Each year the Forward, the only national Jewish newspaper, publishes a list called the “Forward 50” which they describe this year as a list of “men and women who have made a significant impact on the Jewish story in a Jewish way.”
Way back in 2001, I made the list, to my mother’s everlasting pride – she thought it was a list of the fifty most important Jews. I had criticized one of the leading critics of intermarriage as subjectively biased, and I think the Forward staff liked the controversy.
As usual, the list this year is entertaining reading – in particular this year because they added a 51st space, for two people: “Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, high-profile intermarriage.”
If you read this blog you know that we’ve had a lot of comment on the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding, starting back when their engagement was announced, continuing with speculation about what kind of officiant they would have, and most recently with comment on the not very enthusiastic reaction of Jewish leaders to their wedding because a rabbi co-officiated with a Methodist minister before Shabbat had ended.
According to the Forward, the wedding “reinvigorated the intermarriage conversation for a new generation of American Jews.” Chelsea’s wedding to “an involved Jew… was a validating first in many ways” referring to the photos of a chuppah, a ketubah, and the groom in a tallis and yarmulke – “The Clintons and Mezvinskys telegraphed to the world that Judaism has nothing to hide.”
In explaining why they went beyond 50, clearly the controversy was again important: Chelsea and Marc are included “For the hot debate this couple caused about who is a Jew and what role nuptials play in religion, for how they captivated the American imagination and energized the conversation around Jewish identity.”
Next week I will be speaking at a session at the Jewish Federation of North America’s annual convention on the question, “Can we encourage in-marriage and welcome interfaith families?” We had a planning call for the session today and the other panelists did not seem thrilled to hear that I plan to bring up the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding in my presentation. But I still feel strongly that the tepid reaction of Jewish leaders missed an opportunity to extend an enthusiastic welcome to a prominent couple that could have helped to inspire many other young couples to consider Jewish traditions for their own weddings and lives together. I’m glad that the Forward has kept the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding in the spotlight.