Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy: A Jewish Wedding?

It may not have been a “kosher” wedding, but it was definitely a Jewish one.

According to the New York Times, Chelsea Clinton, a Methodist, wed Marc Mezvinsky, a Jew, in an elaborate and expensive interfaith ceremony in Rhinebeck, NY yesterday. It was also reported that Rabbi James Ponet, Yale University’s Jewish chaplain, co-officiated with Reverend William Shillady in a ceremony that included elements from both traditions. The Times and other publications say that friends and family recited the Seven Blessings, or in Hebrew, Sheva Berachot. In photographs, the groom is seen wearing a kippah and a tallit (prayer shawl), and in the photo posted here, the couple is standing in front of what appears to be a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract).

But was it Jewish enough?

Reports on the wedding effectively ended months of speculation over whether Clinton or Mezvinsky would convert. No such conversion took place. Instead their wedding became a convergence of religion, honoring both of their faiths.

In the days to come, there will no doubt be disappointed naysayers condemning Clinton, or Mezvinsky, or Clinton-Mezvinsky, for refusing to choose. They can’t have it both ways—it’ll confuse the children! One blogger on this site wrote, “I think it’s a little odd to wear a tallit and kippah, sign a ketubah, and recite the 7 blessings, when you are marrying a person who is not Jewish.  Why bother?”

Well, maybe because we don’t live in a black and white world. To suggest that incorporating any element of Jewish tradition is worthless unless both bride and groom are Jewish is silly and shortsighted. It is precisely the kind of all-or-nothing extremism that has fueled religious fundamentalism in Israel, in Arab countries and around the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of decrying imminent doom for the Jewish populace we celebrated this couple’s inclusion of Jewish ritual? After all, it isn’t everyday that an American president has to watch his only daughter get married with Hebrew blessings. Instead of fearful or judgmental, couldn’t we be just a wee bit proud?

Jews have always maintained that Judaism has much to teach the world, and this seems as good a time as any for a teaching moment. Or, would we rather hearken back to the days when Jews lived in ghettos and everything about them seemed strange and foreign? I say that’s a tired road.

Chelsea Clinton may not be halachically (legally) Jewish, but then, who is? Recent events here and in Israel suggest the question is open for debate.