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Orphan of New York Rabbi and Wife Killed in Mumbai Attacks Lands in Israel

The cries of little Moshe Holtzberg wounded hearts Monday at a tearful memorial for his parents in India. "Mommy, mommy, mommy!" he wailed, clutching a toy basketball while squirming in the arms of mourners at the Mumbai synagogue.

Then the toddler and the caretaker who rescued him from the terrorist attack boarded a jet along with the bodies of his parents and four other Jews slain at the Chabad House to fly to Israel — a place the curly-haired 2-year-old had never seen.

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The wrenching scene at the service played over and over again on Israeli television as government officials, Chabad leaders and relatives prepared for the funerals of the victims and the future of the orphaned Moshe.

The Israeli air force plane landed at Israel's international airport just before midnight and Israeli officials joined relatives and friends of the victims.

Moshe's father, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and mother, Rivka, 28, ran the headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement in Mumbai. They were among six Israeli citizens killed at the center during the city's three-day terror siege.

Moshe was spirited out of Chabad House on Thursday by Sandra Samuel, a nanny who had worked at the center for years. She found him crying beside his parents' bodies, his pants drenched in blood.

"I don't know that he can comprehend or that he will remember seeing his parents shot in cold blood," said Robert Katz, a New York-based fundraiser for Migdal Ohr, an Israeli orphanage founded by the boy's family.

Moshe was accompanied to Israel by his maternal grandparents, Yehudit and Shimon Rosenberg, who had flown to Mumbai on Friday. Samuel came along, too, to provide the dazed child a familiar face as he starts his new life.

When terrorists seized Chabad House, Samuel locked herself in a laundry room, then she heard Moshe's mother screaming "Sandra, help!" Then the screaming stopped, and it was quiet, Katz said.

She cracked open the door of her hiding place and saw a deserted staircase. She ran up one flight and found the rabbi and his wife, covered in blood and shot to death. She snatched up the crying boy, bolted down the stairs and ran out of the building.

"She's been there with him throughout," Katz said.

Though Samuel had no passport or papers, Moshe's granduncle, Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, helped arrange for her to get a visa to Israel. In a sad coincidence, Grossman is founder of the Migdal Ohr orphanage.

At the memorial service, Rosenberg struggled to deal with the deaths of his daughter and son-in-law as his grandson cried nearby. "The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," he said, quoting the Book of Job.

Moshe's father was a dual American-Israeli citizen and his mother was Israeli. The couple lived in Israel and New York before they moved to Mumbai in 2003.

It was unclear who would who get custody of Moshe, Chabad officials said, though the closely knit ultra-Orthodox outreach group would provide a large safety net.

The toddler has an older sibling who has Tay-Sachs, a genetic disorder that strikes Jews of eastern European origin. He is permanently hospitalized in Israel, Katz said. The couple's first-born child died of Tay-Sachs.

The Foreign Ministry said the government would arrange funerals for those killed in Mumbai and send representatives to the ceremonies, as it does for victims of terror attacks at home.

"There are going to be thousands of people at this funeral," Katz said. "This couple wasn't living in the West Bank. They weren't settlers. They weren't occupying anyone's land. They were killed because they were Jews, simple and plain."