It was a solid display of strength and support from a community coping with the tragic loss of two of their own.
At last night's memorial service for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were killed in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month, congregants at B'nai Abraham, 5th and Lombard streets, celebrated the couple's adventurous lives even if they had never met them.
But members of the synagogue, Chabad-Lubavitch and other Jewish groups showed up in droves nonetheless.
"It is with a heavy heart to pay our respects to those massacred in Mumbai," said Rabbi Yochanan Goldman, the leader of the synagogue. "This tragedy has cut very deeply into our hearts."
Officiants followed with a reading in Hebrew of Psalm 107, a biblical text meant to symbolize blessings to come in the new year.
The Mumbai attacks hit home not only for Jews living in the Philadelphia area, but also for Indian and American citizens, too, Goldman said.
At least 163 people were killed that day, including the Holtzbergs and four other people in the Chabad center, one of 10 sites hit by terrorists in Mumbai starting Nov. 26. Hundreds of tourists, residents and business people were also injured inside hotels during the three-day rampage meticulously planned and executed by gunmen who have been linked to Pakistan.
"No state is immune to terror," said Uriel Palti, Israel's consul to Philadelphia. "We need to tear out terror from the root."
The couple had moved to Mumbai five years ago to run the center, an outreach project for Jews worldwide, which also served as a hub for tourists and locals.
Their mission, some said, was to provide a safe environment for those seeking it. In the end, said Rabbi Zalman Libsker, one of the speakers at the ceremony, their demise was a "cruel irony."
"This wasn't only an attack on Jewish people, but all people who pursue peace," he said.
Their bodies were found in the center near their now-orphaned son, who was carried to safety. The tot now lives with relatives.
Yesterday, representatives from several Jewish organizations expressed their condolences. A narrated video slideshow also displayed images of the couple.
Despite the couple's tragic end, spiritual leaders have encouraged members to avoid anger.
"We believe everything carries with it a message . . . One does not dwell on the negative," said Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement in Philadelphia.
"This would have been the wish of the heroes who lost their lives in battle." *