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He’s known best for pretending to be a virulently anti-Semitic Kazakh reporter, but Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of Borat, is the son of Orthodox Jews and is dating Isla Fisher, a non-Jewish Australian actress. You might remember Fisher as the crazy sister from Wedding Crashers.
According to this article and other sources, Cohen and Fisher are engaged and are planning a Jewish wedding, on the condition that Fisher convert.
Also, among the six new Jewish representatives to Congress elected on Tuesday, at least one of them is from an interfaith family. See this blurb from the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix article “Ms. Giffords Goes to Congress”:
For the curious, there are now 30 Jews in the House (up from 26), and 13 in the Senate (up from 11).
As promised, I’m returning to “Untying a civil knot,” where Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer argues that the state should have nothing to do with marriage.
His argument needs to be explained in detail before it can be refuted or critiqued. His fundamental assumption is that marriage is a religious act, and under the principle of the separation of church and state, it should therefore be separate from the state’s control.
He believes the state should instead issue a “civil commitment certificate.” This certificate would essentially be a contract that couples would sign where they would make certain legally binding promises regarding “the exclusivity of the union, how it is to be terminated and what the responsibilities of each party will be at termination and beyond.” Any couple who wants to make their marriage in a religious institution legally binding in the secular world would be obligated to get a civil commitment certificate.
The benefit of this solution is twofold, he argues: one, it frees civil courts from the expense, time and pain of determining divorce settlements because everyone who has a civil commitment certificate will essentially have a prenup; and two, it resolves the contentious issue of same-sex marriage because it would be illegal to bar two homosexual men or women from entering into a contract together.
Reading an obituary of the controversial theater critic Richard Gilman, I found myself pondering a quote of Gilmanâ€™s that was referred to in the article. He had said, â€śI donâ€™t think of myself as a critic or teacher either, but simply â€” and at the obvious risk of disingenuousness â€” as someone who teaches, writes drama criticism (and other things) and feels that the American compulsion to take your identity from your profession, with its corollary of only one trade to a practitioner, may be a convenience to society but is burdensome and constricting to yourself.â€ť
Thinking about the quote, I realized that the same thing is true in a different way for interfaith families: The identity as an interfaith family is usually one small part of a family’s overall identity, not something they want to be reminded of all the time–they may be a family with two young daughters, a mom who does x and a dad who does y, close with their friends, family, etcâ€¦ and also interfaith.
Not much time to write today, but one important link I forgot to share with you on Friday: the cover story of the Oct. 27 issue of the J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, was on interfaith families who send their kids to Jewish day school.
The piece is testament to the committed, powerful Jewish choices that interfaith families make, and makes the important point that in some cases, the non-Jewish parent is the driving force behind the children’s Jewish education. (The story even includes the story of a non-Jewish single mother who adopted a child who was born Jewish and decided to send the child to Jewish day school.)
And there’s also this great quote:
Some interesting links:
I read a very powerful article in Tuesdayâ€™s New York Times about a 43-year old woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This woman, the mother of a young daughter, is intermarried and grateful for the fact that her Ashkenazic genes–which tend to be linked to a bewildering array of genetic diseases–are not the only ones being passed on to her daughter. In fact, in the article she expresses gratitude that she herself is the daughter of an intermarried couple, hence her genes are not all Ashkenazic.
Itâ€™s an article worth reading and reflecting on.
There was a nice article in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent last week by Ryan Teitman called “Rabbi Deconstructs Marriage, in All Its Assorted Permutations.” It’s little more than a description of a Jewish marriage class taught by Rabbi Yair Robinson of Shir Ami-Bucks County Congregation, but it includes some little-discussed insights.
For example, the article points out “that a rabbi [is] not a necessary element in the Jewish wedding ceremony.” As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a Jewish wedding does not require a rabbi to make it binding.
Israeli leaders like Binyamin Netanyahu sometimes excoriate intermarriage as a grave threat to the Jewish people, which is easy to do in a country with a majority Jewish population. But Israel also has another leg up on preventing intermarriage: a Jew cannot legally marry a non-Jew in Israel.
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, a number of mixed and non-Jewish couples are suing the state to compensate them for their “expense and anguish” because they have to travel out of the country to get married. Under Israeli law, only a man and woman of the same religion can marry each other, and they can only get married by an official religious authority. In Israel, the official Jewish religious authority is Orthodox. Unlike in the U.S., there is no such thing as civil marriage by someone other than a rabbi, priest or imam.
There are more young Orthodox Jews than either young Reform or young Conservative Jews, says a study coming out this week, according to a Nathaniel Popper article in the Forward. Says the article:
Some links for y’all: