Mazel tov in advance to Chelsea and Marc

With the big event happening Saturday night, this is our last chance to send a Mazel tov in advance to Chelsea and Marc. With the air space above Rhinebeck cleared, and guests reportedly required to turn in their camera phones, we don’t know when word will leak out about the ceremony and who officiated – but eventually it will.

Our friend Rabbi Mayer Selekman gave a great interview on the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia in which he explained the meaning of Jewish wedding traditions – it’s worth watching.

Amidst all the gossip about who is attending, what it is costing, who designed the dress, there have been some very interesting blog posts about the significance of this wedding and marriage for the Jewish community. Rabbi Irwin Kula had an extremely thoughtful (as usual) post in the Huffington Post. In this powerful message Kula moves from the fact of the wedding of a prominent interfaith couple to the need for faiths and groups to emphasize not more group members but rather wisdom and practice drawn from their tradition that helps people construct lives that are ethical, vital and loving.

The Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is a perfect expression of the emerging American religious and social landscape in which one’s inherited group identity bears little or no significance on one’s marriage…

What is unprecedented — wonderful for some and horrifying to others — is that in this era no one needs to reject his or her identity to cross these century-old boundaries. Multiple identities… is the new reality.

We Americans… customize our religious identities — less in terms of some group-belonging need, creedal purity, or theological consistency, and more in order to get a job done — and in doing so, we find greater meaning and purpose.

[Y]ou cannot have people mixing religious ideas and practices… [and] creating families with diverse inheritances… and expect existing religious institutions to be unaffected… Fewer and fewer Americans are getting religion in the cathedrals. They are getting what they need to get their spiritual/meaning-making job done in the bazaar…

Religious leaders … will need to be concerned less with creating good upstanding members of their group (theologically or sociologically) and more with providing wisdom and practice drawn from their tradition that is accessible, usable, and good enough to get the job done: helping “mixers, blenders, benders, and switchers” construct ever-changing lives that are more ethical, vital, and loving within their already-existing webs of relations.

“On Faith” at the Washington Post has run four pieces by our colleague Dr. Marion Usher that offer great advice to intermarrying couples from her standpoint as a psychologist with years of experience working with interfaith couples. The first piece is about choosing a “lead religion” – an interesting approach that Dr. Usher has developed and recommends; the  second piece is about where interfaith couples can go for help, the third piece is about raising children in an interfaith household, and the fourth piece is about developing a solid relationship foundation. I contributed the fifth piece in the series, on what the elements of a Jewish wedding ceremony symbolize and mean.

On Faith has also assembled an amazing panel of commentaries. The comments from the rabbis on the panel unfortunately express a lot of ambivalence towards intermarriage. The head of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Steven Wernick, says:

In itself, intermarriage may not be ideal for the Jewish community – but it is a reality that we cannot afford to ignore. Ultimately, our goal must be the creation of strong, committed Jewish families. And if we can achieve that goal through both in-marriage and intermarriage, then we must make keruv, outreach and welcome, a priority for our synagogues and communities.

Popular Rabbi David Wolpe in a piece titled “A Blessing and a Threat” says:

Love vaults over boundaries and that is often both beautiful and compelling. Much can be lost along the way however, and it is difficult to keep both the integrity of a tradition and its universal messages. As with all great blessings, the blessings of America exact a considerable cost.

Rabbi Jack Moline says “I oppose intermarriage before the fact. After the fact, I support marriage.”

Finally, back to who is officiating – Rabbi Jason Miller says “I have it on good authority that Chelsea’s wedding this Saturday night at Astor Mansion in Rhinebeck, NY will be co-officiated by both a rabbi and a Methodist minister.” I asked Rabbi Miller what his authority was and he said a “colleague” had talked to the minister but the colleague wouldn’t tell him who the minister was and the minister had signed a non-disclosure agreement. So it looks like we’re just going to have to wait.

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