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Mumbai Jewish centre stormed in 2008 reopens

Chabad centre was targeted by rampaging Pakistani gunmen who stormed through Indian financial hub killing 166 people.

Last updated: 26 Aug 2014 11:21
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The attacks on the Chabad centre also killed Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivky [AFP]

A Jewish centre in Mumbai has reopened nearly six years after armed gunmen stormed the building and killed six people inside during the 2008 attacks on the city.

The attacks on the Chabad centre and other iconic locations in India's financial capital left 166 people dead, including the orthodox Jewish centre's Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivky. Their infant son escaped in the arms of his Indian nanny, and the two now live in Israel.

The three-day onslaught in November 2008 also targeted luxury hotels, a popular cafe and a train station.

You can overcome challenges, even the most horrific of challenges. You can and must rebuild, and this project serves as a beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Member of the orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement

The refurbished five-storey Chabad House has a synagogue, a cafeteria and a function room for the Jewish community.

The top two floors, due to be turned into a museum, have been left bearing the damage from bullets and grenades as a reminder of the tragedy.

In the synagogue, candles mark the spot where Rabbi Holtzberg was shot dead, and pictures of him, his wife and their surviving young child adorn the stairwells.

"I think this is really a message for the whole world," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, a prominent member of the orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, who helped to rebuild the centre.

"You can overcome challenges, even the most horrific of challenges. You can and must rebuild, and this project serves as a beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail," he said in a statement.

Local jeweller Chintan Sakariya, who witnessed the gunmen "showering bullets everywhere" in bloody scenes in 2008, told AFP news agency that he had a "mixed reaction" to the reopening.

"They're coming back strongly and we support that," said Sakariya, who lives with his family close to the centre.

"But there's going to be a lot of inconvenience for local residents, a lot of security, a lot of blockades."

Sakariya also wondered if the centre might be a target again given recent events in Gaza.

"Just pray nothing happens this time around," he said.

Since the attacks, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has continued its work at various temporary locations across the city.

On Tuesday, 25 rabbis from across Asia gathered at the newly renovated centre, where a $2.5-m Jewish Museum is to be established.

"We're not moving into a new building - we are returning to our original building and we will be continuing and expanding all the activities that took place here," said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, new co-director of the centre with his wife, Chaya.

The 10 young gunmen who conducted the attacks, blamed on banned Pakistani armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba, came to the shore of south Mumbai after hijacking an Indian trawler out at sea.

In 2012, India executed the sole surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.

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