Mt. Pleasant was settled in the 18th century and incorporated as a borough in 1828. The early economy centered around the glass industry and later expanded into coal mining to support coke production for steelmaking operations in Westmoreland County.
A group of Jewish merchants began to settle in Mt. Pleasant in the late 19th century and started an informal prayer group in private homes as early as 1890. They organized Tree of Life Congregation in 1900 and obtained a charter in 1924. The congregation rented the second floor of a local newspaper office for daily worship and Hebrew school, the Slovak Hall for High Holidays and the Grand Theater for confirmations, according to The Jewish Experience in Western Pennsylvania, A History: 1755-1945 by Jacob Feldman. The congregation was initially Orthodox, with separate seating for men and women and a curtain separating the two. In later years, the congregation shifted toward more Conservative rituals.
The Jewish community of Mt. Pleasant primarily lived along a section of Main Street between Quarry Street and Morewood Street known as Parfitt Town and informally called “Jew Town,” according to an oral history by Milton Poster in Listen to Our Words. The early Jewish settlers in Mt. Pleasant include the Abromson, Barron, Cohen, Glick, Koppelman, Leibovitz, Levin, Levinson, Margolin, Rogoff, Simon, Poster and Volkin families.
Tree of Life purchased a building on Church Street from the United Presbyterian Church in 1937 and dedicated the building as a synagogue the following year. The thirteen-year delay between the incorporation of the congregation and the dedication of the synagogue was unusually long. One reason for it, according to Feldman, was that a group of Jewish families in nearby Scottdale maintained a separate congregation, and presumably the two towns believed that they could only support one synagogue.
Tree of Life started a Ladies Auxiliary and a religious school in 1902 and later hired Rabbi Nathan Abromson, who stayed with the congregation until his death in 1942. The community ran a school under the Southwestern District of Pennsylvania Jewish Religious Schools program. The program included Mt. Pleasant in its Valley Institute alongside programs in nearby Scottdale, Greensburg, Latrobe and Connellsville. Tree of Life Congregation never established a cemetery and instead used one in Greensburg.
The American Jewish Yearbook listed a population of 197 for Mt. Pleasant in its 1928-1929 edition and a population of 175 in its 1940-1941 edition. The community started to shrink in the late 1960s, as older members died and children left the borough after high school and never returned. As the size of the Jewish community shrank, Tree of Life banded together with other congregations in the area. The Jewish communities of Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale and Connellsville jointly ran a B’nai B’rith lodge. Mt. Pleasant, Greensburg, and Latrobe congregations formed the Joint Conservative Sunday School in the late 1960s. By the mid-1980s, Tree of Life was only using its synagogue for memorial services. When the congregation closed in 1996, it had only 15 members.