Rabbi Caryn Broitman, who leads the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, began her sabbatical in early 2024. For continued leadership, the synagogue invited a trio of local female spiritual leaders to share the duties of weekly Shabbats and Passover services.

Rabbi Giulia Fleishman, Rabbi Lori Shaller and Kohenet Batya Diamond are all Vineyarders serving various organizations on-Island and off, providing a wealth of spiritual mentors during the sabbatical time. The sabbatical tradition is based on the ancient agricultural practice of leaving land to lie fallow every seven years.

Rabbi Fleishman will lead Passover services on April 23, traveling from off-Island to oversee the seder as, in addition to her work at the Hebrew Center, she serves as the spiritual director for 2Life Communities, an organization that helps provide seniors with affordable housing.

Passover begins at sundown on April 22 and ends the night of April 30.

Kohenet Batya Diamond — the term kohenet refers to those who trained at the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. — Ray Ewing

Rabbi Fleishman moved to the Island with her parents when she was 10 years old and had her bat mitzvah at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. She was ordained at Hebrew College in Newton two years ago.

“I am really grateful for the opportunity because I moved to Boston about seven years ago to start rabbinical school,” she said. “The Hebrew Center still feels like my home synagogue, no matter how many options I have in Boston.”

She said she feels supported by the two other women helping to cover services at the Hebrew Center.

“It’s nice to feel like there’s a team and that we can consult with each other,” Rabbi Fleishman said. “Lori had me over for Shabbat dinner the last time I was there, and it was really nice and helpful to get to talk.”

Rabbi Shaller originally relocated to the Island to help create the high school program at Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.

Rabbi Giulia Fleishman leads Passover services on April 23. — Courtesy The Capital Group

“Part of my decision to move to the Island was that there was a year-round Jewish community here,” she said. “My very first service that I attended, which was on the day that I interviewed at the charter school, was actually Giulia’s bat mitzvah.”

Rabbi Shaller was ordained in 2016 by teachers from the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

In addition to covering Shabbat services and holidays, Rabbi Shaller performs pastoral care and funerals. She was asked to take over these aspects of Rabbi Broitman’s job because of her experience as a hospice chaplain.

“I actually work as the spiritual care counselor for Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard, so I’m a chaplain in addition to being a rabbi,” she said.

Kohenet Batya Diamond is the third member of the sabbatical team. The term kohenet refers to those who trained at the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute to serve their community through a specific lens.

Kohenet Batya Diamond and Rabbi Lori Shaller at the Hebrew Center. — Ray Ewing

“It’s very progressive feminist and earth-based,” she said.

Kohenet Diamond originally came to the Island as a summer resident, soon finding her way to the Hebrew Center. She and her family moved to the Island full-time during the pandemic.

Kohenet Diamond said her training as a Kohenet influences the way she conducts Shabbat services.

“What’s always been missing for me, in traditional Judaism, was the feminine voice,” she said. “When I study Torah, where there is an opportunity to raise up any feminine voices...I know if I’m speaking on that Shabbat, I will be talking about the feminist viewpoint.”

Although each woman brings their own interests and experiences to their work at the Hebrew Center, services have remained similar to the way Rabbi Broitman conducted them.

“The congregation was pretty clear that they wanted us to maintain a service that was similar to what Rabbi Broitman regularly does, so we haven’t veered away from that, with the exception of some different tunes...or where we put focus on prayer on Saturday morning,” Rabbi Shaller said. “When we lead, we speak for maybe seven minutes and then we open that up for conversation with the congregation.”

Rabbi Broitman will return to the Hebrew Center this summer.

The Passover Seder led by Rabbi Giulia Fleishman takes place at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center on Tuesday, April 23, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Preregistration is required. Visit mvhc.us.

Chabad on the Vineyard will also host a Passover seder next week, on Monday, April 22, beginning at 7:15 p.m. Visit vineyardchabad.org to register.