I was really hoping to avoid another Clinton-Mezvinsky-wedding story after Monday's discussion of the poor coverage of the Jewish traditions included in the ceremony. Really hoping. It just feels a bit too paparazzo for me. Alas, this was unavoidable. There have just been too many stories in the past three days about the interfaith implications of Chelsea Clinton the Christian marrying Marc Mezvinsky the Jew. It's not as if interfaith marriage, particularly as a concern of the Jewish community, is a new phenomenon. It's just that everyone saw Saturday's ceremony as a newshook for discussing a old trend.
And good for them.
Never, in my memory, has a Jewish-intermarriage explainer been more apt. Chelsea's vows drew more rumors, speculation and navel gazing than all of Britney Spears combined. It almost got as much attention as Lindsay Lohan's never-ending trainwreck.
Some of the articles were better than others. I enjoyed Cathy Grossman's in USA Today and my friend Jacob Berkman's for JTA, which is the Jewish AP. Though later than I would have expected, The New York Times chimed in adequately today.
But then there was this story from the Palm Beach Post -- not exactly a journalism leader, but with enough bubbes and zaydes reading the paper that you'd expect the reporter to at least shoot par. From the headline -- "Interfaith unions no longer shock, but one mom admits: 'I want my kids to be married Jewish' " -- on down, oy gevalt!
"The only thing that matters is how they're going to bring up their children," says Marilyn Braverman of Delray Beach. "And that has to be decided before."
For Braverman's grandchildren, it was.
Her Jewish son, Dr. Mark Remz, and his Catholic wife, Karen, raised their two sons Jewish.
The lede was so painful I had to skip straight to the nut graph. I was being considerate. I just couldn't bear to put readers who care about meaningful religion reporting through it.
The story contains lots of Jew-on-the-street type perspectives from folks like Braverman and Robin Greenberg, who found her second husband on JDate and said "she definitely would not have married outside her faith."
I added the italics for emphasis because as we discussed in the comments to my wedding post Monday, faith isn't really a term that Jews use. Judaism is a religion; it's not about faith.
Let's continue on:
There's no denying two things: Holidays and child-rearing are simpler when couples marry within one faith -- but more and more are not.
Recent surveys show that half of Jews marry outside their faith.
There's also no denying a third thing: This story is less kosher than the Bacon Explosion.
I didn't realize that raising children was on par with whether you go to his parents for Yom Kippur or her parents for Easter. Regardless, these surveys are far from recent. The National Jewish Population Survey showed that between 1996 and 2001, 47 percent of Jews intermarried. Before that, the 1990 NJPS found 52 percent intermarriage, though that number was later reported to be based on a statistical error.
In other recent news, Americans families are leaving the city for the suburbs.
The story then ends with this whopper:
Technically -- in matriarchal Judaism -- if the mother is not Jewish, the children are not either.
That means that Braverman and Parsons both have non-Jewish grandchildren.
And, perhaps one day, so will Hillary and Bill.
But who knows, maybe Chelsea's rugrats will run around calling Hillary "bubbe."
By technically, I think they meant halachically. This isn't a matter of outdated conventions. It's Jewish law.
I love how the reporter waits 'til the end of her story to drop that, Oh yeah, these two grandmas that I've been quoting -- you know, the two Jewish women who appear to be relevant to this story only because their children married a non-Jew and they have an opinion about that, you know, the women who were the only voices of authority in this story -- well their grandchildren aren't technically Jewish anyway.
More importantly, that depends. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, which adheres to the matrilineal descent, would not recognize those children as Jewish unless, at least for Conservatives, they underwent the conversion process. But Reform Jews consider Jewishness to be passed down from the father.
So at the same time that this story, filled with flip remarks and farkakt uses of Yiddish, doesn't even get right the complicated but navigable topic of Jewish identity.