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Hebrew Congregation of Somers - 67 Years Later

SOMERS, N.Y. - Turn back the clock to 1944 and you will see that Shenorock was the setting of a summer community with about 20 Jewish families. They went to Samuel Schuckman's house for Shabbat and Irving Lasher's for Rosh Hashanah.

Out of that intimate community, the Hebrew Congregation of Somers was born. Initially a summer shul, it is now a full-time, active and growing congregation.

"It is Northern Westchester's only Reconstructionist Synagogue," explained Hebrew School teacher, Alan Most. "We draw members from Yorktown, Putnam Valley, Brewster, North Salem, Carmel and Goldens Bridge as well as Somers."

"Reconstructionist Judaism falls somewhere in between Conservative and Reformed," he explained. They rely on Jewish law for guidance but recognize progressive values and ideals. As the synagogue's website expresses it, "We believe that the past has a vote but not a veto."

Seven years ago the congregation's rabbi left unexpectedly. While the hunt was on for a new rabbi, the members counted on the rabbinical college to send student rabbis to fill in the gap.

Then student rabbi Fred Schwalb showed up. Schwalb was "not a kid. In fact, he was in his mid-fifties, a successful businessman whose lifelong dream was to be a rabbi," said Most.

The Somers congregation welcomed Schwalb with open arms and never let go. Many went to Philadelphia for his eventual graduation ceremony. He has been their rabbi ever since.

Rabbi Schwalb conducts somewhat informal services. "He likes discussion and questions during the service," Most said. "He has opened up the community and encouraged people who weren't knowledgeable about religion and prayer."

The Somers congregation says that it retains a lot of its original "family" feeling but warmly welcomes newcomers or those who are simply inquisitive. In addition to weekly services, there is a Hebrew School, Adult Education, a Sisterhood and other activities. For more information contact Ellen Most at hoomee12@yahoo.com.

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