Roberta Korus and Robert Marshak (co-presidents)
Pleasantville Community Synagogue: A Sacred History
As recalled by Malcolm Netburn, Founding President
The roots of the Pleasantville Community Synagogue, as the name suggests, are firmly planted in community, in connection. It was founded in 1997 when a band of eclectic families scraped up enough money to buy an intimate sanctuary on a hill on Bedford Road.
But its roots run deeper. In 1985, after a meeting over coffee with a few friends at the Pleasantville Diner, a group of families met around a dining room table to discuss how local families could share Jewish experiences. Several weeks later, and by word of mouth, a small crowd gathered, this time in a living room, and all expressed interest.
These efforts resulted in the creation of the Pleasantville Jewish Association. The first events were more social than ritual. There were dinners and picnics. Children wrote and performed a Purim play each year. Eventually, Shabbat services were included—occasional Friday nights in homes and Saturday mornings at the Cottage School. We were blessed to name a few babies and help one young man become a Bar Mitzvah.
Forming a synagogue was a dream of just a few members. And then in late 1997, our lovely sanctuary went up for sale by The Christian Science Church, who were only the second stewards of the building built in 1857; we are now the third to create holy space at 219 Bedford Road.
A meeting was held to gauge interest in creating a synagogue. The response was overwhelming, and the Pleasantville Community Synagogue (PCS) resulted. The community pitched in to do everything needed, from creating an ark for the Torahs to cleaning the floors.
Miracles do happen, and with the simple act of placing a Mezuzah on the front door, we became a congregation. Rooted in community, we came from all walks of life and from every branch of religious practice. No one was denied membership, and all were welcome. Our early guiding principle remains alive today: We are a large tent, welcoming all who share an intention to see community and Jewish values as meaningful and sacred.
Our founding Rabbi, Mark Sameth, joined us in the Fall of 1997 and served the congregation for 18 years, followed by Rabbi Julie Danan who led PCS for five years. Right now, Rabbis Shoshana Leis and Ben Newman, a married co-rabbi team, lead our synagogue and, in the tradition of community building, work to keep our tent open, adaptable and inclusive. And with lots of Joyful Judaism and music!
Roots run deep but also extend up, like living branches of a tree, just as the history of our little shul continues to be written by all who participate.