Have faith: Rabbi Caryn Broitman will study at Harvard next year

And, how about a little post-Easter meditation?

Rabbi Caryn Broitman is the first year-round rabbi at the Hebrew Center, where she's been since 2003. Photo by Michelle Gross

Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.

Caryn Broitman, rabbi at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, has gotten word that she’s been awarded the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellowship at Harvard University for a one-semester sabbatical beginning January 2017. She’ll be taking courses, researching, and writing while she’s away.

Rabbi Broitman will focus on the great Yiddish writer Jacob Glatstein during her studies. She recently explained her passion for literature, both secular and Jewish.

“As a modernist in a particular group with James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Kafka — secular writers with a lot of topics that contain spirituality or the holy within that secular framework — Glatstein’s work is about estrangement, not feeling at home in the world,” she said. Rabbi Broitman said the modernist writers often incorporated spiritual themes within their works, and that congregations today can explore religious themes through both Jewish and secular literature, making that same spiritual component more appealing for people with diverse beliefs.

“We tend in the modern era to put religious topics in a box and name it religion,” Rabbi Broitman explained, “but most people for most of history completely integrated religion into every part of life — music, poetry, civil law — everything had a religious aspect. Even though I’m a very strong believer in the separation of church and state, that doesn’t mean religion should be put in a box somewhere.”

She said, for instance, that the Torah contains much about civil law, about contributing to the maintenance of communal institutions, about poverty, and about the goals of taxes and tithing.

“It’s really only in modern times that we’ve put religion into a box,” Rabbi Broitman said.

“Religion is not about Saturday or Sunday or about a particular space,” she said. “It’s about how we move through the world. Hopefully we do so in a way that contributes to a holy community.”

With that in mind, Rabbi Broitman has been leading a Jewish literature class once a month for the Vineyard congregation. The next session will be focused on Jacob Glatstein’s novella “Homecoming at Twilight” and is planned for Sunday, April 17, beginning at 10:30 am. It is recommended that participants call the office and register before attending. Also coming up is the Hebrew Center’s community Passover Seder at 5:30 pm on Saturday, April 23. Reservations are necessary, and can be made by calling the Hebrew Center office at 508-693-0745 by April 13.

It’s hard to imagine that the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, a place that serves as a hub for today’s community arts and current events, is celebrating 75 years. The Jewish community on the Island began with just a handful of families as founding members. Families with familiar names like Cronig, Brickman, Pearlstein, Miller, Levinson, Issokson, Kligler, and Osman signed the incorporation papers for the Hebrew Center back in 1941. Today there are 350 families registered at the center.


Wipe the Easter-egg dye off your hands and get ready for spring and summer by joining Elliott Dacher at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury as he leads a meditation group on Saturdays. There’s no pressure to make every session; come as you are from 9 am to noon. The next session in the “Spirituality, Contemplative Practice, and Well-Being in Community” series takes place on Saturday, April 16, at the church’s parish hall.

If meditation isn’t your thing, you could take some time out to listen to the classical music rehearsal that happens every Friday from 4 to 6 pm at the Trinity sanctuary in Oak Bluffs. It’s free, and listeners are welcome to bring an instrument and join in the group. The United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard has something going on pretty much every day of the week. The free men’s breakfast is every first Saturday at the Trinity parish house. The next breakfast will be April 2 at 8:30 am.

If you have news for Have Faith, email it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.