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Pleasantville Synagogue Accepts All for Yom Kippur

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Rabbi Mark Sameth of the Pleasantville Community Synagogue is already preparing for what will be a large gathering this weekend to celebrate Yom Kippur.

"We bring in members from 20 towns, cities and villages all across Westchester County," Sameth said. "So it's unusual that way."

Every year, to accommodate the large number of people, the Pleasantville Community Synagogue holds its High Holy Day services, such as Yom Kippur, at the nearby Rosenthal Jewish Community Center, also in Pleasantville.

Yom Kippur is considered by many to be the holiest Jewish holiday. Sameth says it will usually bring even nonpracticing Jews to services.

"This is one of the times of the year where secular jews, or those searching, will come out to the ceremonies," Sameth said. "Many of our members are also intermarried and for that reason we have a lot of non-Jewish people who are with us for the holidays as well."

Yom Kippur services begin Friday night with Kol Nidre, the name of the song-text that begins the service, at 6:30 p.m. The phrase "kol nidre" means "all vows." It essentially declares that all vows made with God be annulled if we fail to live up to them. There will then be services held Saturday morning from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sameth said that regardless of people's religious beliefs, the nature of the holiday makes the synagogue's ceremonies welcoming to all.

"The theme of the holiday, which is all about looking at our lives and trying to be better people with the theme of renewal, it's a very beautiful and universal theme for all," Sameth said.

Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement. All Jews -- with some exceptions, such as children or those who are ill -- are expected to fast. The fast will be "broken" at sundown Saturday.

Jews are taught to reflect on their behavior during the previous year and seek God's forgiveness during Yom Kippur. Before the holiday, they are supposed to seek reconciliation with people whom they might have wronged.

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