From the October 4, 1940 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

On Wednesday, the first day of Tishri, the first Jewish religious service was held that evening in a duly dedicated Jewish house of worship on the Island. This was at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven, where Rabbi Joseph Levine of New York city blew the shofar, or ram’s horn trumpet, of the Old Testament, and read the service which ushered in the ten-day period of Jewish holy days. This was the first time that a Jewish assembly has ever attended religious services on the Island under the direction of a rabbi, and the sixty persons or more in the congregation, regarded the event as most momentous in the Island history of Jewry.

The opening of the ten-day season marks the birthday of the year 5701 of the Jewish calender, and services will be held at intervals throughout the period, ending with the memorial service on Saturday, Oct. 12, which follows the twenty-four hour fast and the Kol Nidri service which marks the Day of Atonement.

For the first time in its history the Gazette carries on its church page the calender of weekend services for the Island Jewish house of worship, in which the services for next Friday and Saturday are listed.

Rabbi Levine’s first visit to the Vineyard has impressed him pleasantly, and he has spoken of the place and its people with evident pleasure in their acquaintance. Yesterday afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Harry Perlstein held open house at the center, where the public was invited to meet Rabbi Levine. A large number of Island residents was present.


In a letter to the Gazette, Edward C. Douglas of Annapolis, Md., writes of some of his reminiscences of old time visits to the Vineyard.

“I began visiting the Vineyard in 1881, at the age of 4,” he records, “and continued to do so, with fair regularity, for about twenty years. At the turn of the century we got the habit of visiting the northern New England states, since which time I saw the Island only in 1914, 1931 and 1939. On the last visit I finally saw Tisbury, West Tisbury and Chilmark, which had been denied to me in the past because of almost impassable roads. We used to make an annual pilgrimage to Gay Head, by water; and to Edgartown by rail, accompanying the latter with a clambake dinner at Katama, and a conversation with the old white cockatoo which sat on his perch in front of a marine supply house.

“Edgartown was in no sense a summer resort at that time, so the old bird could call all the residents by name and ask how they were today. We were outsiders and he would invariable say to members of our family, after shaking hands in a dignified manner, ‘Where do you come from? What’s your name.’

“In company with my elders, we made an annual call on old Judge Vincent, the judge of probate. My uncle was holding a similar office in my home town, Middletown, Conn. I remember his remarking, ‘The judge is getting old, but he’s right there.’ In modern parlance we might say, ‘Still going strong.’ I also remember the big fire which almost wiped out the town of Vineyard Haven, and saw the wreck of the City of Columbus which hit the Devil’s Bridge off Gay Head. In 1939 I talked to the granddaughter of one who belonged to the second boat crew, and that the family still treasured as its greatest heirloom the life-saving medal presented to their ancestor by the United States government.”


In some places, we believe, it is frost which brings the great fall change in the appearance and feeling of town and countryside, but on the Vineyard it is wind and rain which does this. The summer flowers are still blooming in gardens, drenched but bright, when the northeasters and the sweeping rains manage a complete alteration of the season.

There is considerable virtue in an autumn rain, and some even in an autumn gale. Little can compare with these things in the gusty cleanliness which they bring out of doors. They scour and sweep the sky and the sea as well as the earth, and everyone knows that when the weather clears it will be sharper and cleaner than it has been for weeks, perhaps months. And the spirit of the human being will be sharper and cleaner, too.

It is not the violence of autumn winds which we commend, for many of them are not particularly violent, and these are the ones we like best. It is not the violence but the release, the actual release and roaming of the elements outdoors which can march and sweep and sway, and the symbolic release which gladdens rather than saddens as the poet used to say.

During the storm one may look forward to the freshening, and know that when the sun comes out and the summer flowers will be gayer still, and that they will keep company with the tangy chrysanthemum and the coloring autumn leaves. For a while the seasons will be all mixed up, and the miscellany of fall will combine the best qualities of many days and nights, of many memories, and many satisfactions.

Compiled by Hilary Wall