Letters to the editor August 12
Don’t judge this couple
[Regarding the Aug. 5 editorial, “The Jewish wedding that wasn’t,”] the judgments, inferences and sweeping generalizations about the Clinton/Mezvinsky wedding are cause for concern and questions. This was only a wedding, not a history-changing event. To say, “we have been accepted” because of this wedding is preposterous. To say that the wedding was not a Jewish wedding is a damaging comment.
Does anyone know what thoughts might occupy Chelsea Clinton? Certainly she is one bright lady who we can assume did not take lightly the way she was married. Who are we to surmise that this bride and groom dismiss the significance of Jewish customs. Until someone is told directly of their intentions we have no right to prejudge. We may ask what ingredients make a wedding 100 percent Jewish. The absence of a minister? A conversion? Kosher food? What about a Jewish wedding on a Sunday with only a rabbi officiating? Suppose the rabbi is divorced and dating a non-Jew or possibly Orthodox but disrespectful of the Ten Commandments?
As to statistics about intermarriage, appalling, but do the statistics include children raised Jewish in a mixed marriage where there have been no conversions? We do know that rearing children Jewish by two Jewish parents does not prevent intermarriage. Does anyone know how Chelsea and Marc plan to raise their family, or, even if they plan to have a family?
As Jews we should embrace this new couple, conveying, and especially printing, supportive and accepting statements instead of criticisms and doubts. What judgments might be made had we not witnessed any sign of Judaism? What kind of loving kindness is being practiced by those who should know better. Chelsea and Marc could go on to raise Jewish children, perhaps even children who will marry other Jews. We just don’t know.
But criticism from Jews about their wedding does not seem to be the way to go. As for me, I hope that Chelsea and Marc have children, healthy children that they raise to be Jewish, and I truly wish them both a lot of good mazel in a world that all too readily casts stones.
Ann M. Ungar
(Editor’s note: The editorial in question did not say Jews have been accepted because of this wedding. Rather it made an observation about Jewish acceptance in America in general.)
I read your Aug. 5 editorial, “The Jewish wedding that wasn’t,” in which you criticized Chelsea Clinton and her new husband, Marc Mezvinsky, for their incomplete application of Jewish wedding traditions. I fear that you are too pessimistic about the results of intermarriage, and too fearful of the independent choices that young couples make in their religious observances.
What alternative path would you have counseled for Mr. Mezvinsky? Should he have completely abandoned the symbols of his faith? Should he have insisted that his fiancee abandon her own religious upbringing, and held their marriage hostage to this demand? Do you think that her commitment to Judaism would be strong if she had converted under those circumstances?
Sixteen years ago, my wife and I were married in a ceremony that was remarkably similar to the one that you described for the Mezvinskys, including the chupa, the ketuba, the Sheva Berachot, the yamulke and the goyishe bride. My wife never promised to convert, and I never expected her to, but two years later, she surprised me by declaring that she had chosen to become Jewish. She was fortunate to study under the esteemed Rabbi Alvin Berkin. Rabbi Berkin was glad to have a student who wasn’t “under the gun,” and who had obviously made the choice to convert without the pressure of an impending marriage. Before our oldest son was born, we renewed our vows in a traditional Jewish ceremony (so that we would be married under halacha), but the first ceremony will always be my wedding day.
As our son approaches his bar mitzva, I am happy to say that he is familiar with the holidays, the prayers, and the ceremonies of his faith. He wants to visit Israel for his 13th birthday. My family keeps strictly kosher. These things would not have been possible without my wife’s strong commitment to her Jewish faith and to our family. She needed to come to that commitment herself, and I am very glad that I never attempted to force it upon her.
The danger of an “all-or-nothing” approach to Judaism in the pubic eye is that you will likely be left with “nothing.” Instead of demanding that public figures conform to your own views of Jewish practice, I would encourage the editors of The Jewish Chronicle to have faith — not just religious faith, but faith in other people to create homes that are rich with strong religious traditions.
(Editor’s note: The editorial contained no demands upon the new couple and even stated that the decisions they made “aren’t exactly our business.” )
Community attitude is wrong
My Catholic wife and I were married twice on the same day with:
• Two marriage licenses;
• Both Catholic and Jewish wedding ceremonies;
• Two sets of wedding rings; and
• Two marriage contracts.
We were married by a Catholic priest in Holy Ghost Church in McKees Rocks Bottoms at 4:30 p.m., and again, under the chupa, by a rabbi, at 6:30 p.m. at the reception hall later Saturday night.
Everyone at Temple Emanuel knows that my Catholic wife knows the Hebrew, and participates in the Shabbat services every Friday night. Everyone at Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church knows that I am Jewish and yet I know the Slavonic, and participate in the Mass every Sunday morning.
We fast for both religions, and we are in a house of worship when we are supposed to be.
Those are choices that we made 28 years ago. Other interfaith couples have made different choices. All of those choices work as long as both spouses are willing to make the effort.
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So far, treating the interfaith couple like lepers has not worked. It would be better if the Jewish community would stop criticizing interfaith marriages, find ways to welcome the interfaith couple and, especially, the gentile spouse. The Jew married a gentile, not an idiot. That gentile spouse will contribute as much or as little to the Jewish community as you allow. The cup is neither half full, nor half empty; it is overflowing with opportunity.
Jewish attitudes are hurting the Jewish community — not interfaith couples. If you do not respect another person’s religious preference, they will not respect yours.
We in the East End are fortunate to have loyal legislators in our corner.
As one who reads this publication “religiously,” I appreciate your bringing to light all the zealous representation we get from Messieurs Peduto, Shields, Frankel, Doyle, et al. They have proven to be good friends of our community in tenaciously representing our interests as “advocates” for safe places of worship, beautiful streets, affordable parking meters, etc.
We will all benefit by their staying in their respective legislative positions for many years to come for the collective welfare of our area.
What about the $26M?
I was pleased to learn that on July 21, the beleaguered residents of the former continuing care community Covenant at South Hills secured the attention of the U. S. Senate Committee on Aging, which conducted a hearing relating to this bankrupt and defunct entity, now operating under new ownership and management as Concordia of the South Hills.
Covenant was a continuing care community, in which individuals invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for the assurance of residency and health care for the rest of their lives and with the provision that a significant amount of their investment would be returned to them upon their exit from the facility or to their estates upon their death.
Prospective residents had what they believed was the comfort of knowing that this facility was managed by B’nai B’rith International, which touted itself as an experienced operator. The management company experienced financial problems throughout its operation, which it felt no compunction about hiding from the residents until it was too late — the point at which a foreclosure action and bankruptcy were undertaken. The residents are the ones that suffered, losing their hefty deposits. B’nai B’rith has refused to cover the residents’ damages, so a lengthy court battle is now under way.
The only consolation is that no resident was put out on the street. It is regrettable that the Pennsylvania Insurance Department has displayed no concern about a loss of $26 million in what Covenant residents had every reason to believe was an airtight, safe investment, contending that this is the only known instance of such losses ever incurred in such a facility. It surely will not be the last if there is not some mechanism enacted to protect vulnerable, elderly individuals seeking a way to secure lifelong, guaranteed, quality health care.
My heart goes out to the residents of the former Covenant. It is shameful that they must pursue their money through court. It will be difficult to ever consider B’nai B’rith an organization deserving of respect or a prominent place in the community, as it is acting without principle or religious values in its response to the residents from whom it absconded with a fortune.
Upper St. Clair