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Sandy Roth, 58, Founding Rabbi of Bucks County Synagogue
Rabbi Sandy Roth, 58, the founder of Kehilat HaNahar, the Little Shul by the River, in New Hope, died March 8; three years ago, she had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
According to her daughter, Roth considered the Reconstructionist synagogue she brought into being back in 1994 one of her greatest successes.
"She simply wanted to help people find their connection to Judaism," said Rhea Nunoo, one of Roth's two daughters. "My mother loved being a rabbi and loved her community tremendously. She, in a sense, has left this community very self-sustaining and very strong."
In an interview last summer, Roth had marveled at how the number of Jewish families in the New Hope area had grown dramatically in her time there.
In January, after her illness had taken a turn for the worse, the congregation officially named her rabbi emeritus. On Feb. 25, the shul named the sanctuary after Roth.
Born in Patterson, N.J., Roth graduated from Montclair State College, and earned a master's degree in library and information science from Rutgers University, followed by a master's in Hebrew letters and rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
She had worked as both a librarian and a jeweler before embarking on her career in the rabbinate.
Roth had sought to make her congregation as welcoming as possible and, in particular, hoped to make it a home for interfaith and interracial families. She regularly officiated at interfaith weddings, provided that the couple planned to lead a Jewish life, according to Nunoo.
She was also active in the interfaith movement to increase dialogue and partnership among religious leaders. She collaborated in establishing the Delaware Valley Interfaith Council, where she served as president until her death.
On March 8, 2010, Roth was one of five women from the state of Pennsylvania honored by Gov. Ed Rendell for women who made history with their life contributions.
Last year, she also became interested in the role that meditation can play in Jewish practice. Last September, she was accepted as a fellow of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality for teacher training in meditation.
The rabbi is also survived by her mother, Francis Roth, and another daughter, Mahra Parian.