How did your organization weigh in on Mumbai?

This week I have a story about Chabad’s efforts to transform the recent Mumbai attacks into an opportunity to spread its message, along with a sidebar about some Lubavitchers being rankled by similar efforts launched by the Israeli orphanage run by an uncle of one of the victims.

Of course, in general, it’s become a ritual or sorts for organizations’ PR machines to kick into high gear and weigh in when a major crisis erupts.

For most, it is all part of the adage in fund raising that to be effective, you have to tell your narrative — and nothing sells a narrative like tragedy.

In fairness, before cynics start poking at Chabad, this situation is theirs to own, given that its Mumbai headquarters was attacked and the movement’s emissaires in the city, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, were killed . Simply put, Chabad has quite reasonably sought to make the most of tragically finding itself in the center of the international media attention — using the public relations opportunity to spread its religious message, as well as raise funds to repair its heavily damaged center in Mumbai and raise money for the Holtzbergs’ child.

Several organizations are raising money for the families of other victims in Mumbai.

A group of friends of Benzion Chroman, who was killed at the Taj Hotel, are trying to raise money to buy his widow an apartment and to pay for the education and weddings of his three young children.

Another group is raising money to help the family of Leibish Teitelbaum, the Satmar man killed while staying at the Chabad of Mumbai.

Then there are the Jewish organizations who sent out mass e-mails weighing in on the situation in Mumbai. Here are links to and highlights from some of their various statements:

  • The Zionist Organization of America played up the Islamic terrorist card: "We see in this attack – beyond the absolute horror of the assaults and the barbarity of the Islamist terrorists themselves – something else of terrible significance: although the Islamist jihadists targeted non-Muslims in general, it is quite clear that a special effort was also made by the Islamist terrorists to locate, torture and murder Jews simply because they were Jews…. As we have now learned, special sadism and barbarism was reserved for the Jews in the Mumbai Chabad House, as one of the examining doctors said: ‘Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks … It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again."
  • The semi-Kahanist Jewish Defense Organization took it a step further with this want ad in all caps: "WANTED JEWS WITH GUTS ! TO TRAIN IN SELF-DEFENSE & GUN TRAINING TO HELP GUARD SYNAGOGUES AND JEWISH AREAS FROM ISLAMIC TERROR GROUPS AL QUEDA ,PLO,HAMAS, NEO-NAZIS-KKK ATTACKS TO DEFEND JEWS…BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! CALL THE MILITANT JEWISH DEFENSE ORGANIZATION TODAY! FIND OUT ABOUT OUR LEGAL KARATE-GUN TRAINING-ANTI-TERROR TRAINING — TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!"
  • World ORT, which runs a chain of Jewish vocational schools, sent out a statement saying that its school in Mumbai had seen a drop in attendance after the attacks because students were worried about security. ORT says it was also helping in the relief effort: “ORT staff members are helping the ZAKA personnel from Israel and the local Indian Jewish burial society (Chever Kadisha) who are working to identify Jewish bodies and preparing them for a Jewish burial, both at the Chabad House and in the hotels that were attacked. In addition, ORT India is providing these workers and other Israelis in Mumbai with kosher food.”
  • Hillel: The foundation for Jewish campus life held interfaith candlelight vigils at campuses across the country.
  • The Reform movement’s rabbinical association mourned: "We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters, in shock at the brutal, senseless murders of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, and three others at the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Mumbai, India. Targeted for no reason other than that they were Jewish, their deaths deeply sadden Jewish people everywhere. We have been taught: Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh. All Jewish people are connected to one another. We are one people in mourning today."
  • The World Jewish Congress condemned: "We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters, in shock at the brutal, senseless murders of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, and three others at the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Mumbai, India. Targeted for no reason other than that they were Jewish, their deaths deeply sadden Jewish people everywhere. We have been taught: Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh. All Jewish people are connected to one another. We are one people in mourning today."
  • As did Shmuley Boteach:"The horrific attack on the Chabad House of Mumbai and the monstrous slaughter of its devoted Rabbi and wife, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, gives the lie to the media’s description of these murderers as ‘religious Muslim extremists.’  The world’s biggest atheist is more religious than these abominable fiends.  Not only are they cold-blooded, heartless killers, they are pious frauds and spiritual charlatans who not only live without any G-d, but who have set themselves up as deities and executioners."
  • Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, took a tip from Chabad in a column called “Fighting Darkness with Light,” which he sent out in his weekly email blast.
  • The Joint “closely monitored” the situation and then “mobilized.”
  • The Jewish Agency supported: "Following consultations at the end of Shabbat, the leaders of the Jewish Agency have decided to provide support from the Fund for the Victims of Terror to the families of those killed in the recent terror attack in India.  Support will be transferred immediately to the families of the Jews and Israelis who were killed in the attack."
  • The UJC, the umbrella organization of the Jewish federation system, worked closely with its partners JDC and JAFI to monitor and support.
  • Yeshiva Univeristy prayed: "In light of the tragic events unfolding in Mumbai India I would like to share with you a tefillah that Dr. Moshe Sokolow, Professor and Associate Dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, wrote on behalf of those injured in this tragic event. Please share it with others."
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