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On an island which attracts
many celebrities, it's not sur-
prising that this congregation,
too, has its share of prominent
members, including several Nov-
el Prize winners (to protect their
privacy, Mr. Wortzel declines to
give their names).
Moreover, the congregation
has hosted prominent guests.
Most notably, President Bill Clin-
ton and Hillary Rodham Clinton
came to services on the first day
of Rosh Hashanah 1994.
The Clintons were vacationing
on Martha's Vineyard. It was con-
gregant Alan Dershowitz, the
well known Harvard law profes-
sor and author, who paved the
way for inviting them to attend
service. They accepted.
The first day of Rosh
Hashanah fell on Labor Day that
year. "The island was mobbed,
and we had 650 people at ser-
vice," relates Mr. Wortzel. Be-
cause of the large turnout every
year, High Holy day services are
held at the Whaling Church in
Even though these congre-
gants, just like all the regulars
on the island, are quite accus-
tomed to celebrities in their
midst, this visit was hardly tak-
en for granted. It was, after all,
the first time a sitting president
of the United States visited a con-
gregation on the High Holy Days.
"It was a memorable highlight for
our congregation," says Mr.
Almost half the
A year-round resident, Mr.
Wortzel is a retired diplomat in
the State Department who spent
years in Washington and living
abroad. When he and his wife
Clarice came to Martha's Vine-
yard for a vacation one summer,
"we fell in love with it right
away," he relates. "It happens to
Soon they made plans to build
a summer home on the island;
and after it was built, began corn-
ing for summer vacations.Eleven
years ago, they decided to settle
Almost half the members of
the congregation are now year-
round residents. They include De-
troit native Jacob Weissman, a
retired law professor from hofs-
tra University, who is now a full
As he talks about the congre-
gation, Mr. Wortzel leads the way
into the white clapboard building
that was once the private home
of one of the island's original Jew-
ish families. Inside,the sanctu-
ary is dignified and modest — so
VINEYARD page 72
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