August 9, 2010
Op-Ed: An open invitation to Chelsea and Marc
I do not know Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton or any members of their families. But I am puzzled by the vast amounts of digital deliberations in the Jewish blogosphere about their wedding, and the absence of more attention to their ongoing relationship with the Jewish community now that they have married. If I did know them, here is what I would say:
Dear Marc and Chelsea,
Mazel tov! After all of the speculation about your wedding, you are now legally married. How you managed to maintain your privacy and dignity with such public families is remarkable! While some are still obsessing about the details of your wedding, I am much more interested in what the future holds for you as a married couple. A wedding is one of the most significant moments that you will experience, but your love for one another will hopefully last for a lifetime.
Both of you, in a public and proud way, drew upon the symbols of your respective faith traditions. I don’t presume to know what conversations you’ve had or decisions you’ve made about involvement in a religious community. But I hope that you will want to explore participation in some aspect of your local Jewish community and respectfully want to invite you to do so.
You have most likely felt the embrace of the Jewish community on many previous occasions. Now that you have crossed a threshold in your relationship, I want to reaffirm that welcome to you as a married couple. I believe that I am also giving voice to a good number of those who work and volunteer in the Jewish community or support it in other ways.
Whether or not you choose to have children, I hope that you will identify as a Jewish family and participate actively in some part of your local Jewish community. I can’t promise that you will always feel warmly embraced by all segments of the Jewish community, but I trust that you will be by many. Life’s struggles are made more bearable and life’s joys are magnified when they occur within the context of a community. And as you’ve come to appreciate, while Jewish tradition does not have a monopoly on wisdom about what it means to live a fully human life as individuals and as a couple, it does have thousands of years of experience and practice.
Your relationship with the Jewish community won’t be a one-way street. The richness that you derive from it will be replenished by the time and energy that you give to it. I know that people like you, who have high aspirations for our world, help our community increase its collective impact.
I want you to know that I am not writing to you because of your family celebrity. Rather, I’m sending this message because I believe the Jewish community should find ways to support couples who care about the Jewish quotient of their relationship.
Rabbi Hayim Herring
Rabbi Hayim Herring is president and CEO of Herring Consulting Network, a firm that specializes in “preparing today’s leaders for tomorrow’s organizations.”