Chelsea, Marc and Gitel – Studies in Dark and Light

Like millions of others this morning I opened my browser to photographs of Chelsea Clinton clad in a rhinestone studded Vera Wang gown embracing her new husband investment banker Marc Mesvinsky clad in tuxedo, yarmulke and tallis.

According to news sources, Mesvinsky who attended Hebrew school as a child, is a halachic Jew, from both sides. It was he who insisted on the interfaith ceremony incorporating elements from two faiths and his bride, the former first daughter, herself a baptized Methodist agreed.

While all know too much about the ensuring traffic snarl ups and which A list celebrities did and didn’t attend, the media will never capture the real meaning of this event. To any Jew steeped in Torah, what happened last Sunday in Westchester was a disgrace. In front of several hundred of his closest friends and paparazzi cameras streaming his face all over the globe, Mesvinsky committed spiritual suicide separating himself and his future generations from the Jewish people for all eternity.

What is even more disturbing is that no one said a word in protest. Once upon a time, not so many years ago even non religious Jews were distressed when their children married out . They cried and wailed, boycotted the ceremony, some sitting shiva and cutting ties with their beloved children sometimes for life.

But in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic America we have so called rabbis who are eager to officiate at these ceremonies and. Jews like Mesvinsky who feel that by donning kipa and talis they are honoring their Jewish roots.

The ludicrous farce of the Clinton-Mesvinsky wedding is emblematic of the Olam HaSheker, the world of lies in which we dwell. One can take some consolation in the fact that many intermarriages fail..The odds of Chelsea and Marc ending up at opposite ends of a courtroom are quite high. In the meanwhile though any believing Jew must shed tears for this couple and the others following in their example.

As to the triumphant feelings this event certainly evokes in some assimilated Jews intermarried can hardly be regarded as a solution to anti Semitism. Jewish history proves over and over again that whenever we Jews fail to “make Kiddush” (sanctify our lives according to the Torah’s dictates) the non Jews “make havdala” (divide us from them through anti Semitic attack).

While the media glare of the Mesvinsky nuptial increased the quotient of global darkness, the world has other simple unknown people who leave a legacy of light. Consider, Gital Schwartz the 93 year old Aushwitz survivor who died last February leaving an estimated 2000 Torah observant decendants. From one lonely orphan emerged an entire dynasty, which even the New York Times described as a “fist in Hitler’s eye.”

73 comments on “Chelsea, Marc and Gitel – Studies in Dark and Light

  1. Tesyaa #66: No offense taken. I know my Modern Orthodox daughter, and I know that what is going on is a kind of rebellion against the strictness of certain rules enforced in home and in school. I know that she has a very good friend who is also in a similar kind of rebellion against the rules enforced in home and in school. But this statement is backed up by my personal knowledge of both young women, their past history and their current lifestyles. I would not be able to make a similar statement for a Baal-Teshuvah or Geir without knowing that person.

    For most BT’s and Gairim, the decision to take on Mitzvot and Jewish Observance appears not to be a rebellion against parents and school but a conscious humanist choice of lifestyle. This is borne out by the narratives of BT’s and Gairim themselves: over and over again they repeatedly emphasize what brought them to Yiddishkeit and frumkeit. Although each tale is as unique as the person who tells it, every individual having a different story, most of what I have heard from BT’s and Geirim is that this is a matter not of being repelled from something that turned them off, so to speak, but being attracted toward something that turned them on.

    Tuvia #72: WADR, IMHO all the split hooves in the world don’t make ham kosher.

  2. The rabba in Riverdale told me!

    That’s a bad joke. Sorry. I’ve never even met her.

    I think that first line of the comment is one I would rephrase. Understand is not the right term.

    To put it in human terms, I would understand (and support) that an orthodox couple would not be able to attend an intermarriage ceremony of a member of their family. But I think it is a Kiddush Hashem if they attend the party afterwards (I know it is asking a lot and is a tough call.) And I certainly expect them to be at the bris if the mother is Jewish. And I would like them to be at the bris if the father is Jewish (another tough call – maybe send one family member, as a concession?).

    I understand if it will take a couple of Xanax to handle the above.

    It’s not easy being Orthodox!

    I had a friend who became immersed in orthodoxy, and then after several years found himself utterly at a cross roads about continuing with it. We went out for a beer (in the Russian Quarter) and he was very unhappy and even afraid that Hashem would not understand his choice. My response was – you looked, you tried, you left – Hashem will give you a good “what for?,” a potch on the cheek, and the relationship will move on from there.

    What else can you tell someone in this modern world?

    So I 100% take back “forgiveness.”

    (My only explanation is I’ve been reading some rather wild orthodox stuff lately that took me away from normative thinking.)

    But the intermarried person’s relationship with Hashem will never end – and I think the Orthodox should make that clear in Olam Ha Ze too.

  3. The Bible condemns marriage between Jews and non-Jews 12 times:
    {1} Exodus 34
    {2} Bamidbar 25
    {3} Deuteronomy 7
    {4} Proverbs 2
    {5} Proverbs 5
    {6} Proverbs 6
    {7} Proverbs 7
    {8} Ezra 9
    {9} Nehemiah 10
    {10} Nehemiah 13
    {11} Hosea 5
    {12} Malachi 2.

  4. Tuvia said (in message 68):

    “I believe that Hashem will understand no matter who we marry or if we marry at all.”

    Would you explain exactly what you meant by that?

  5. “I believe that Hashem will understand no matter who we marry”
    Tuvia, on what basis do you make that statement?
    People who believe otherwise have many Gemoras, Rishonim, Achronim, Poskim over thousands of years behind them.

  6. I believe that Hashem will understand no matter who we marry or if we marry at all.

    Judaism is presently harder to follow than in the days of prophets. And back then, there was (so it would appear) tangible proof of the special relationship of Hashem to Jews.

    But now? We are all in a kind of fog, and I am pretty sure that no one – not a Gadol Hador, nor a pious simple person, nor a skeptic, nor an atheist can be certain of almost anything.

    It is this fog that actually drives many to embrace orthodoxy. I personally have seen many who are glad to embrace it, I know many b’al t’chuvahs. I’ve also seen solid citizen who were born FFB drop it.

    In a way, both are fraught moments – they both express the limits of our knowledge. They both express a yearning for clarity, for a relationship to the truth. Everyone I know who believes their lives lack truth are thrust into this debate with themselves over G-d, religion, the golden rule, purpose.

    I suppose if I were really honest, I would tell people to join a community, participate, marry and have children. This is the psychologically happiest way to live. Somehow, this formula seems to work.

    One thing religion can provide is that sense of community.

    Marrying Jewish is a different matter – clearly not a psychological issue for many. And we are destined to not have certainty or clarity (at least at this point in history) on its spiritual meaning. One person may choose to make it essential, for another it may not matter at all. Both are trying their best.

    I’ll end with a tip to kiruv workers: use this info to encourage Jews to join a Jewish community of some kind. Sell them on the deep psychological benefits of joining a well-established (three thousand plus year old) community that’s sitting there – just waiting for them. Only hitch is they marry Jewish! Now that’s providing real incentive!


  7. Like it or not, we live in an age where you can read about Siddur , Chumash and haschalasd Gemara Parties, Bar Mitzvas, Bas Mitzvas, LChaims and Chasunas in the media that serve the Torah observant communities that all go a long way towards creating a Bayis Neeman BYisrael and secular marriages, intermarriages and same gender ceremonies in the secular media. The fact of lifen in the US is that the average Torah observant elementary school student knows far more about the elements of Echad Mi Yodea than a secular or heterodox Jewish adult, whose sole comprehension of anything related to Judaism is the details of the Shoah.

    FWIW, I would be remiss in not adding that the Clinton’s “mchutan” is a founder of J-Street, a group whose foundersn and members are so in favor of a Palestinian state that they would sacrifice the very existence of the State of Israel.

  8. Judy – thanks for not getting offended at my personal comment – I was a little concerned, but I thought it would be OK since you write so much about your family. Let me ask you, is a baal tshuva or ger who comes from a secular humanist home rebelling against his or her parents’ standards, or making a rational decision about what he or she believes is the best way to live?

  9. Why feel sorry for me? I have seven fantastic children, six wonderful children-in-law, and so far, Blee Ayin Harah, thirteen adorable healthy grandchildren, the oldest of whom will with Gd’s help become a Bar Mitzvah on Lag B’Omer!

    Nothing to feel sorry about!

    I would prefer that my Modern Orthodox daughter keep Hilchos Tzenius because I feel it’s especially relevant in the 21st century for a woman to be proud of choosing tasteful yet modest clothing. It’s a statement that today’s Jewish woman makes every day.

    When that daughter chooses not to keep Hilchos Tzenius she is in some way rebelling against the standards she was taught at home and at the Bais Yaakov High School where she studied. I perceive IMHO her need to rebel against home and school to be a tragedy, but Thank Gd she has rejected only one part of being an observant Bas Yisroel, and not the foundations of our faith.

    Everything is dependent on what that particular person can accomplish. For many people, it is a sublime victory when they choose to build a Jewish home with a Jewish partner. For others, more is expected than simply the basics.

    One woman may consider it a tremendous achievement to be able to read Hebrew well enough to daven everyday out of a siddur. Another woman with more advanced limudei kodesh background might do text learning of Mikraot Gedolot or the Mishnah with mforshim in Rashi script.

    One man might struggle over the Hebrew letters in the Chumash, while another goes regularly to Daf Yomi with an Art Scroll Schottenstein Gemara tucked under his arm.

    If someone is capable of doing very much, we expect more of that person, and any less than the full use of someone’s talent, brains and potential is really a tragedy.

  10. Judy – I recall a comment in which you referred to one of your offspring’s Modern Orthodoxy as a “tragedy”. You lose credibility when you refer to such a thing as a tragedy, when now you are saying that all that is important is to marry Jewish. If your daughter is married Jewish (and keeps Shabbos, kashrus, and Taharas hamishpacha to boot!), and you still consider it a tragedy that she wears pants, I feel sorry for you (and for her).

  11. Okay, so we have another 229 years until the year 6000. So much could happen in that time period. The United States of America, for instance, is only 235 years old.

    Those pious Jews of Warsaw and Vilna saying the Birkas HaChammah in 1925 could hardly have imagined that by the next Birkas HaChammah of 1953, virtually the entire Jewish population of Poland and Lithuania would be dead.

    Nor could the pious Jews of the Ukraine saying their Birkas haChammah of 1953 in secret, hiding their religious observance from the NKVD, have ever imagined that by 2009 Communism would be gone, the Soviet Union would be dismantled, Ukraine would be an independent democratic nation, Jews would be travelling openly without visas betweem Kiev and Tel Aviv, and the largest Jewish community center in the world would be built right in their own country.

    Rashi and Rambam could never have imagined Yeshivot in places like Australia or North America, just as we are unable to fathom that the ruins of Sura and Pumbedisa were once the two greatest Yeshivot in the world.

    The Twin Towers here in New York City took more than ten years to build but fell in less than two hours.

    Don’t be a black hat if that isn’t your style. Wear a kipa sruga, or a kova tembel, or a baseball cap. Wear a “Na Nach Nachma Nachman” white wool keppel. Wear a beanie with a propeller on top. Wear a crocheted yarmulke with your name in a fancy design. Whatever floats your boats, as my son-in-law likes to say.

    Understand the importance of marrying Jewish. Your hat can be any style, even no hat if you prefer. Kippa, beanie, cap, homburg, shtreimel, Borsalino, yarmulke, earmuffs. But your true zivug, your soulmate, has to be a Bas Yisroel, by birth or choice.

  12. There are many ways to answer these ideas about Jewish continuity.

    Among secular Jews, I know many Jews who have married out. I know some who have married Jewish too.

    Interesting: almost all of them chose to give their kids exposure to Judaism (if they choose religious education at all). Probably does not hurt that they mainly live in NYC.

    For the others: wish them well. This isn’t a race.

    Many, most Americans believe in G-d. I believe at their core, even secular Jews believe something about a higher power.

    These same people, spiritual at their core, will never cotton to Orthodox strictures, stringencies, ideas, or practices.

    My cousin serves on a Beit Din in Milwaukee. He says they convert entire gentile families (I’m not sure how often, but it happens again and again.)

    I find Judaism very interesting, but I am not able to imagine a black hat life. We should all expect that Orthodoxy will always attract some and not others.

    I once heard Orthodox Judaism likened to the Marine Corps: the few, the proud, the Orthodox. I admire the Marine Corps. But I could never buy what they are selling. I am glad for and proud of others who do. And I understand that some will join, others will want out, and many will admire them from a distance but say “not for me.”

    Finally, by my count, we are closing in on the coming of Moshiach. Jews will be around for another 225 years or so I imagine!


  13. Tuvia, sorry to say, but IMHO marrying a Jewish spouse has to be a non-negotiable for both Jewish men and Jewish women.

    Look up what destroyed the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China. It wasn’t Hitler and it wasn’t Mao Zedong.

    Yes, a non-Jewish spouse could convert. But conversion works both ways, and children could wind up more attracted to the other religion, or being sent to religious school in the other religion.

    Look at Edwin Schlossberg, the husband of Caroline Kennedy. He was the son of Holocaust survivors, yet all three of his children were baptized and raised as Catholics. I believe that he now goes to church with his wife and children.

    Lew Lehrman of the Rite-Aid fortune, who was once a candidate for governor, married a non-Jew and later converted from Judaism.

    A commitment to Judaism means a commitment to a Jewish future, which means a commitment to Jewish marriage and Jewish children, raised to be Jewish (and raised to enjoy and appreciate and be happy about being Jewish).

  14. Intermarriage may be different than other sins. I guess that could be true. I still would say murder is a bigger deal.
    A wife or husband may convert. The idea of discouraging conversion probably could use rethinking – the ideas about conversion have morphed a few times in our history; perhaps a morph is in order today.
    Noone has to sit back and smile at intermarriage. I am surprised still at the din seen here. I just don’t see that kind of din reserved for most any other aspect of Jewish life.
    Jewish women come in all flavors, as do Jewish men. I always tell guys I know who seek Jewish spouses but are not meshing with American Jewish women that Israel will present them with different cultural archetypes – all 100% Jewish. I say the same thing to American Jewish women. There are Jews for all Jews I’m sure – but feel free to get out and date in Israel to maybe find a match.
    I am not concerned at all about intermarriage – I am not married and don’t know if it is a non-negotiable for me to marry Jewish. I completely respect the personal feelings of my black hat cousins, and my black hat friends. I also respect my Jewish friends who have married non-Jews.
    Jewish life will rise or fall on its attractiveness to Jews, and to non-Jews too. We certainly should never fear for Jewish life. I don’t think Hashem wants us in a state of fear over whether Judaism will survive: it clearly is thriving among a group of people in this world.
    Just a side note: my friends who became black hat and dated using the shidduch system had higher divorce rates (way higher) than my many friends who did not. Often small children were involved. But this is really a different topic altogether..!
    One more sidenote: I had an orthodox rabbi who dated almost three hundred women over about seven years in his search for a good match. His only request: no Israeli haredim. Finally, he went on a shidduch with an Israeli frum woman. That was the end of the search!

  15. Intermarriage is quite different from other sins, in that it is literally walking away from having Jewish children and a Jewish home. It’s not just somebody scarfing down a Big Mac or driving on Shabbos.

    Chazal have told us that only three people never sinned in their lifetimes: Yishai father of David, Kilav son of David, and Iyov. Look at all of the righteous people who don’t make it onto that list: the three Avos, Kings David and Shlomo, Moshe and Aharon, Mordechai ha Tzaddik, Shimon ha Tzaddik, Shmuel haNavi, Eliyahu haNavi,all twelve shvatim….and the billions of the rest of us.

    Just because we’re all sinners doesn’t mean we have to sit back and smile at intermarriage. It is a particular insult to Jewish women, as most often men justify marrying out by claiming that Jewish women are all kinds of negative stereotypes: spoiled princesses or neurotic harpies.

    There is teshuvah for sins. There is no teshuvah for not performing mitzvos. Someone who intermarries is actively helping to make the Jewish people disappear. Whole Jewish communities vanished due to intermarriage.

    Crying out about an intermarriage isn’t being judgmental or hypocritical. It hurts to see Jews marrying out.

    Tuvia, isn’t that sort of a Xtian idea, along the lines of “he who is without sin cast the first stone?” Judaism doesn’t require a person to be perfect before giving tochachah to others; you just have to give the right rebuke in the right manner. Not everyone can criticize correctly, but it’s not necessary to be “without sin” to gently try to set others on the proper path. Where would we BTs be without those who brought us to Jewish observance?

  16. I think Torah observant Jews often commit sins — it is an easy thing to do. A false word is loshon hora, a glance at a woman not your wife is coveting some times.

    I imagine Hashem may have a stern talk with Mr. Mevitsky in the after-life.

    I am not sure where it comes down that any individual Jew should show so much judgement as they do in these comments.

    Your own sons may be committing sins regarding Onanism now and again, or even regularly.

    Are you ready to throw your sons out of the house for this? On what authority?

    On what authority to individuals play Hashem, and get all out of joint when another Jew commits a sin?

    Have you NEVER committed a sin? Let’s discuss a ban on you too I guess.


  17. Just for the sake af accuracy-the woman’s name was Yitta Schwartz who was incarcerated in Bergen Belsen-not Auschwitz. Not that it adds or detracts from the point you are trying to bring out. Well said…

  18. > “I imagine that this is either not your real name or that you are not a Kohen, despite your family name…”

    >> Very discerning of you. My grandfather’s name was actually Kirzheisen, but like thousands of others, he was given the name “Cohen” by an (Irish?) immigration officer on Ellis Island. The issue became a critical one for my wife and I and involved the halachic guidance of Rav Dovid Cohen shlit”a (who is also not a Kohen) and Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.

    It was determined that there was insufficient evidence for my status as a Kohen (Reb Dovid informed me that the vast majority of “Cohens” in the U.S. are NOT in fact Kohanim, having similarly received their names on Ellis Island) and I was advised to spell my last name in Hebrew: kuf-alef-hei-nun (and not kaf-hei-nun).

  19. Shua Cohen-I imagine that this is either not your real name or that you are not a Kohen, despite your family name….

  20. Shua #49: No, sorry, my maiden name is Kluger and I grew up in Brooklyn. I only came out to Far Rockaway in Feb. 1987.

    Len #48: Unfortunately, being nice about an intermarriage is sometimes taken as tacit approval. As I said in my earlier comment #44, it is very difficult to strike the right balance in condemning this act as wrong without alienating liberal Jews. The guidance of our Gedolim (leading rabbis) is definitely needed here.

  21. Bob:

    Thank you ever so much to the Mishpacha Magazine editorial link…it is a VERY powerful piece. I only hope that it hasn’t come so late into this discussion that people who chastised Anxious Ima (whose essay initiated this thread) will not have the opportunity to read it.

    To those who have scrolled down to Bobs link… please do yourselves a favor and click on it, to access a “must read” on the issue of intermarriage.

  22. Sorry to those to whom this post hurts their sensitivities.

    It is hard to be politically correct when observing the spiritual destruction of our people.

    That does not mean we should ostracise those who marry out, but there is a correctness in doing the opposite of celebrating these tragic events.

  23. Here is a comment by Rabbi Gil Student from yesterday’s Hirhurim blog, re the Clinton/Mezvinsky intermarriage, which some might find interesting:

    Intermarriage Isn’t Good

    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who look for the good in everything and those who see the bad in everything. Let’s face it, nothing is perfect. Even the finest food or the most eloquent essay can be found, by someone sufficiently motivated, to be lacking something. And nothing is free from some redeeming value. Even Stalin must have shown respect for his parents at some point in his life. Rav Kook was someone who strove to find positive aspects to everything. He even famously found some redeeming value to atheism. That doesn’t mean he approved of it or was happy that it exists. He was just trying to find the good in an otherwise a very bad phenomenon.

    R. Asher Lopatin has been raked over the coals for his recent suggestion that we try to find something, anything, good about the Clinton-Mezvinsky intermarriage. I think people are being too harsh on him and need to see his essay in light of the above. He was just trying to find some positive in a sinful event.

  24. Judy Resnick:

    The next time I speak with my son in Israel, I will try to remember…b’li neder…to mention Yosef Chaim to him.

    I knew a Judy Cohn (she lived on Hurley Court in Far Rockaway) when I attended Queens College some 40 years ago. Any chance that that’s you?

  25. Bob, I feel sad and unhappy but I also try (though I don’t always succeed) to remember that things are never as black and white as they seem and try to be humble when I pass judgement in my mind. More than anything I hope that despite how the situation seems it works out for the best even if I don’t see how it can.

    If the post had talked about how much harder it will be for Marc to sustain his Jewishness (which is true) and the diffuculty that is facing their children, both in terms of being brought up in two different cultures and being considered not Jewish by Orthodox Jews I would understand. If the post pointed out what is potentially being lost to the family in spiritual terms and used it as an example of why we should teach our children the flaws of intermarraige that woudl be fine too.

    Instead what the post did was used inflammatory language (“The ludicrous farce of the Clinton-Mesvinsky wedding “), hoped that horrible things would happen to a newly wed couple (e.g. divorce) and said that its people like Marc who cause antisemitism.

  26. Len:

    I don’t think that you’ve read through (m)any of the posts on this thread. Grace (@ no. 30) and Olivia (@ no. 36) raised the same issue as you. Please read some of the responses to their comments (at least form no. 30…on).

    Unfortunately, those of us who proffered answers to your question — “is being spiteful and hateful really being a light unto the nations?” — cannot start in all over again and repeat those responses. Hopefully, you can find the time to read what has been already written in the thread above, and be open to the alternative viewpoints presented.

  27. Len, when you see a relative entering into an arrangement or contract that will be bad for him, what do you feel?

  28. This post really bothered me. I understand the disapproval of intermarraige and being an Orthodox Jew I strongly hope my children marry into nice Jewish families but I can’t believe how insular we have become. Two people get married and our reaction is (direct quote):

    One can take some consolation in the fact that many intermarriages fail..The odds of Chelsea and Marc ending up at opposite ends of a courtroom are quite high.

    Are we really so spiteful that we see two people getting married and our thought is “well at least maybe they’ll get divorced”.

    Is being spiteful and hateful really being a light onto the nations?

  29. To Shua Cohen #43: If your youngest son is heading back to the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim for the Elul zman, tell him to send regards to my son Yosef Chaim Resnick, a married “yungerman” learning there. Yes, I know there are five thousand bochurim and yungeleit in the Mir. But “everybody” knows Yosef Chaim Resnick. I also wanted to state that I am amazed that “This Is My G-d” played a role in your frumkeit education…it did that for me too about 35 years ago. Lastly, it is vastly amusing in a good way to know that the famous joke is really true: assimilated Jew marries non-Jewish woman to get as far away from Yiddishkeit as possible, only to find out that his non-Jewish wife wants to become an Orthodox Jew, and wants him to become one too. Yasher koach to you and to your entire wonderful family.

    To Olivia #41: You’re right, we can’t have it both ways. If Orthodox Jews speak out against intermarriage and homosexuality, we are going to alienate plenty of liberal Jews and lose any chance of welcoming them back to a Torah lifestyle. But what’s the alternative? Do we condone behavior that leads directly to the end of the Jewish people? What happened to the thousands of Jews who were here in the United States before the great waves of Jewish migration from Eastern Europe starting in 1880? Do we Orthodox Jews refrain from saying anything to anybody for fear of alienating someone with our outspoken blunt views? When should we speak out and when should we remain silent? This is probably a question for Daas Torah, and for the understanding, wisdom and guidance of an Orthodox Jewish rav and posaik.

  30. > “But you also fail to understand the repercussions of your words.” (Olivia)

    >> Olivia: Au contraire. I fully understand the repercussions of my words. Guess what? We’re grown ups…not children. We should all accept by now a certain number of givens in our lives, among them: we are responsible for our decisions; we don’t know everything there is to know in this world, and therefore we sometimes make mistakes due to rank ignorance; we need to be humble enough to admit our ignorance and overcome it by expanding our learning and knowledge; we need to accept our mistakes and try to rectify them when we can. (I could, of course, go on and on…but this is enough for now).

    > “My husband would be offended to learn that you found our marriage to be an affront.”

    >> That “I” find your marriage an affront is only a secondary issue. Your husband has to admit the POSSIBILITY (you see, I don’t expect at this point, absolute belief) that G-d finds your intermarriage an affront. If he would be open to expanding his knowledge (from admitted ignorance, i.e. “he knows nothing about the prohibition against intermarriage”) would he not be willing to find out why this MAY be so?

    Finally Olivia, I will reveal to you a bit of my personal history. I was a totally assimilated Jew for whom Judaism not only meant nothing, but to whom all religious people were somewhat suspect in my eyes as intellectually deficient. So, some 35 years ago I intermarried.

    My wife, being inquisitive enough to want to learn something of my background, began to read about Judaism. Well, the short version: she eventually came to believe that somewhere in her ancestry was a Jewish matriarch (therby making her a long-lost Jew), and so decided that there was no alternative but to have an Orthodox conversion. I was, to put it mildly, aghast… wanting nothing to do with it. But she made me realize that if I loved her, I would find a way to accommodate her desire. Well, I loved her… case closed, protests negated.

    The Orthodox Rabbi to whom we went played it very well, even though many things that he told me I found highly “offensive!” Guess what? I dealt with it! He suggested that I was, perhaps, offended because I too, admitted knowing NOTHING! Maybe I wouldn’t be so offended with a little knowledge…if not for me, then for my wife’s sake. And so, he insisted that he would not begin learning with my wife unless I, too, came to their study sessions and read all the material that he assigned to her. I did it…as I said, for my wife’s sake. This is the brilliance of G-d’s plans: He put me in a situation where my feelings for my wife were used as leverage, to get me to break free of the shackles of ignorance and expand my knowledge of my Jewish birthright. “This is My G-d,” and “Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism” were the beginnings of my education. Through my gentile-born wife, I was on the road to return. [Paradox: she would be horrified if any of her sons did what her husband had done…marry a woman like her ;-)]

    Short version again: All six of my children were born Jewish (i.e. after the conversion…whew!!), are Bais Yaakov and Yeshiva educated (my youngest son is returning tomorrow to Eretz Israel for his 3rd year, to learn in the Mirrer Yeshiva), and I have (so far) four grandchildren who, G-d willing, will carry on our tradition into the days of the final geula/redemption.

    I would urge you Olivia, to take encouragement from my wife’s and my story. May Hashem bless you with success in your effort to bring tikun to your family and to the world.

  31. There is a book that has been on the NY Times best seller list for a few years and a soon to be released movie with the title “Eat,Pray and Love.” It struck me that the Torah community needs to work a lot harder on emphasizing that a committment to Torah and Mitzvos is in large part rooted in how one eats, prays and loves and that one need not travel to exotic locations to realize and understand this fact.

  32. Shua Cohen,

    In some ways, your words are music to my ears. I would love to be a part of tikun and bring my husband back to traditional Judaism. But you also fail to understand the repercussions of your words. My husband would be offended to learn that you found our marriage to be an affront. Despite being a Reform bar mitzvah, he knows nothing about the prohibition against intermarriage. Your view may be well based in Torah but if you express it negatively, you will only alienate the lost souls you seek to entice. What’s more important–speaking out strongly against intermarriage or welcoming liberal Jews back to Torah Judaism? I don’t know that you can have it both ways.

  33. People and nations are assigned a hierarchy of roles in one common cause. HaShem’s assigning someone a “lower” role (such as plumber or merchant or physician, and not High Priest) needed to fill out the big picture is not hatred.

    Whatever fold Chelsea is joining isn’t the genuine Jewish one.

  34. To Grace and Olivia: Once a person begins to accept the notion that the Torah was given by G-d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, and that the Torah represents G-d’s inviolate EMES/TRUTH, then you must deal with the following:

    G-d instructs the Jews to not intermarry with the people of other cultures and religions. To do so is a major transgression. If G-d Himself does not wish intermarriages between Jews and Gentiles, how is it that we are supposed to be tolerant of them?

    Grace, does this instruction therefore demonstrate G-d’s “flourishing hatred” (your words) for non-Jews? The notion is, of course, absurd. All people are created in His image and are beloved by G-d. That He gives specific instructions to the Jewish people that are unique to them is G-d’s own will. We do not question it.

    Olivia, please allow me to be frank. Given the above, how can you be “genuinely hurt” if you know that G-d Himself instructed your husband not to marry you? Do you really thank that G-d intended to hurt you? (I pray not). But, if you have come to accept the Torah as G-d’s truth, then it is in your power to rectify your husband’s error by becoming Jewish yourself. In this way, you have the opportunity to do an incredible mitzvah…the mitzvah of “tikun”… repairing a tear in the fabric of creation that your intermarriage created. Therefore, I pray that you more than “consider” an Orthodox conversion, and pursue it with a loving desire to re-unite your family with the Jewish people who declare: “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One!”

    And finally, Anxious Ima: Stop apologizing so much. Your essay was timely and very well written. In this case, explanations leading to greater understanding on the part of your readers is far more appropriate than apologetics.

  35. Anxious Ima apologizes to Olivia. She would be more than thrilled to see Chelsea who despite Mom and Dad seems a fine young woman joining the fold. good luck Olivia

  36. Some of the comments here show us a new challenge:

    How do we avoid rewarding the blatantly unconcerned Jew who “marries out” without alienating the potential sincere convert and the potential sincere ba’al teshuvah to whom he or or she is engaged or married.

  37. As an intermarried non-Jew considering Orthodox conversion, I’m genuinely hurt to read this on Beyond BT, a site that has taught me so much. Rather than praying that these marriages fail, maybe you should consider reaching out to intermarried couples instead. You’ll find that not all of us are an intrinsic threat to traditional judism.

  38. > “We need to push the idea among assimilated Jews of the importance of marrying Jews (of the opposite gender) and bearing and raising committed Jewish children.”

    >> Judy: The problem is that the vast majority of assimilated Jews simply don’t care. How can “committed Jewish children” come from people for whom the very concept of “Jewishness” has zero value. Ergo, to stress its “importance” is meaningless.

    While kiruv efforts may seem impressive, the number of successes are infinitesimally small relative to the non-observant Jewish population. And nowadays, we know that with the high intermarriage rate and the distortion of patrilineal descent, many people who self-identify as Jews in population surveys are not Jewish at all.

    As I’ve stressed before, I personally believe that we are approaching the final phase of the geula, and that the process of determining who will be included in the geula (as kosher members of Klal Yisrael) and who will be left out is coming to an end.

  39. One noted rav (sorry, I don’t remember which one, I duly apologize) stated that the three cardinal sins of bloodshed, idolatry and forbidden relations correspond to the three great destructions of Jews of our time: bloodshed to the Hitler holocaust; idolatry to Russian Communism; and forbidden relations to intermarriage.

    Intermarriage is only one part of the bigger tragedy of Jewish demographics. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, all the other assimilated Jewish kids that I knew were from families with 2 children. Everyone believed that a family of 2 children will eventually have 4 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, 16 great-great-grandchildren, etc. This would be at least replacement level. However, forty years later, it’s apparent that it didn’t work out that way. None of these assimilated Jewish families with two children have four grandchildren.

    For example:

    The B family had a girl and a boy. The girl married a Jewish man and had one child. The boy never married and never had any children. So the B family had 1 Jewish grandchild. Deficit 3 (4 Jewish grandchildren needed for replacement level; they had only 1).

    The T family had a boy and a girl. The boy married a non-Jew and had two non-Jewish children. The girl never married. So the T family had zero Jewish grandchildren. Deficit 4 (4 Jewish grandchildren needed for replacement level; they had zero).

    The M family had two girls. Both girls married Jewish men and had children. The older girl had one child. The younger girl had two children. Total of 3 Jewish grandchildren. Deficit 1 from replacement level.

    The S family had two girls. The older girl married a Jew, divorced him five years later with no children, did not marry again. The younger girl never married and never had any children. Deficit 4.

    The K family had one boy. The boy married a Jewish girl. They decided not to have any children. Deficit 4.

    The A family had two boys. The older boy followed a gay lifestyle, never married and had no children before he died of AIDS. The younger boy married a non-Jewish woman and had two non-Jewish children. Deficit 4.

    I could go on and on like this, but you get the point. Assimilated Jews are vanishing, not only through intermarriage, but through not having more than one child, not having any children, not getting married, etc.

    There needs to be some kind of message campaign out there. Think of how l’havdil gays and lesbians were successful in fifty years in changing the public perception of their sexual orientation from being viewed as a disgusting perversion to being regarded as an alternative lifestyle choice. We need to push the idea among assimilated Jews of the importance of marrying Jews (of the opposite gender) and bearing and raising committed Jewish children. Look at the example I’ve cited of how homosexuals lehavdil got their message across. It can be done if the federations and Jewish organizations make it a priority.

  40. People have free will to do dumb things. We have free will to disapprove as needed.

    Chelsea’s husband has taken on a monumental mother-in-law problem, which may be punishment enough.

  41. > “People take holy vows of commitment at Jewish weddings right?” (comment by Grace)

    >> Grace, the emphasis is on “Jewish” weddings, which this decidedly was NOT!

    A Jewish wedding by definition is “Kiddushin” (Holiness), but it can only be defined as such when the marriage is in accordance with the dictates of the Torah. NO Jew who marries contrary to the will of Hashem can possibly have his/her act defined as Kadosh/Holy.

    > “You may not understand G-d’s purpose in bringing these two together, but shame on you for allowing such hate to flourish in your heart.”

    >> The proposition that G-d brought these two people together can only be sustained if, in fact, Mr. Mesvinsky is not truly Jewish, or if Ms. Clinton has genuine Jewish roots. Otherwise, to propose that G-d “brought” a young Jewish man to violate His own Torah is illogical at best.

    If Mr. Mesvinsky is halachically Jewish and has merit enough (either on his own or by the merit of a righteous ancestor), it may be that G-d will save the day by instilling in Ms. Clinton the desire to become a sincere convert. I know of what I speak. Some 35 years ago I did as Mr. Mesvinsky did…yet today, all of my children are yeshiva educated and bnei Torah.

    Also, I perceive no hint of “hate” in the above article…only a recognition of the tragedy that intermarriage represents to the survival and perpetuation of individual Jewish families and the Jewish people as a whole. Indeed, if Chelsea is never moved to become Jewish, then the children of this union will be gentiles, and Mr. Mesvinsky will be the last Jew through his line of descent (Rachmana Litzlan). Yes indeed, better that this marriage come to an end than that such a tragic outcome occurs.

  42. Grace,I spoke it over with the author and she agrees that you are correct. Point well taken. Strike that. If she could, she’d amend the piece to wish instead that Chelsea become a latter day Ruth and convert.

    PS. Anxious Ima has no problem with Chelsea. In fact, she married up, a Jewish man, hopefully a vast improvement over her no good SOB of a dad.

  43. “One can take some consolation in the fact that many intermarriages fail..The odds of Chelsea and Marc ending up at opposite ends of a courtroom are quite high.”

    People take holy vows of commitment at Jewish weddings right? So on what planet is it okay to root for their weddings to fail? You may not understand g-d’s purpose in bringing these two together, but shame on you for allowing such hate to flourish in your heart.

  44. I double checked my Hebrew dictionary and to my surprise it has eirev/eiruv spelled two ways: one with a segol under the reish, and one with a shuruk after the reish. But you’re right; the Chumash (in Shemos 12:38) uses the former spelling and not the latter. But, since there’s a tseiré under the ayin, I guess I’ll transliterate it as “eirev rav” in the future, so as to distinguish it from “erev”/evening, which has a segol (and not a tseiré) under its ayin.

    Kol HaKavod to you.

  45. You have to understand that Jewish parents who were simply not in love end up producing intermarriage at a far greater rate than pretty much any other cause. Even if they were not truly in love, very often their bitterness drives their children to value the ideal of marrying for love.

    The problem with immediately hating, too, is that sometimes – not necessarily often – us Jews truly love someone who is not (currently?) Jewish. Yes, that does not make it right to marry them but it does make the hate of an oversimplified situation off the mark.

  46. Look at it this way. From a purely Halachic POV, any and all intermarriages are a tragedy.

    R Shach ZTL used to say that Chillul Shabbos occured in Tel Aviv because of a lack of care about Shmiras Shabbos in Bnei Brak. Yet, we live in a world where one can read about chasunahs on this blog and in the local frum media and intermarriages in the NY Times style pages and remember that anyone who thinks that Orthodoxy, whether MO or Charedi, is winning the battle against assimilation, is simply IMO engaging in a self-righteous and triumphalistic thought process.

  47. I still think that a good part of the intermarriage problem is caused by the negative stereotypes of Jewish women that are perpetuated by Jewish men who want to justify “marrying out.”

    There was a very interesting article in the New York Times magazine years ago about the predicament of Black women when Black men choose to marry white women. One commenter in that article compared it to the problem of Jewish women seeing Jewish men choose non-Jewish women to marry. In both cases the men are being raised to consider the highest ideal of beauty to be a slim Aryan blonde. This ideal leaves out some very gorgeous and accomplished Black women and Jewish women.

    Anger and rejection will only lead to more anger and rejection. Young Jewish men have to be raised to understand the importance of someday building a Jewish home with a Jewish woman. They are already raised to value academic achievement and working hard to make money. If we can urge young Jewish men to aim for medical school we can also urge them to consider their dating choices.

  48. Found on line:

    from Shemos (Exodus) Chapter 12:
    38 Vegam-erev rav alah itam vetson uvakar mikneh kaved me’od.
    A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds–a great deal of livestock.

    לח וְגַם־עֵ֥רֶב רַ֖ב עָלָ֣ה אִתָּ֑ם וְצֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר מִקְנֶ֖ה כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃

  49. > I’m reporting that in the Hebrew in the Chumash it’s “erev rav”, or, if you wish, “eirev rav”

    >> I don’t understand, Bob. You have a Chumash with the Hebrew transliterated in such a way?

    In the Hebrew word “erev” (evening) there is a segol after the reish, pronounced as the English letter “e” as in “get.”

    In the Hebrew “eruv” (mixture) there is a shuruk after the reish, pronounced as the English letter “u” as in “rule.”

    Ergo, I don’t see how either “erEv” or “eirEv” is correct. The shuruk requires the English letter “u” (erUv) in transliteration.

  50. Regarding the comment by Shua Cohen
    August 3rd, 2010 19:38

    I’m not deducing or generalizing; I’m reporting that in the Hebrew in the Chumash it’s “erev rav”, or, if you wish, “eirev rav”.

  51. It’s frustrating that the reaction to the wedding is something like, “The best we can hope for is that they break up”.

    My Jewish father married my non-Jewish mother 40+ years ago. Thankfully, after having had several Reform and Conservative congregations refuse them, sometimes downright rudely, they found a warm and welcoming place to daven.

    My father grew closer to his religion. I grew even closer, and converted Orthodox and live a frum lifestyle.

    Don’t get me wrong — it makes me so very sad to see halachic Jews marrying non-Jews. Very sad. And it about drives me insane to see parents raising their children as if they’re Jewish, when, in fact, they are not. But if we “help” the situation by pushing the Jews even further away, instead of showing them how loving and amazing a Jewish life can be, I wonder if we’re helping or hurting.

  52. Dear Elaine
    I’m sorry that my piece has put you off. I have nothing personal against Mr.Mesvinksy. From where he was coming from he was attempting to display Jewish pride, but in the bigger context he was way off base. As to his wife, she’s actually striving for something better-a Jewish man. Perhaps some day she’ll chose to convert and that will solve everything. I hope I haven’t put you off this site. Most of the other posts are far more gentle than mine was and I hope you continue to visit. Best

  53. There are rabbis who openly advertise that they perform interfaith weddings. They make a good business out of it, incidentally charging about three times as much (or more) for an interfaith wedding as for an all-Jewish wedding. One way to stop this practice might be to push for a statewide law making it illegal for an officiating clergyman to charge different prices to different couples.

    I find it even worse when Jewish symbols are displayed at gay weddings. Same-sex marriages involving at least one Jewish partner seem to make a big deal out of having a Chupah, a tallit, kippot, even benchers. In some cases, this is done deliberately to gain legal recognition of the marriage as some kind of L’havdil Jewish religious ceremony in states where gay marriage is not allowed.

    Marc Mezvinsky was raised in an assimilated home. It’s more troubling when Jewish men brought up Orthodox choose to marry non-Jewish women who have not converted al pi halachah. I’m thinking of a particular professor at Harvard Law School who is married to another professor.

  54. Wow, as a somewhat-observant Jew who has been reading this site as a way to be more connected with Judaism, this post is more or less the epitome why I’m unlikely to become a BT. It seems that the impulse here is to push away and shame, rather than welcome and educate. Calling the ceremony a disgrace is just one example. When this is the reaction, how do you expect a questioning Jew to feel like the possibility of acceptance is there? I can honestly say that I’m not going to be reading this site much more.

  55. > Shua, s/b :erev rav”

    >> Sorry, Bob…I don’t agree. In the most common transliterations erev = evening; eruv = mixture.

  56. I have much less of a problem with the groom feebly pursuing strands of Judaism in his nuptials than I do with the sellout “rabbi” who gave his approval ON SHABBOS to this whole event.

  57. I am not overly dismayed by the intermarriage phenomenon represented by the Mesvinsky-Clinton nupitals. I can only sigh: “Well, there goes another one.” But the hard question is, are we really losing all that much? Allow me to refer to an incisive quote from Reb Simcha Wasserman zt”l (“Reb Simcha Speaks” pp. 33-34) that I had previously posted on Beyond BT in another context:

    “There is a selection going on now. Some people are being brought back, and some people, due to the high intermarriage and assimilation rate, are being thrown out. There are prophecies concerning this unfortunate fact. Those prophecies state that there will be members of the Jewish body who will be removed from it.”

    This “selection” process is a critical element of the final stages of the geula. The Divrei Chaim zt”l wrote: “Before the coming of Mashiach, many of the Jews of the generation, due to our many sins, will be from the eruv rav” and will need to be removed from the body of Klal Yisrael. The Vilna Gaon wrote specifically about this eventuality (in “Even Shlomo”): “the selection and purification of Israel will not be complete until the eruv rav separates from Israel completely, because they are very attached to the Jews and the Jews learn from their actions.”

    So we see that many of the “Jews” being “thrown out” are descendants of the eruv rav whose loss through intermarriage and assimilation is an absolute necessity, in order to purify Klal Yisrael in preparation for the final geula. As harsh as it may seem to say, the reality is that no tears need be shed under these circumstances.

  58. I think this greatly illustrates the divide between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

    In most of the Reform and even Conservative (which on paper opposses intermarriage) world it is seen as wonderful statement that the groom wore a kippah and tallit and had chupah. To them it is showing pride in his Jewish background that he wanted to incorporate traditional Jewish elements into his forbidden wedding on Shabbos that had treif food.

    To me, the fact that he tried to wrap his transgressions in a Jewish decoration somehow made it much worse. I think I would have been much less offended if he had just simply intermarried, but seeing him intermarry while putting on this show of wearing a tallit really drove home the awfulness of it.

    Perhaps that was a good thing; maybe even we have become to blase about intermarriage. Seeing this disgusting sham display really drove home the extremity of it.

  59. So, the money is more important than the principle then?

    Because otherwise, it’d be happening now.

  60. Dave,

    Assuming we could find the necessary bucks from kosher sources, your idea is sensible, an updated form of “Austritt”.

    Federation funds also come with objectionable strings attached, stated or implied. For example, if they fund a mikveh or its renovation, it has to be usable for bogus Reform and Conservative conversions. If they fund a day school, it has to treat Reform and Conservative rabbis as if they were rabbis.

  61. Given that local Jewish Federations take donations from intermarried Jews, why aren’t Orthodox groups declining Federation funds?

  62. It’s only a matter of time until Mr. Mesvinsky writes a mega-check to some Jewish organization.

    Declination of his money, or that of other Jewish celebrities who “married out” would send a message to others.

    Assuredly, their money will still be accepted, and they will be honored by Jewish organizations, and surrounded by adoring throngs at the Salute to Israel Parade.

  63. Pushing children away from intermarriage (through begging, threats, sitting shiva, etc) doesn’t work and never did.

    What works is pulling them toward Judaism. They have to WANT to live a Jewish life, based on loving the Judaism they grow up seeing.

  64. We should put up posters in Hebrew schools and synagogues that show really ugly non-Jewish women with the caption, “Non-Jewish women are really glamorous.”

    The spectrum of glamour is the same across religions. Kids know when they’re being lied to. There are so many better approaches than lying.

  65. We also have to pray that such intermarriages result in only sons.

    I personally know of two such intermarriages where the non-Jewish wife thought herself Jewish through some kind of conversion, and both of the couples had two sons. Of course all four boys had Bar-Mitzvahs.

    If these young men who believe themselves to be Jewish marry Jewish women, their children will be completely halachically Jewish. If these young men who believe themselves to be Jewish marry non-Jewish women, their children will be completely halachically non-Jewish. So the confusion will stop in the next generation, as it will all depend on the religion of the wives these boys take. This is far better than daughters of an intermarriage who think they are Jewish and then marry Jewish men.

    The President of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, has been married nearly thirty years to Charles Rosenberg, a professor of the history of science. They have a daughter named Jessica Rosenberg. Now this young woman is not Jewish al pi halacha, but by her name only everyone would think she is Jewish. If she marries a Jewish man, everyone will think it’s perfectly OK. The problem intensifies with every generation. Who will think to go back to the maternal great-great-grandmother to find a non-Jew? Yet upon that female ancestor rests the halachic status of all her descendants.

  66. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis of the Hineni organization has written extensively about intermarriage and has actively been involved in stopping intermarriage.

    In 2010 of the common era, the tactic of screaming and walking out is not going to stop an intermarriage (if it ever did), it only angers the couple and causes them to hate Orthodox Jews and Judaism.

    The first thing to do is to take whatever action possible to end the negative stereotypes of spoiled Jewish princesses and overbearing Jewish mothers, which are often used to justify “marrying out.” The images portrayed by Philip Roth and Woody Allen have seeped into popular culture: the slim blonde non-Jewish supermodel as opposed to the neurotic fat Jewish female graduate student. It’s been Cybill Shepherd versus Bette Midler in the minds of the public, and particularly in the minds of young assimilated Jewish men looking for potential wives.

    This is how Reform Judaism made up its constituency. Assimilated Jewish men made it clear that they wanted religion to stay in the synagogue and to get out of their kitchens and their bedrooms. Kashruth and Taharath Hamishpachah flew out the window and the only place for a Reform Jewish woman to use her Jewish learning became the Rabbanut. So Abe and his wife Mary Kate now drive to their local Reform Temple to hear Rabbi Jennifer Levine talk about Tikkun Olam.

    Start by getting rid of the Bar Mitzvah. Get rid of the expensive catered dinner for 200 and the five piece band and the DJ and the fancy cake and the theme and the breakdancers. Get rid of the bar mitzvah lessons and the scarf tallit and the synagogue ceremony. Tell a Jewish boy when he turns 13 one thing only: he can date only Jewish women. Tell him one day he is required to support the building of a Jewish home with the raising of Jewish children, which cannot be done by a non-Jewish woman.

    Only meaningful Jewish education from a very young age will combat intermarriage, which in itself is not going to happen within assimilated families. Young Jewish men have to care about marrying in, enough to withstand the lures of the outside world and the large numbers of available non-Jewish women.

    Maybe we should run the same kind of ad campaign that was done for teens and smoking. Young people were shown print ads that displayed the photo of a really ugly woman smoking with the caption, “Smoking is very glamorous.” We should put up posters in Hebrew schools and synagogues that show really ugly non-Jewish women with the caption, “Non-Jewish women are really glamorous.” Let young Jewish boys visualize wrinkled old crones and not supermodels when they think about non-Jewish females.

  67. What are we supposed to do when this type of event, replicated often today (maybe with less excess) happens yet again?

    Maybe concentrate on the things we can do and can fix.

  68. Actually, the odds of this marriage failing (the first marriage of two college educated adults marrying after the age of 26) are quite low — about 19%.

    Mind you, I don’t put much stock in the whole “odds of a marriage succeeding/failing” bit, because they are too dependent on the people involved, but if you like the numbers game, there you go.

  69. many non-observant Jews sadly don’t know much about their heritage, and so it’s no big deal when someone marries out. What we Jews need is to learn more about our heritage and the purpose of marriage. In Judaism, marriage more than just about love, it’s also about the Jewish couple building a Torah home and fulfilling the mitzvos together. Both of them need to be Jewish for them to complete the job.
    I pray that he and his family eventually return to Torah

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