A special recognition at Temple Emanu-El


Long Beach’s police departments try to meet with community members and build relationships at events throughout the year, like International Night Out, which takes place every August. Sometimes, residents try to return the gesture, wanting to meet the officers and show their gratitude for them.

In a special Shabbat at Temple Emanu-El March 15, members of the community gathered to give a special blessing to the Long Beach Police Department and Auxiliary Police.

Despite an unexpected beginning to the night, with one of the special guests, the auxiliary police, having to address a traffic light outage on Lido Blvd. that required some police presence, it was still a night of honor for the two departments.

Led by Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft, the service was a unique blend of tradition, spirituality, and appreciation for the dedicated men and women who serve and protect the community.

“Each and every one of you fits into all of our services here,” Zanerhaft said. “It’s truly a pleasure to see familiar faces, equally pleasurable to see so many new people, some new faces, and of course, our guests tonight have been defined by law enforcement.”

The service began with the lighting of the Shabbat candles, symbolizing the illumination of hope and peace. Zanerhaft drew parallels between the flickering flames and the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites to freedom, emphasizing the timeless significance of light in times of darkness.

As the congregation reflected on the meaning of the Shabbat, Zanerhaft shared a story about humility and service. Drawing from ancient texts, he spoke of the importance of remaining humble in the face of success, echoing the sentiments of “Moses who blessed the Israelites for their unwavering commitment to God’s commandments.”

The service took on a special significance as the community expressed their gratitude to the law enforcement officers present. Auxiliary Police Chief Dennis Verzi and newly appointed Acting Police Commissioner Richard DePalma were honored guests, representing the dedication and sacrifice of the entire police force.

DePalma was second-in-command to Commissioner Ron Walsh, who resigned on Jan. 22 after three years on the job. When Walsh departed, DePalma stepped in, being named acting police commissioner for the foreseeable future.

“I would like to recognize all the officers in the police department,” Verzi said, “and let’s not forget the support staff, the dispatchers, the clerks, the special officers that are there to help and back them up. Once again, I would like to thank the Board of Directors, all the congregants and Rabbi Jack for sponsoring and hosting this event.”

Nearing the end of the service, Temple Emanu-El announced they would be creating a garden to honor the departments. Additionally, two trees will be planted, representing the two departments.

“We will be planting one tree for the police department and one tree for the auxiliary on our temple grounds,” Zanerhaft said. “Again, in a metaphorical way, as the tree grows, our relationship will strengthen, and the bond will grow.”

In his closing benediction, Rabbi Zanerhaft gave a special blessing, offering words of protection, grace and peace to all present.

“As to law enforcement appreciation, due to the surge in anti-Semitism, we have developed a strong connection and deep appreciation for the women and men who have gone above the call of duty to protect us, Zanerhaft said. “We are grateful for those brave public servants who care about all citizens and all Houses of Worship in Long Beach.”

Following the service, attendees gathered in the ballroom for a dessert reception, further creating connections and strengthening the bonds between law enforcement and the community they serve.

“We operate on information,” DePalma said. “The best way for us to get our job done is through information, through events like this, to kind of meet each other face to face. If you’re comfortable talking, feel free to share any information to help us do the job.”