Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.
The Summer Institute kicks off Thursday, with author James Carroll presenting “Religion in America in a Secular Age,” beginning at 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. Mr. Carroll is a historian, journalist, former Catholic priest, and now a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University. I asked Joe Bower, chairperson of the Summer Institute and a longtime professor at the Harvard Business School, how they choose who will take part in the summer event.
“We’re looking for a mix, and people who will at least touch on religious issues,” Mr. Bower said. “I met James Carroll, and found him fascinating. Sometimes it happens that we read a book and someone suggests we ask the author to come.”
There is a committee that works on choosing the speakers, but Mr. Bower said suggestions come from a variety of people. And they begin to line up the next year’s speakers right after the summer ends.
“We have to do it that way, because we need to get on their calendar,” he said. And it’s not so difficult to convince them to come when “Martha’s Vineyard is a pretty attractive place.” The speakers aren’t paid for their presentations, but their travel expenses and accommodations are covered by the many supporters of the Summer Institute.
Mr. Bower said the Summer Institute began several years ago. “The big idea was to do something that would contribute to the life of the Island in the summer,” he said. Does he have any favorite presenters?
“There have been some sessions that have gone especially well,” Mr. Bower admitted. “I think the session with Geraldine Brooks and Allegra Goodman last year went very, very well. And Yossi Halevi went very well to the very end, and he was able to keep his own views out of it.” Mr. Halevi is an author and journalist whose presentation last summer was titled “Israel: Jewish State, Democracy, or Both?” That particular session sparked some audience participation, Mr. Bower noted. Part of the basis for the sessions is to create opportunities that educate and enlighten the community.
Rabbi Caryn Broitman considers the Summer Institute a way that the Hebrew Center can contribute to the Island community.
“Synagogues were traditionally community centers, and the Hebrew Center strives to be a center in many ways — socially, artistically, intellectually, and spiritually,” Rabbi Broitman wrote in an email when I asked her what role the Summer Institute plays in the life of the Hebrew Center.
“We want to provide forums for the discussion of the pressing issues of the day, including the environment, the economy, war and peace, and racial justice and equality. We are very excited for this season of lectures and films, and are grateful to everyone who comes to our programs, making them such an integral part of summer on the Island.”
In that vein, Mr. Bower said he’s very interested in hearing what Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Ind., and Stephen Henderson, a correspondent for the Detroit Free Press, have to say when they come to the Summer Institute on July 21. The two speakers will talk about “Race, Police, and the Recovery of Our Cities.”
“I’m looking forward to learning a lot from them, because I read the headlines, but these people are in the middle of it,” Mr. Bower said.
You can check out all the speakers and the movies the Summer Institute is presenting this summer at mvsummerinstitute.com. Tickets for the Summer Institute speaker series are available online at ticketsmv.com or at the door.
If you missed last month’s strawberry festival at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury, take heart. You still have time to plan for the July 16 blueberry festival. From noon to 4 pm, you can try anything and everything baked, stirred, or mixed with blueberries.
Don’t forget to visit Good Shepherd Parish’s fried dough stand at the Tisbury Street Fair on Friday, July 8, and that evening, beginning at 8 pm, you can join in the singalong at the Tabernacle for the Old Fashioned Hymn Sing. There’s a simple supper planned at the parish house at the Campground before the singalong, beginning at 6 pm, with proceeds going to the Island Food Pantry.
Then Saturday, July 9, at 7 pm there will be a silent auction followed by a classical piano recital by Charles Whitehead at the Whaling Church in Edgartown. Tickets are $25 at the door or $20 in advance, available at some Island places of worship. All proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Hospitality Homes winter shelter program sponsored by the Island Clergy Association. For more information, call 774-563-8219.
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