This weekend’s wedding between Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky has, not surprisingly, evolved into a national story. But one surprising angle has emerged as a mainstream story – the interfaith angle. Clinton is a Methodist, Mezvinsky is Jewish. The interest in this aspect of their marriage has become quite a hot topic in the secular press. The Washington Post is running a five-part online series about interfaith marriage, along with guest columns on the subject. The Early Show on CBS had on a “relationship expert” to talk about the issues raised by intermarriage. And back in March, the Associated Press asked if there was a Jewish wedding in store for Chelsea (Rabbi Jason Miller of Detroit claims to have it on good authority that the wedding will be co-officiated).
One recent article though looks at the relationship in a bigger sense. Writing in the Huffington Post, Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, believes the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding tells us something “important, challenging and hopeful” about both religion and “the nature of America.”
In his piece, titled “From the Cathedral to the Bazaar: What Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding Says About Religious Syncretism,” Kula explains how a family with multiple identities “is the new reality.” Some religious leaders find this “horrifying,” while others see it as an incredible opportunity to provide “wisdom and practice… that is accessible, usable, and good enough” to guide today’s generation – and their children – towards a more “ethical, vital and loving” life. Kula doesn’t sugarcoat the subject – “Yes, there will be loss,” he writes – but he also offers an optimistic vision of what lies ahead:
“…This loss can open space for a new reality, one that holds the potential for a much richer and better world as we transcend the exclusivity of our creeds, dogmas, and tribes, and — here is the contemporary challenge — as we include the best of our inherited traditions. Loving each other across boundaries and building families to which multiple traditions are brought is far better for the planet than what our religions have too often done: demonizing the other.
The more people love each other, and the more people with different inheritances and traditions form intimate relationships and families, the better we will understand each other across all boundaries, and the wiser we will be at knowing what from our rich traditions we need to let go of and transcend, and what we need to bring along with us to help us create better lives and build a better world.”
For the Jewish community, this means looking at outreach not as a numbers game, but as something more. We are moving into a future where we will see more mixed faith couples. Barriers don’t exist as they used to. We should embrace the opportunities we have to share the meaning and value of Judaism with interfaith families and all those who now find themselves linked to the Jewish community.