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History of the Plainview Synagogue

In 1964, Rabbi Gutman Baras and his wife, Rebbetzin Chana Baras, established our Plainview Synagogue. They wanted to create not just a place of worship, but a warm and welcoming “home” for all Jews.

It all started out in a house on Manetto Hill Road in Plainview. Indeed, it was a place for people to come together and pray. It was a place for children to happily come for a Jewish education.

Both the Rabbi and Rebbetzin were both immigrants from Europe who spoke English with an accent. Yet, this did not stop people from coming. On the contrary, the people realized they were authentic, real caring, concerned individuals. Everyone felt the Rabbi and Rebbetzin’s deep devotion, their positive energy.

Even the children at Hebrew school were excited. They actually looked forward to their lessons; it was as if they were going on some exciting trip.  Each student had a close relationship with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin and they all saw themselves as extended family. The Rabbi, himself, declared all of them “family.”

The house on Manetto Hill Road soon became too small to accommodate the needs of the Synagogue’s activities. Planning for expansion began. Rabbi Baras started putting together plans for the extension and went to seek the advice and blessing of the Lubavicher Rebbe. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very pleased when he heard of the accomplishments and progress Rabbi Baras had with the local families. He was impressed with all the encouragement the people had received from Rabbi Baras. In fact, the Lubavitcher Rebbe even commented that he was often receiving regards about Rabbi Baras and how he was a well-known personality on Long Island and beyond.

After putting together a small part of the money, construction began on the expansion of the Plainview Synagogue. The extension contained a social hall and a large Sanctuary that would be able to hold the amount of people that began to regularly stream to this warm and inviting place.

This Synagogue was vastly different than most other synagogues in the region. It was not run as a modern institution for services, but rather by the principles of the real authentic Shul of previous generations, of an era thought to be gone.  Rabbi Gutman Baras coined the phrase, “The Plainview Synagogue is the Original and its Rabbi is the Original.”  No person was favored over another because of his financial holdings, appearance or even how observant he was. The Shul was a home for everyone and people always felt at ease, as if they were actually in their own home.

Rabbi Gutman Baras never tried to push anyone toward any practice, observance or ritual with which he wasn’t comfortable. Each person was inspired to grow at one’s own pace in good deeds and Torah observance and to develop a heartfelt relationship with the Almighty. All this was accomplished with kind words and a smile of encouragement from the Rabbi and Rebbetzin.

The second generation, the children of the Rabbi and Rebbetzin, followed in their parents’ footsteps. At very young ages, they all became involved in the management of the synagogue and even helped expand the Hebrew school with additional classes and grades.

Tirelessly, the family worked to give inspiration and guidance to everyone who came. Whether it was in the synagogue or even in their own house, the doors were open 24-7. Shabbat was a day full of spiritual work.

There were quite a few groups with which each of the community children grew; and at the same time were their sources of inspiration and their guides into the world of Judaism. Eventually, some even went to Yeshiva. Many, with the inspiration and directives they got as youngsters in the Plainview Synagogue, built their own homes based on the foundation of Torah and Mitzvos (good deeds).  All and all they grew with an abundance of Jewish pride.  They were so happy to make the Rabbi and Rebbetzin proud of them. Often, they would return from college and relate how campus Rabbis and classmates would ask in surprise, ”How do you read Hebrew so fluently? And know the blessings over the different foods? How do you know so many prayers and tunes; the Shabbos candle blessing, the Shabbos Kiddush, and how to observe the holidays?” The Rabbi would laugh and say, “Tell them to come here, to the Plainview Synagogue, we’ll teach them too. It’s never too late!”

The words, “Rabbi,” “Rebbetzin ,” and “Plainview Synagogue,” were always spoken with great respect and pride.  After meeting the Rabbi and Rebbetzin, one felt blessed to have found an authentic place to see and learn how to live a Jewish life.

The Rabbi and Rebbetzin continued their work with their children and introduced the third-generation, their grandchildren, who added additional classes, programs and events. With time, High Holiday members, their children, Hebrew school students and their parents came to daven regularly on Shabbos. Through the years it broadened into daily prayer services and branched into Sunday mornings with “breakfast, learn and study.” It was and is known as a synagogue with a warm environment, where one can reach out to the other.

In 2014, Rabbi Shmuel Shmueli, a grandchild of the founding Rabbi and Rebbetzin, was honored with the position of Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Plainview Synagogue together with Rabbis Benyamin and Sholom Baras. They continue to build the synagogue on the very same foundation of its founders – their grandfather and father, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin Baras.

Currently, Rabbi Benyamin Baras presides as Head Rabbi and Rabbi Shmuel Shmueli is Rabbi in Residence.

Fri, November 22 2019 24 Cheshvan 5780