The ongoing terrorism and tragedy in India’s financial capital, the west coast port city of Mumbai, may motivate Americans to learn something about India, its visitors, and ethnic minorities.
Nariman House, site of recent terrorism, is named after Parsi social activist and politician Khurshed Framji Nariman, not a Jew. The structure at 5 Hormusji Street (opposite 4th Pasta Lane) in Colaba, Mumbai, was purchased in 2006 by Chabad-Lubavitch of Crown Heights in New York City’s Brooklyn, one of Orthodox Judaism’s Hasidic movements. The facility was run by Brooklynites Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. At this time it is thought that the Holtzbergs are dead but their son Moshe, a toddler, was rescued by his nanny.
Visitors to the Mumbai Chabad House are largely young Israeli back-packers on their way to the beaches of Goa and other resorts and sightseeing destinations. While other building tenants include Jewish charities such as ORT, the identity of the Chabad House managers and their clients explains the chief value of the building to terrorists upset with Israel and America. The backpackers are either young Jewish Americans or young Israeli Jews, secular or conventionally-Orthodox, many on leave from their required military service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Ironically, young ultra-Orthodox Hasidim, yeshiva students, are exempt from IDF service, and yeshiva graduates may legally do outreach work in “Chabad Houses” as an alternative to military service.
At any given time in today’s India, foreign Jewish tourists and Jewish high tech and financial services workers from the USA, Israel, and Europe greatly outnumber native-born Indian Jews.
There are about 5,000 native-born Jews among India’s billion people. 40 percent of India’s remaining native-born Jews are said to live in Thane, outside Mumbai, second-largest city in the world (population: 23 million).