Ann Samson and 19 other Torontonians who returned together from a trip to India Nov. 20 were especially shaken by the recent attacks in Mumbai.
“It was horrifying,” Samson said in an interview on Sunday, referring to the multi-pronged terrorist attack. “The whole group was very upset. Our whole trip has been overshadowed by this awful event.”
Samson, a retired educator who immigrated to Canada with her husband, Solomon, in 1966, led the recent tour, which included five days in Mumbai to meet the Jewish community.
The group stayed at the Trident Oberoi, one of the two targeted hotels. “It’s a gorgeous hotel,” Samson said. “The staff was warm, very helpful, very kind, and they looked after us really well.”
Among other members of Mumbai’s Jewish community, the group met a friend of Samson’s who owns a shop at the Oberoi. By sheer luck, the friend had closed her store 15 minutes early to take another friend to the airport on the day the terrorists struck, Samson said.
She was unharmed, as were the group’s tour guide – a member of Mumbai’s Bene Israel community – and other friends from Samson’s school days and community members whom she was able to contact.
Samson’s group spent Shabbat morning at Mumbai’s Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, where Rabbi Holtzberg, the Chabad shaliach who was killed, was among the worshippers and gave the dvar Torah.
Samson had met the Holtzbergs on a previous trip and recalls them as “very warm” people.
A founding member of Congregation Bina – Toronto’s Indian Jewish congregation with more than 100 families (although some are not from the Toronto area) – Samson said she would encourage travellers not to cancel plans to visit India.
“You can’t allow these people to scare us. It’s the same as going to Israel. Life goes on… If you’re scared and do not go, then they’ve won.”