‘He Looks Like His Dad Now’: Nanny Who Saved Baby Moshe on 26/11

Moshe was two years old when his nanny escaped with him from Nariman House, where his parents were brutally killed.

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‘He Looks Like His Dad Now’: Nanny Who Saved Baby Moshe on 26/11

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Ten years after the horrific 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, little Moshe seems to have settled into life in Israel, with his maternal grandparents.

He was two years old when his nanny, Sandra Samuel, grabbed him and escaped from Chabad House in south Mumbai, where his parents, Rabbi Gabriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were killed by terrorists.

Now in Jerusalem, Samuel works at a rehabilitation home for disabled children. Speaking to The Indian Express, Samuel says she takes a bus to Afula, 95 km away, to meet Moshe on Sundays. She’s only missed three Sundays in the last five years, she says.

Samuel and Moshe were flown to Israel two days after the attack in 2008, where Samuel was granted honorary citizenship by the Israeli government. Though she retains her Indian passport, Samuel says she will continue to stay in Israel for as long as Moshe – whom she lovingly calls “Sonu” or simply “Moshe boy” – needs her.

“Sonu gets really upset if I don’t go there on Sundays,” she tells The Indian Express. Now 10-and-a-half years old, Moshe went out for ‘Shabbat’ (the day of rest) with his friends, on his own, for the first time. Samuel is excited that little Moshe is growing up and can go out without a chaperone, but it’s a “mixed emotion” she says. It means that he is less dependent on them.

For the first few years after moving to Israel, Samuel worked as a full-time nanny for Moshe. Once he turned six, she moved to Jerusalem to work at the rehabilitation home.

Those years were quite challenging because of Moshe. I had to keep all my emotions in check. I had to be very strong for him.
Samuel tells The Indian Express

Does he ask about his parents?

I tell him about his father, how kind-hearted he was… he listens, doesn’t ask me anything

Moshe remembers nothing from the night of 26/11. Samuel says he speaks mostly in Hebrew and that his English is not very good. She’s sure he has questions about that fateful night,

Maybe, once he starts speaking English properly, he may be able to frame those questions, I don’t know.

Moshe now looks like his father, says Samuel and has the kindness of his mother. “Moshe gives away or asks his grandparents to give away things to children who are not well-off. This is something I had seen in his mother,” she tells The Indian Express.

Samuel recalls that Moshe used to enjoy bhindi and rajma as a baby in India. “They don’t make it nicely here,” she says, adding that his tastebuds are still “Indian” and that he loves chilli in his food.

She’s excited that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be paying a visit to her, Moshe, and the family, during his visit to Israel.

“I could not believe it when Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg (Moshe’s grandfather) told me that we have been invited to meet PM Modi. It’s a huge honour and comes as a pleasant surprise… It’s a clear indication that the Indian government cares for the victims of 26/11 terror attack,” she had said earlier.

Mumbai's Chabad House Waits for Moshe to Return

Even as PM Modi is scheduled to meet Moshe and his family during his official trip to Israel, the current Rabbi at Chabad House hopes the little boy will return to Mumbai for a visit. The PM’s meeting with the boy has raked up painful memories of that fateful night at the House.

While on one hand, the walls of the House still have bullet marks, on the other, the room Moshe’s mother wanted him to grow up in still has his name, which she had inscribed in Hebrew, reports India Today.

Moshe wants to grow up to be a Rabbi like his father. “I hope he will carry forward his father's mission. I hope with PM Modi's visit he will feel encouraged to come back here,” Rabbi Kuzlowsky was quoted as saying.

(This story was first published on 4 July 2017, and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark 10 years since the attacks.)

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Topics:  Baby Moshe   Nanny   26/11 Attacks 

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