A special Shabbat in Long Beach to honor first responders


As first responders were filing into the sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El to be honored during a special Shabbat gathering, fire trucks raced by, sirens blaring.

Instead of the fire department’s dispatch at the start of the temple’s special Shabbat service on June 7 being considered an interruption, Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft said, “This is exactly why we’re blessing you tonight.”

“It was really one of those moments you can’t script and it was unfolding right in front of our eyes,” Zanerhaft said. “That was truly a moment and a great personal experience for all who attended.”

The service was held in honor of first responders and featured songs led by Cantor Lisa Kantor, directed at those in uniform, as well as remarks by Long Beach Fire Commissioner Joseph Miller, and Long Beach City School District Board of Education Trustee, Public Library Board President and EMT Sam Pinto, given after Zanerhaft’s sermon and blessing.

“It was great to have the opportunity to really get to know our first responders, to know their names, shake their hands and thank them,” Zanerhaft said. “The firefighters and EMTs really appreciated being seen and heard. It was a poignant moment for Commissioner Miller and Sam Pinto to talk about what it’s like to be a first responder in the community in which you live.”

“It was an exciting opportunity that they saw as an opportunity but also a challenge because they were so focused on always wanting a good result because we are their neighbors, friends and relatives. It was a whole night of understanding the role of first responders in Long Beach and to embrace what they do and how they do it.”

Among the dozen first responders in the crowd were Acting Police Chief Rich DePalma, members of the Long Beach Auxiliary Police Department, Former Fire Commissioner Scott Kemmins, and City Councilman John Bendo.

“Although many were on call at the time of the Shabbat,” Zanerhaft said, “We knew those in attendance would carry the message and sentiments to their fellow brothers and sisters.”