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Jerusalem – “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” wailed little Moshe at a tearful memorial for his parents in Mumbai on Monday, before a plane carrying him, his caretaker and the bodies of the six Jewish victims of the Chabad House hostage siege took off for Israel – a place the curly-haired 2-year-old survivor of the terror attack has never even visited.
The heart-rending cries of the toddler, clutching a toy basketball as he squirmed in the arms of mourners at the Mumbai synagogue ceremony, brought home the extent of the tragedy. In all, more than 170 people were killed in attacks on 10 targets across the Indian city.
The wrenching scene played over and over again on Israeli TV stations as government officials, Chabad leaders and shocked relatives prepared for a late-night airport ceremony with the arrival of the Israeli air force plane, for the funerals of the victims – but most urgently, for the future of the suddenly orphaned Moshe.
Moshe’s parents, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and Rivka, 28, ran the headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement in Mumbai.
Robert Katz, a New York-based fundraiser for Migdal Ohr, an Israeli orphanage founded by the boy’s family, said, “I don’t know that he can comprehend or that he will remember seeing his parents shot in cold blood.”
They were among six civilians killed at the Chabad center in the three-day terror siege that ended Saturday morning. All six were Jewish and four were Israeli, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
Moshe was spirited out of the center on Thursday by Sandra Samuel, a nanny who worked there for years. She found him crying beside his parents’ bodies, his pants drenched in blood.
Moshe was accompanied on the trip to Israel by his maternal grandparents, Yehudit and Shimon Rosenberg, who were reunited with their grandson when they arrived in Mumbai on Friday. Samuel came along, too, to provide the grief-dazed child a familiar face as he starts his new life.
During the siege of the Jewish center, Samuel had locked herself in a laundry room when she heard Moshe’s mother Rivka screaming “Sandra, help!” Then the screaming stopped, and it was quiet, Katz said.
She cracked open the door of her hiding place and saw a deserted staircase. She ran up one flight and saw the rabbi and his wife, covered in blood and shot to death. She snatched the crying boy, bolted down the stairs and out of the building.
“She’s been there with him throughout,” Katz said.
Though Samuel has no passport or papers, Moshe’s grand-uncle, Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, helped arrange for her to get a visa to Israel. In a sad coincidence, Grossman is founder of the Migdal Ohr orphanage.
At the Mumbai ceremony, Rosenberg struggled to deal with the horrible deaths of his daughter and son-in-law, as his grandson cried nearby. “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” he said, quoting the Book of Job, reflecting the deep faith of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Moshe’s father was a dual American-Israeli citizen and his mother was Israeli. The couple lived in Israel and Brooklyn before they moved to Mumbai in 2003, so Moshe had never set foot in Israel.
It was unclear who would care for him, Chabad officials said, though the closely-knit ultra-Orthodox outreach group would provide a large safety net. Custody has not been determined, they said.
The toddler has an older sibling who has Tay-Sachs, a genetic disorder that strikes Jews of Eastern European origin. He is permanently hospitalized in Israel, Katz said. The couple’s first-born child died of Tay-Sachs.
The Foreign Ministry said the government would arrange funerals for the six killed in Mumbai and send representatives to the ceremonies, as it does for victims of terror attacks at home.
“There are going to be thousands of people at this funeral,” said Katz, executive vice president of Migdal Ohr’s fundraising arm in New York. “This couple wasn’t living in the West Bank. They weren’t settlers. They weren’t occupying anyone’s land. They were killed because they were Jews, simple and plain.”
One of the victims, Leibish Teitelbaum, was a member of Satmar, a small ultra-Orthodox sect ideologically opposed to the state of Israel. His family informed the Israeli government that they desire no state involvement or symbols at his funeral, according to an official in the government ministry in charge of state ceremonies. The official said the government would respect the family’s wishes.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the arrangements.
Associated Press
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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