Four American spiritual seekers were murdered by Islamic extremists during the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Alan Scherr, 58, his 13-year-old daughter Naomi, and American rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rifka all lost their lives violently in what has become the most brazen terrorist rampage in India’s history.
Alan and Naomi Scherr were having a late dinner at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai when militants gunned them down. Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife Rifka were murdered following the terrorists’ takeover of Mumbai’s Chabad-Lubavitch house.
The Synchronicity Foundation
Alan Scherr and his daughter Naomi – along with 25 other members of the Synchronicity Foundation – were finishing up a two-week pilgrimage to India when tragedy struck at the posh Oberoi hotel last Wednesday. They had planned to return home on Monday. The Synchronicity Foundation is a spiritual community based on the teachings of its founder, Charles Cannon, who is known by the group as Master Charles. It is located on 450 acres of land in the Blue Ridge mountains of central Virginia, near Charlottesville. The group practices a form of meditation using audio recordings. Alan Scherr, who was a former art professor at the University of Maryland, was the foundation’s paid spokesman. Four other members of the group were injured in the attacks, but they are expected to recover.
The Chabad Lubavitch Movement
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rifka were the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai. They moved to Mumbai in 2003, and, in their capacity as Chabad emissaries, engaged in Jewish outreach work. According to the JTA, the Chabad center where the couple was killed is a “popular destination for young Israeli backpackers, who often make the trip after their army service.” The Chabad movement was founded more than 200 years ago by a philosopher rabbi named Shneur Zalman, who lived in the Byelorussian village of Lyady. One of the central tenets of the movement is a blending of traditional scholarship with the more emotive brand of religious expression practiced by the Hasidic movement.
Islamic Extremism and Modernity
The extremist militants who carried out the atrocities in Mumbai targeted symbols of modernity – posh hotels, a railroad station – because of their professed hatred of such institutions. The Chabad Jewish center was targeted as well, because, along with liberty and modernity, the anti-Semitic extremists revile any institution that can be linked to Zionism. And one cold argue that their antagonism is particularly venomous toward a religious movement that, like Chabad, blends ancient religious traditions with modernity. It is interesting to note that the Synchronicity Foundation falls into the same category (meditation is an ancient spiritual practice), though the murders of Alan and Naomi Scherr had nothing to do with their connection to the Synchronicity Foundation, but, rather, was the result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.