The Signficance of Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding

In my last blog post, The Jewish World Reacts to the Clinton-Mezvinsky Wedding — and It Isn’t Pretty,  I said I was still reflecting on the significance of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, and would have more to say about it.

Well I did reflect on it and I wrote an op-ed and the Forward published it today: The Missing ‘Mazel Tov.’

I would love to quote the entire piece here but please read it on the Forward site. In a nutshell, I think the significance of the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is because of their celebrity the way they conducted their wedding could inspire many other interfaith couples to seriously consider incorporating Jewish practices in their weddings – like Chelsea and Marc did so prominently – and hopefully in their lives together after their weddings. In addition, I think it was very fortunate that Chelsea and Marc were able to find a rabbi of the stature of James Ponet to co-officiate the wedding with a Methodist minister.

Instead of an enthusiastic, hearty “Mazel tov,” the reaction of Jewish leaders, as detailed in my last blog post, was to pronounce the wedding as “not a Jewish event.” This was the worst possible response to express, because it can only serve to discourage and push away not just Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, but the thousands of other interfaith couples who are watching.

Because of space limitations, the Forward cut two paragraphs, which I’ll include here:

“There is a serious disconnect between what young couples want and what our religious leaders want to provide. Thirty to 45% of the requests made to InterfaithFamily.com’s Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service are for rabbis who co-officiate. In recent research done for us, rabbis who do not officiate reported overwhelmingly that they are able to successfully tell couples they can’t officiate without alienating them; but interfaith couples emphasized that a rabbis’ refusals to officiate are likely to turn them away from their congregations.”

“JTA quotes Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen as saying that we should celebrate the marriage of these individuals, but not the type of marriage it represents. The head of the Conservative movement said “intermarriage is not ideal” but we “must welcome interfaith families.” This have-it-both-ways response simply won’t cut it with young couples. If you were Chelsea Clinton, considering whether to get more involved in Jewish life, how would you feel?”

I hope you will read the entire piece and welcome your comments and suggestions here.

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One thought on “The Signficance of Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding

  1. First, thanks for focusing on the attention given the  wedding of Marc and Chelsea. Most important is the general tone and approach of how the Jewish community’s officials reacted. I did not pay close enough attention to that aspect.

    Yes, I think the question of encouraging young people to see the wedding as a test drive for a future relationship to the Jewish community is always the agenda of the rabbi, even when two Jews marry. Rabbis (and their boards and leadership) need to do a better job of understanding how critical the process can be. I frankly think that many rabbis especially the ones in big congregations do not integrate the work of welcoming new people and marrying couples into the organizing work of the congregation. It is not viewed as central to the community building but only peripheral!

    The old assumption that people eventually cycle back to the Jewish community when they have children has not been true since the 1960s.

    Yes, Mazel tov and how can we help you celebrate? I know Rabbi Ponet. As good as he is, unless he is going to also going to be the congregational rabbi for Chelsea and Marc his participation will not mean much in the future.

    Yes, Mazel tov to Chelsea and Marc and can you come for Shabbat dinner? or Lunch?

    Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak

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