JERUSALEM – An Indian couple completed their halachic conversion and remarried in a Jewish ceremony at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron last week, on the first anniversary of the murder of their friends and spiritual guides, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg.
Dr. Aharon Abraham left his position as director of the ICU Medical Center at British Kennedy in Mumbai, India, after terrorists killed the Holtzbergs.
Abraham was born Vagirds Frads to a Hindu cleric who worshipped idols, and a mother who prepared food for them. Like the biblical Abraham, young Vagirds could not understand why his father honored a man-made statue, or why his mother would cook for them.
Unlike the patriarch, however, he waited until after graduating high school to confront his father, asking how he could believe “such nonsense.” But when there was no reply, his anger led him to take a hammer and smash the idols, exactly as Abraham had done.
“The gods are angry!” his father shouted at him, he recounted, and recalled his reply: “If they’re angry, let them do something .”
It was while studying medicine at the University of Mumbai that he first read a Bible, given to him by Christian students. “A new world opened before me,” he said.
The woman he married, a nurse, was equally interested in his Bible studies, and after their wedding the couple changed their family name to “Abraham” to honor the patriarch. Vagirds became Aaron, because “the priest was a wonderful person, full of glory,” he explained.
Eventually the couple decided to convert, and began studying Judaism in earnest with the Holtzbergs, Chabad emissaries in Mumbai.
“Our whole life centered around the Chabad House,” said Abraham. “It was the only place where we could get kosher food. Gabi and Rivky were our guides, we did not move without them. We began a process of true conversion and found the extraordinary beauty of the Torah commandments.”
It was the brutal murder of the Holtzbergs and their four guests at the Nariman Chabad House that changed their lives forever, however.