Family and friends of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky have been pretty tight lipped about the couple’s July 31 wedding. Not much more is known beyond the location – the village of Rhinebeck in upstate New York – and that Bill Clinton would like to lose some weight before the wedding. The question on the mind of most people in the Jewish community seems to be whether or not it will be a Jewish wedding, or at least have Jewish elements. Will a rabbi officiate? Will there be a chuppah? Will Mezvinsky, who was raised a Conservative Jew, step on a glass at the end of the ceremony? In a long piece on the blog Politics Daily, David Gibson explores the interfaith angle of the wedding and tries to figure out what it means for the Jewish community.
Gibson notes that with such a high profile intermarriage, the “interfaith angst is taking on a significance far beyond that of the usual family tsuris (aggravation) over such matters.” He uses Clinton and Mezvinsky’s marriage to discuss both well-tread sides of the intermarriage debate. There are some who cling to the idea that it’s the “single greatest threat to Jewish continuity today,” and there are those of us who view it as an “opportunity” to engage couples and show how welcoming and inclusive the Jewish community can be.
Gibson also brings up a familiar trend that happens when famous people are involved in intermarriage. “As for any quibbles, they will likely be drowned out by Jewish pride at one of the tribe finding such a catch as Chelsea Clinton,” he writes. It’s what we call the “Celebrity exception” and indeed it seems to be on full display here. “Jews are much more willing to forgive famous Jews for intermarrying than they are for the Jew who lives down the street,” said [New York] Jewish Week columnist Julie Wiener in the article.
As for the specifics of the Clinton-Mezvinsky marriage, there are more questions that we’ll just have to wait to have answered. Will Chelsea convert? Will Marc convert? How will they raise their children? What role will Judaism play in their lives? We don’t know, and any speculation would be just that – pure speculation.
What we do know is that as with any interfaith marriage, the best thing for the Jewish community to do is welcome the couple with open arms. We live in a time when intermarriage doesn’t mean an end to Jewish continuity. If we want interfaith couples to make Jewish choices, we have to demonstrate our willingness to include them and their children as full members of our community.
To Chelsea and Marc – and all interfaith couples – we would like to say “Welcome,” and our doors will always we open to you and your children. With over twenty years of experience working with intermarried couples, we are ready to not only help guide Chelsea and Marc on their journey, but also partner with them in order to promote a more welcoming and inclusive North American Jewish community. Just give us a call so we can get started!