Temple Emanu-El hosts Holocaust remembrance service


Temple Emanu-El hosted a solemn yet important service to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, on Monday.

Led by Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft, the service brought together members of the local community to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust and honor the lives lost.

The service commenced with a prayer followed by a powerful recounting of a survivor’s story, vividly illustrating the horrors experienced by individuals during the Holocaust.

Attendees listened intently as Zanerhaft told the story of a Holocaust survivor, detailing her harrowing journey from a young girl walking to school to her capture and time in the concentration camp, to her eventual liberation and resettlement in the United States.

Zanerhaft then revealed the story belonged to none other than his own mother.

“When she was liberated, her first thought she said was that I’ll never have children,” Zanerhaft said. “‘My body is wrecked, I was sick, I was weak, malnutrition, disease, that body struggled and never thought I would have a child.’ But, she came to the land of opportunity, the land of the free in New York and she gave birth to my older sister. This is the story of my mother. She had another child, my other sister, and then I was the third child, one more little sister. I remember full well the first day I noticed on her forearm: 66776. Those numbers not only were branded on her arm, but scarred into my memory.”

A key aspect of the service was the lighting of candles, each one symbolizing a different aspect of remembrance and resilience. As Zanerhaft explained, the candles represented various groups targeted during the Holocaust, including children, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, political prisoners and those who risked their lives to save others or, as referred to by the Jewish community, the Righteous Among the Nations.

Throughout the service, Zanerhaft stressed the importance of never forgetting the atrocities of the Holocaust and remaining vigilant against all forms of hatred and discrimination.

He urged attendees to actively confront bigotry and injustice, echoing the sentiments of survivors who courageously shared their stories to ensure that future generations remember and learn from the past.

“Holocaust survivors, like my mother and my father, would often say, don’t be lulled into complacency,” Zanerhaft said. “They became American citizens as soon as they were able to. They love this country like patriots. It gave them freedom and a family, an opportunity. They loved America more than anyone I can think of. But they said, don’t be afraid to think that it could not happen here.”

The evening ended with a prayer for the souls of the victims, followed by a solemn exit from the sanctuary in silence.

The event served as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of the Holocaust and the collective responsibility to uphold the values of tolerance, compassion and justice in the community.

Through remembrance and reflection, the Long Beach community honored the memory of the millions who perished and reaffirmed their commitment to combating hatred wherever it may arise.