A Focus on Spirituality, Social Activism, Community–and Music!
When I moved from NYC to Westchester over a decade ago, I began searching for a new spiritual home. After attending services at five different synagogues, the place I connected with the most was Pleasantville Community Synagogue, more commonly known as PCS.
There I was warmly greeted by the congregants. Smiles and handshakes abounded, and I was even asked to read a poem as part of the service. The rabbi applied the lessons found in ancient texts to our current times with deep psychological insight. People seemed genuinely engaged in the proceedings.
As I got to know more about PCS, I discovered that its members lived all over the county and included traditional and non-traditional Jews, interfaith couples, those from the LGBTQ community, and multi-racial individuals and families. They came from many traditions: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal.
Wow, I thought. This sure is different. It seemed that the shul’s tagline, “Joyful Judaism,” was more than just a slogan. And so I decided to join, along with my husband and twin sons, both of whom attended PCS’s Hebrew school, accurately billed as one “your kids can love.” My boys recently became Bar Mitzvahs there.
These days I am not only a member of PCS but serve on the board with others who are devoted to the health, welfare and mission of the synagogue and its congregants. Recently, our biggest decision was the hiring of Rabbi Shoshana Leis and Rabbi Ben Newman as co-rabbis.
Rabbi Shosh and Rabbi Ben, a married couple, have brought new energy to the synagogue, with a heavy emphasis on music (Rabbi Ben is rarely seen without a guitar slung over his shoulder). They actively focus on “tikkun olam,” one of the main tenets of Judaism, which means “repairing the world.” Our once-a-month musical Friday night Shabbat service has become a not-to-be-missed event–it includes a musical Shabbat program for young children, dinner for all, and prayer service where the rabbis and their musician friends, usually a trumpet player, bassist, percussionist and clarinetist, turn the sanctuary into musical celebration.
“We welcome everyone to our Jewish spiritual community,” said Rabbi Shosh. “There’s a lot we’ve all been faced with, both personally and politically, and we are trying to create a restorative space.”
Recent events have included an interfaith gathering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in conjunction with a local church and mosque, a talk by an Afghani refugee, and an ongoing Adult Education series called Modern Dilemmas, Ancient Wisdom run by Rabbi Ben, who also conducts a weekly Zoom meditation session on Thursday mornings.
Rabbi Shosh grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, with a strong commitment to community engagement and activism. She found her Jewish spiritual path in 1996 several years after graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in Russian Studies, attending the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Shosh co-creates a weekly podcast called Four Worlds Torah with Rabbi Charna Rosenholtz
Rabbi Ben grew up in Scarsdale and studied Religion and Culture at Skidmore College, followed by the Academy for Jewish Religion. He is passionate about creating Jewish spiritual tools for human thriving. He administers a Facebook group of 4,000 people called “The Zohar,” where he posts interviews with Kabbalah scholars through his weekly podcast, The Neshamah Project (neshamah means “soul” in Hebrew).
“Ben and I met at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish retreat center, in 2002 and we were married in 2006,” said Rabbi Shosh. “Music brought us together, kept us together through Covid, and is the center of our Jewish spiritual practice as a married rabbi team.” They have two children, ages 12 and 15–their older son and a niece are music assistants the Hebrew school.
They served as rabbis in Ft. Collins, Colorado for seven years before moving back to New York in 2016. Upon their return, Rabbi Shosh was recruited to work at Romemu in Manhattan as their first Director of Youth and Family Education, and Rabbi Ben started Shtiebel, an innovative community that draws together people from the Rivertowns.
“PCS has been a great fit for us,” said Rabbi Ben. “We feel at home. The warmth, peacefulness, and spiritual depth lines up squarely with our approach to Judaism.”
PCS is often compared to a large tent with room for all. With our new spiritual leaders at the helm, that tent will continue to welcome everyone who seeks meaningful and sacred connections to community, Jewish values and social justice.