Shunned by Housing Societies, Mumbai Chabad House Shifts to Hotel
A little over three years after Chabad House in Colaba was destroyed in an attack by Pakistani terrorists, the Jewish outreach center is struggling to find a new place to move in.
The Mumbai arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement is currently operating out of the Oberoi Hotel at Nariman Point after Ivanhoe building in Colaba, where it had rented an apartment for two years, refused to renew the lease citing security concerns.
Chabad House in Colaba was asked to move out of the five-storied Nariman House after the 2009 attack because the narrow lane in which the building is located was perceived to be a security risk. Six people were killed in the attack. Though Nariman House was rebuilt after the attack, the building remains unoccupied.
Chabad House's two-year lease at Ivanhoe ran out on June 14, and ever since, its officials have been operating out of the Oberoi hotel.
"We tried our luck with five buildings, both residential and commercial, in Colaba, Nariman Point and Churchgate areas. However, our presence is now being perceived as a security risk and nobody is willing to rent space to us," said a Chabad House official requesting anonymity.
The five-storied Chabad House, to which terrorists had laid a siege for three days, housed an educational center, a synagogue, a drug prevention unit, and a hostel.
While the outreach center in Oberoi is offering all these services, it can only be a temporary address because of the prohibitive costs.
At Ivanhoe the Chabad House was guarded by policemen in two jeeps and an armoured vehicle round-the-clock. It is not clear what security detail has been assigned for it at Oberoi.
The Israel Consul-General in Mumbai Orna Sagiv was unavailable for comment on Thursday as she was on a visit to her country. Mani Holtzman, a Chabbad House officer who met this correspondent at the Oberoi, expressed satisfaction with the security arrangements in the hotel.
Mumbai police sources said the Jewish outreach center has been given commando cover and the coastal wing of the Mumbai police has stationed a patrol boat in the sea near the hotel.
Apart from this, choppers patrol the coast at least twice a day. Chabad House officials, however, refused to comment on security arrangements.
The Jewish outreach centre at Nariman House was led by Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who was five months pregnant when they were killed in the terrorist attack. Their two-year-old son Moshe survived the attack after being rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel.
Rabbi Dov Ber Goldberg, who replaced Rabbi Holtzberg in Mumbai, was not available to be interviewed for this story.