of drawing some lessons that could help us evolve a better, safer and more peaceful world…..for all.

  64. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your comments, almost all of which were positive and intended to promote peace.

    I have tried to answer many of them in a new blog on this website, posted this morning.

    I have also written about the terrorist attacks from an anthropological perspective on my other website, http://www.melvinkonner.com.

    Salaam, Shalom, Peace.