The Jewish wedding that wasn’t

The Jewish wedding that wasn’t

The bride wore a stunning strapless, silk organza Vera Wang wedding gown, enhanced by a swirling ball skirt with a silk tulle diagonally draped bodice and accented by an embellished belt.
The groom wore a tallis and a yamulke.
Former first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who is Methodist, wed Jewish investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, at a celebrity-studded event last Saturday in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
It seems the wedding, in addition to its estimated $5 million price tag, had all the trappings of a Jewish simcha. In photographs, the couple is standing beneath a chuppa, and in front of what appears to be a ketuba (Jewish marriage contract). And it has been widely reported that friends and family recited the Sheva Berachot, or seven blessings, customarily read at a Jewish wedding.
Yet this was not a Jewish wedding. Clinton and Mezvinsky have been dating for years, and there is no indication that Clinton has any intention of converting to Judaism. The wedding ceremony was conducted during the Jewish Sabbath, a blatant violation of halacha. And although Rabbi James Ponet, head of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, co-officiated at the ceremony, so did Rev. William Shillady, a Methodist minister.
What, in fact, did the tallis, yamulke, and chuppa mean to this couple? The chuppa has traditionally symbolized the creation of a new Jewish home. If the new Mr. and Mrs. Mezvinsky were sincere about establishing that home, it is incongruous that they chose to have their wedding performed on Shabbat, and before a minister. If the Mezvinskys are serious enough about beginning a Jewish life together to include the Sheva Berachot and ketuba as part of their wedding, why hasn’t Chelsea made a formal commitment to Judaism?
The Jewish inter-marriage rate currently hovers around 47 percent, according to the National Jewish Population Survey. Only 28 percent of the children of these marriages are being raised as Jews, the survey reports, and only 10 to 15 percent of these kids ultimately will marry Jews themselves.
Although some Jewish observers have taken delight in seeing symbols of their faith displayed at the wedding of so prominent a member of American society as the daughter of a former president and current secretary of state, we take pause. Sure, the wedding is great exposure for Jewish symbols to permeate mainstream society, and the couple has every right to celebrate their wedding as they see fit, but this may not be cause to rejoice for the Jewish community at large.
The Clinton/Mezvinsky wedding pushes the symbols, but not the significance, of a Jewish wedding to the forefront, and it leaves open the usual questions: How will they raise their children? Will they maintain a Jewish household? These are questions that aren’t exactly our business, but it’s important to remember that a wedding reverberates long after the honeymoon is over.
While many view the Clinton/Mezvinsky nuptials as a symbol of the Jews having “made it” in America, the far-reaching consequences are not as rosy. Yes, we have been accepted, and that is good. But must acceptance come at so high a price?