NEW DELHI (Jul. 13)
Mumbai Jews are safe after a series of bombs claimed nearly 200 lives on the city’s train system. As Mumbai gets back on track, so does the Indian Jewish community’s Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training, or ORT.
Some of the group’s 40 staff members in Mumbai had a narrow escape Tuesday, when seven bomb blasts on Mumbai commuter trains killed 186 people and injured more than 700.
The trains ran on the busy Western Railway suburban corridor, and likely were chosen since they provided the maximum possible number of commuters.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the blasts. However, Vilasrao Deshmukh, chief minister of Maharashtra state, said initial evidence pointed to the extremist Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose members have been arrested in the state with powerful explosives in the past several months.
Initial police reports indicate that the bombers packed the explosives in bags similar to those carried by office-goers, and kept them in the overhead compartments of first-class cars. Most of the victims suffered upper torso injuries, according to police.
Benjamin Isaac, ORT’s director in India, said the Jewish community in Mumbai is safe and the school is “operating normally.”
ORT is an international Jewish organization with a mandate to help impoverished Jews. Opened in 1961, Mumbai’s ORT school functions as the educational and cultural center of the Indian Jewish community.
Isaac said some of his colleagues had narrow escapes. One staff member had just left his train when a train on the parallel track exploded; another was at the station when a bomb exploded at the opposite end of his train.
A man named Almeida, who is working at the educational group as an independent auditor, survived the attack on his train but found himself surrounded by dozens of corpses.
“We have had calls from people all around the world asking after us — and not just ORT people,” he said, mentioning also the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and birthright israel.
With some 4,000 Jews, Mumbai’s community is the largest remaining in India. About 1,000 Jews live in Kolkata and Cochin.