Chabad of Peoria held a memorial service on Sunday morning for the two Chabad schlichim (emissaries) who were killed by terrorists in Mumbai, India, last week. Rabbi Eli Langsam, who, with his wife, Sarah, is the Chabad emissary to Peoria, Ill., led the chanting of Psalms, gave a brief assessment of the lives of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg’s lives and urged Jews to perform mitzvot (commandments) as a way of honoring the memory of the Holtzbergs. Langsam offered men the chance to do just that before they left, helping them to don tefillin.
Langsam, who knew Rabbi Holtzberg, struggled emotionally through some parts of the half-hour service, choking up at a couple points during the Psalms and a memorial prayer.
About 30 people attended the service, all of them members of the Peoria Jewish community except for me and my son, Nathaniel. I have to say that I was disappointed by the lack of turnout by Peoria Christians. Granted, the weather wasn’t great, but the roads were clear. Perhaps the problem was that it hadn’t been widely publicized or that it was held on Sunday morning, during church. But I think an overflow attendance by Christians who decided to mourn alongside the Jewish community would have been a better witness to our faith than attendance at church on this particular Sunday morning. After all, if as followers of Messiah we are grafted into Israel (Romans 11), then, whether the Jewish community acknowledges it or not, they are our brothers and sisters. At the very least, we worship the same God. Rabbi Langsam expressed appreciation that my son and I showed up. Too bad he couldn’t have expressed appreciation that dozens, or hundreds, of Christians had shown up.
Kudos to the Peoria Journal Star and WEEK-TV, Channel 25, for sending reporters and a photographer. I was interviewed by 25, and did a pretty wretched job. After 30 years as a journalist, I’m fine when I’m on the questioning side, but am tongue tied on the answering side.