As we all know by now, this weekend’s tragic shooting rampage in Arizona has not only stirred up much partisan finger-pointing about inflammatory rhetoric but highlighted yet again the utter wackiness of our gun-crazy culture (hold your angry comments NRA supporters: I’m unabashedly liberal on gun control and see no reason any civilian, much less a schizophrenic, should have access to a semiautomatic rifle).
But the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who identifies as Jewish but is not Jewish according to the traditional “matrilineal descent” definition, is also shining a spotlight on the “who is a Jew” debate. Giffords, 40, is the daughter of a Jewish father and Christian Scientist mother who raised her in both traditions; according to JTA, for the past decade (following her first visit to Israel) she has identified exclusively as Jewish, and she belongs to a Reform congregation.
I have to admit that at least half the time that I start those online “Survey Monkey” questionnaires, I get bored or distracted in the middle and never end up finishing them.
However, thanks to my undying loyalty to The Cause and my desire to win a $100 gift certificate to Amazon.com, I just finished the Jewish Outreach Institute’s survey to assess the “needs and preferences of American Jews” (or at least the needs and preferences of those American Jews who like shopping at Amazon.com).
A few years ago, when I wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal about increasing numbers of gentile moms raising Jewish kids, I was amused by the editor’s headline choice: “But Will The Chicken Soup Taste As Good?”
In fact, a sizable number of non-Jewish men and women who have married into the Tribe are taking on the responsibility of cooking the family’s chicken soup, along with other traditional Jewish dishes.
A ketubah behind them, the bride and groom stood under a chupah with a rabbi, listened to friends recite the Sheva Brachot — and at the end of the ceremony, the tallit-wearing groom stepped on a glass.
But Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky’s long-awaited wedding Saturday night was not your average Jewish ceremony.
That’s not just because the parents held aloft on chairs at the reception included a former U.S. president, the current U.S. secretary of state and two former members of Congress.
And it wasn’t only because the ceremony occurred before Shabbat’s end. It was also because Rabbi James Ponet (pronounced Po-NET), Hebrew Union College-ordained and the longtime director of Yale University’s Slifka Center for Jewish Life, co-officiated alongside Rev. William Shillady, a Methodist minister.
Even as the number of liberal rabbis willing to preside at weddings of Jews to gentiles appears to be growing, co-officiation with clergy of another faith, while hardly unheard of, remains taboo.