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Abandoned In Prison

Aharon Rubin

This week marks three years since Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg Hy”d were brutally murdered by Pakistani terrorists in their Chabad House in Mumbai, and while the entire world was horrified by the loss, Yair Daniel Lavon’s very future seemed dependent on Gavriel Holtzberg’s kindness. Dani, serving a ten-year sentence in a Goa prison for what he says is a framed drug rap, saw his life crumble with the Holtzbergs’ murder — until Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg stepped in to continue his son’s mission.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It’s Minchah time on a sticky summer afternoon in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg makes his way up to the front of the shul, seeking to secure the position of shaliach tzibbur, as he’s in the midst of the year of mourning for his mother. As he’s taking his measured steps, his ear catches the conversation of a yungerman having a learning session on his cell phone. For some inexplicable reason, Rabbi Holtzberg feels connected to the scene.

“Who are you talking to?” Rabbi Holtzberg asks his friend with less tact than is socially acceptable.

“I’m in the middle of a transatlantic phone call with a Jewish prisoner in a jail in India,” the man answers.

“In Goa?” Rabbi Holtzberg throws out a wild guess, suddenly remembering the story of the incarcerated Israeli. “Is his name Dani?”

His friend, more than a little surprised, answers in the affirmative.

“Please give me the phone; I want to talk to him,” Reb Nachman is promptly handed the phone. “This is the father of Gabi Holtzberg, Hy”d,” he begins the conversation. He hears a silent sob on the other end of the phone.

It’s around three o’clock in the morning in India, and Dani uses the nighttime hours to speak with his Chabadnik friend and learn Chassidus over the telephone. These conversations are what keep him sane within the walls of the foul-smelling, suffocating cell where he has been sentenced to spend ten years — nearly four of which have already elapsed.

“How are you, Dani?”

Rabbi Holtzberg reconnects to a story he heard about three years before. And he knows that now it’s up to him to bring closure to a chapter begun by his own precious, martyred son.


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