Temple Israel honors police officers at Law Enforcement Appreciation Shabbat

January 19, 2023

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It wasn’t long ago that no one could have imagined needing armed guards to conduct Shabbat services. Accustomed to hearing about that kind of thing in Europe, it wasn’t thought possible here—not in the U.S.A.

That thinking was wrong.

For Temple Israel, the “it can’t happen here” illusion started to crack around 2011, when the congregation began having a security guard at Shabbat services and other synagogue events. At first it was an unarmed civilian security contractor. In the spring of 2016, as antisemitic incidents and attacks became more frequent and more violent, Temple Israel replaced the unarmed civilian contractor with a uniformed, off-duty Norfolk police officer.

If anyone was still under the illusion that “it can’t happen here,” it was shattered completely on October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., when a hate-crazed gunman murdered 11 Shabbat worshipers and wounded six more. Very shortly thereafter, Temple Israel increased the Shabbat security detail to two uniformed Norfolk police officers. They’re at Temple Israel every Shabbat, rain or shine. They’re the congregation’s Shomrei ha Shabbat, the Guardians of its Sabbath. They give up Saturday mornings with their families to guard congregants while they pray. And they’re not just Temple Israel’s Shomrei ha Shabbat. They’re also Shomrei ha-Ir, guardians of the city.

According to the National Day Calendar, January 9 of each year is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. How is it possible to express appreciation for what these Shomrei ha Shabbat do? First, the congregants thank God that there are people with the courage, fortitude, integrity, and patience to do the job. Next, Temple Israel let their Shomrei ha Shabbat know that they know and appreciate what they do for them. And finally, the congregation keeps their Shomrei ha Shabbat in their prayers, wherever they are, on duty and off.

In addition to prayers, the National Day Calendar says it’s appropriate to offer a token of respect. (The Norfolk Police Department also says it’s appropriate.) But what kind of token? Temple Israel wanted it to include the families of their Shomrei ha Shabbat. Like the military, the families of police officers serve, too.

On Saturday, January 7, 2023, Temple Israel celebrated a Law Enforcement Appreciation Shabbat to express gratitude. At the end of the regular service, the outer doors were locked and the Shomrei ha Shabbat took a seat in the front of the sanctuary. Rabbi Michael Panitz delivered a d’var torah on the concept of the Shomer. Mark Solberg expressed thanks on behalf of the congregation and presented them with gift certificates for dinner at a restaurant with good food and a family-friendly atmosphere. The program concluded with the congregation singing Shomer Yisrael, led by Beverlee and Cantor Larry Tiger.

-Mark Solberg


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