No Hearty Mazal Tov For Chelsea

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Intermarriage should never be cause for celebration, even if the partner-to-be is Chelsea Clinton. Every intermarriage – at least for a Jewish male – is the end of a line stretching back millennia. It means that a human chain of commitment to act as a vehicle for G-d’s teaching has come to an abrupt end.

Some in the heterodox world encourage and embrace intermarriage. Others don’t approve, but frequently find a silver lining in the dark cloud of a Jewish family that will cease to exist. They understand that intermarriage sometimes leads to sympathy, influence and power through the non-Jewish spouse on behalf of the people with which he or she now identifies.

Thus it is no surprise that the Los Angeles Jewish Journal had this to say about the news that Chelsea will tie the knot with her long time boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky:

No word on whether Clinton will convert before the marriage—or at all—but as political royalty, her close affiliation with Judaism is certain to delight America’s pro-Israel supporters.

The delight is baseless. We can hope that Marc Mezvinsky harbors some positive feelings for the people of his ancestry. Both his and Chelsea’s activities show that they are comfortable around things Jewish. But it is hardly a foregone conclusion any longer that having a Jewish name is an indication of any pro-Jewish or pro-Israel leanings today. (Neither is synagogue attendance on the High Holidays. Noam Chomsky attends a Conservative temple each year; he is still an arch-nemesis of the Jewish State.) Alas, some of Israel’s most treacherous enemies are Jews.

I don’t mean naifs like Richard Goldstone, J Street, and Michael Lerner. However dangerous, they believe that they are contributing to the survival of a Jewish State, not orchestrating its destruction. I mean the men and women who work tirelessly to delegitimize Israel, to heap the scorn and contempt of millions upon her, who eagerly assist those who would abolish her very existence. I mean those who are recognized to be the modern reincarnations of the Johannes Pfefferkorns and Pablo Christianis of earlier years, whose memories will forever be an execration among faithful Jews. I mean people such as Neve Gordon, Anne Baltzer, Jeff Halper, Norman Finkelstein, Adam Shapiro, Ilan Pappe, Phyllis Bennis, and Ahmadinejad’s shtreimel-wearing friends.

The all-time worst may have been the late and unlamented Israel Shahak. Shahak saw Judaism as inherently evil, and pointed to misunderstood and out-of-context passages in the Talmud as the source of all Jewish evil, in the same manner as the prosecutorial disputants in the medieval Church debates and modern anti-Semitic websites. His grasp of Talmud was legendary, as it included even material that no one else had ever seen (e.g. “both before and after a meal, a pious Jew ritually washes his hands….On one of these two occasions he is worshiping God… but on the other he is worshiping Satan…”) To inspire hatred of Jews, Shahak fabricated a non-event, and broadcast it around the world – a religious Jew who refused to save the life of a non-Jew on Shabbos, and an admission to him by an august group of rabbis that this was in fact the law. (There was no such admission, since this is not the law, and the entire episode, he later conceded had not taken place, according to former British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobowitz, who was at the center of the controversy.)

Shahak is missed by no Jews who value their peoplehood or their faith. He was eulogized at the time of his death as “a man of courage and conviction” by a collaborator (double entendre intended) of his in writing one of his toxic works. The book was entitled Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel.

The coauthor of that book, alongside Shahak, was Norton Mezvinsky. He is Mark’s uncle. His kind of Jewish influence we don’t need on Chelsea or her mother.

We hope and pray that Marc will follow a different road.

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19 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the Comment by Ori — December 13, 2009 @ 1:23 am :

    It’s a very heterogeneous group, and I’m clueless as to the numbers. There are probably other categories, too. Some even frequent this blog.

  2. Ori says:

    Bob Miller, do you think most of us Heterodox Jews know Judaism well enough to make an informed choice, and that therefore our rejection of Orthodox is informed (#3 in your list)?

  3. Ori says:

    David makes an excellent point. If you go back 300 years, we Jews were outsiders. The social pressure of not being accepted by mainstream gentile society without overt conversion kept Jews in the fold even if they weren’t particularly attracted by Halacha.

    This is no longer the case. Judaism as a social group does not have the same value anymore. To get Heterodox Jews interested in Judaism, it has to be shown to be something else than a social group or a set a rules and restrictions.

    If you’re interested in Kiruv, do a thought experiment. Imagine for a moment that Judaism were a missionary religion, and think about gentiles you know who are not committed to any religion. What would you do to convince those gentiles they want to become Orthodox Jews? That’s what you’ll need for Heterodox Jews, who are culturally very much like those gentiles.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    David said above, “Instead of whining about what the intermarried Jews have done to Judaism, let’s pause and reflect on what Judaism obviously isn’t doing for them.”

    Some Jews intermarry, or even opt out of the fold altogether, because the genuine, non-negotiable requirements of Judaism are

    1. Unknown to them, or

    2. Not liked by them because of poor presentation, or

    3. Not liked by them because of their upbringing, personal weaknesses, etc.

    Do we know Mezvinsky well enough to assume some failure of Judaism or its exemplars in his case? Is he not ultimately responsible for his poor life decisions?

  5. David says:

    Frum Jews frequently trot out their biggest and scariest adjectives to decry (at tedious length) the phenomenon of intermarriage. As if everything in Mezvinsky’s Jewish life were going along swimmingly, until– woe the while!– this slick shicksa came in outta nowhere and swindled him out of his birthright. With all due respect, I don’t think it works like that. Even from a strictly Orthodox perspective, intermarriage is not a problem– it’s just a symptom. If Orthodoxy had managed to present itself as relevant and meaningful to Mezvinsky (and the rest of the enormously high percentage of Jews married to non-Jews), we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Instead of whining about what the intermarried Jews have done to Judaism, let’s pause and reflect on what Judaism obviously isn’t doing for them.

  6. aron feldman says:

    Jeremy ben Ami, the Director of J Street, is a former Clinton employee.

    I suspect that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the true bosses of J Street, and it is being run for their benefit.

    Comment by Mr. Cohen — December 2, 2009 @

    That might be a stretch,but IMO there is some truth to your statement.There are some Jews whose hero worship of the Clintons borders on idolatry.Since Oslo happened under their watch and was such an abject failure (due to their inability to understand Arabic) these Jews like Ben Ami and Rahm Emanuel have a vested interest in restarting the Peace Process,regardless of the realities and untenable Arab positions

  7. Ori says:

    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, I owe you an apology. I assumed you were bringing up the uncle as a cheap shot. I didn’t pay enough attention to be beginning of your piece, where you mentioned the thesis with which you argue. I didn’t think that having Jewish relatives would inspire politicians to act in a pro-Israel manner to begin with, so I didn’t realize you were arguing against that assertion.

    Slicha.

  8. Martin says:

    I suspect this “shidduch” may come to be known as “The revenge of Monica Lewinsky.”
    The machatunim seem especially well-suited for each other: one a former prison resident and felon; the other an impeached former President.
    May the young couple and their families share in future Yiddishe/Goyishe nachas.
    A frailichen Chanukkah and Merry Christmas to all.
    Perhaps they can arrange for Pres. Barack Obama to be Misader Kiddushin, and Rahm Emanuel to be Chazzan… wouldn’t that be loverly!
    As my late parents A”H used to say: “a klug t’su Columbus/

  9. Mr. Cohen says:

    Jeremy ben Ami, the Director of J Street, is a former Clinton employee.

    I suspect that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the true bosses of J Street, and it is being run for their benefit.

  10. another Nathan says:

    L. Oberstein is circling the wagons, declaring that Jews marrying Jews is a rarity except in Lakewood. In Montreal, where there is a strong day-school movement, the rate of intermarriage even among non-observant Jews, is much lower than elsewhere in the diaspora.
    Lakewood is a vitally important part of the Jewish world, but it is not Yavneh, the place that will keep Judaism alive while it melts away elsewhere.

  11. Leah says:

    Ori, that may be true, yet apples don’t fall too far from the tree……His uncle is a family member and he perhaps has been influenced by him. Who knows? Most jews lack of proper adherence to mitzvot is enough of a negative influence to make Marc Mezvinsky’s jewish lineage demise not understood by Marc as well as not cared about. How very sad.
    Bob miller: Your comment is hilarious, yet unfortunately only the beginning of punishment. Worse yet, Am Yisroel pays dearly for each inter-shack up through tzurus…..

  12. Reb Yid says:

    A question–what does this post have to do with intermarriage?

    Answer: Nothing–it’s just a red herring.

    According to Rabbi Adlerstein, heterodox Jews should disapprove of Ms. Clinton’s marriage to Mr. Mezvinsky, for the “Jewish” reason that he might share the views of his uncle, which would then be passed on to Ms. Clinton and her family.

    By that reasoning, one might disapprove of most marriages, whether between Jews or not, because of some relative, friend or associate that one finds particularly disagreeable for one reason or another, whether warranted or not.

    Rabbi Adlerstein’s logic would surely also apply if Mr. Mezvinsky were to marry someone from a powerful, elite Jewish family–after all, the other Jewish family might be susceptible to potential influence by Mr. Mezvinsky’s uncle, right?

    Frankly, the original post assumes the absolute worst about Mr. Mezvinsky, without any justification. And it’s not as if Ms. Clinton or her parents are appearing in some Annie Hall scene set in Iowa–they are all quite comfortable with Jews, have many Jewish friends and neighbors, have all attended synagogue services (probably unprecedented for a Presidential family), etc…

    [YA – Actually, the post assumes nothing about the young Mezvinsky. That was quite clear to most readers, but I thank you for pointing out that it apparently wasn’t clear enough. The piece was aimed at those who assume that there will be positive consequences for the Jewish community when powerful, connected non-Jews marry into the Jewish people. That does happen frequently, although it can never begin to erase the tragedy that every intermarriage is. My point is that influence can work both ways, and marrying into a Jewish family – even one that attends synagogues like Noam Chomsky – is no indication that the influence upon the non-Jew will be to use his/her connections on behalf of causes that you and I and most of our readers see as positive for our people. There are Jewish turncoats out there – seemingly far more prominent ones today than a decade ago. You did properly sense that I used the Clinton episode as a vehicle. Part of what I wanted to deliver is familiarity with the names of some of the worst offenders – and Israel Shahk numbers among the worst.

    You are absolutely prophetic about the herring, however. My favorite is Matjes, which is indeed red.]

  13. L. Oberstein says:

    I doubt that a Conservative Rabbi can speak against intermarriage from the pulpit as there are just too many members and members’ childen who have married non-Jews. This doesn’t include the minority who ” convert”. I think that we in the frum enclaves don’t realize how pervasive the assimilation is and how normal intermarriage is in the broader Jewish community. It is accepted because parents still want to have nachas from grandchildren, even if they aren’t Jewish. The Reform and in a few years, I predict, the Conservatives will accept patrilineal decent and count as Jews just about anyone who wants to be counted, with or without any ceremony. The alternative is closing the Temple.In Europe, it is even worse. Plenty of Israelis also marry out when they leave Israel. Chelsea went to services and I heard from someone who was at another service she attended that she was offered an aliyah but declined because she is not Jewish. Hillary’s brother Hugh Rodham married a Jew, but I think they are no longer together.
    When a Jew marries a Jew nowadays, it is cause for celebration, as it is not happening all that often, unfortunately, except at Bais Feiga in Lakewood.

  14. Ahron says:

    “No word on whether Clinton will convert before the marriage—or at all—but as political royalty, her close affiliation with Judaism is certain to delight America’s pro-Israel supporters.”

    Oh, yes. Utter delight no doubt…

    What shallow nonsense. Why would “pro-Israel supporters” experience “delight” upon the marriage of a born Jew to the daughter of a former President? Because the new fiancé is circumcised? Because he’ll exert subtle but irresistible influence upon then-President Clinton’s appointees to the Foreign Service? How exactly would he accomplish that?

    The throwaway stupidity of that line and the assumptions behind it is Exhibit #8,174,938 of the clownishness of modern journalists.

    R. Adlerstein said: “I don’t mean naifs like Richard Goldstone, J Street, and Michael Lerner. However dangerous, they believe that they are contributing to the survival of a Jewish State, not orchestrating its destruction…. I mean people such as Neve Gordon, Anne Baltzer, Jeff Halper, Norman Finkelstein, Adam Shapiro, Ilan Pappe, Phyllis Bennis, and Ahmadinejad’s shtreimel-wearing friends.”

    First off your inclusion of J Street in the first group is dubious. The organization receives substantial funding from Arab, Muslim and far leftist donors for whom “the survival of a Jewish State” is not an apparent desideratum.

    To assume such naïveté on the part of the organization, or its supposedly hapless and about-to-be-surprised donors, is a stretch that violates both credulity and Occam’s Razor — which leads one to surmise that both J Street and its central supporters are satisfied that the group’s means are consonant with their ends.

    More fundamentally there’s no doubt that persons like Jeff Halper, Neve Gordon and others would claim that they too are supporting a strong, ethically proud Jewish State. What would be your rejoinder to them: “No you’re not!”?

    Discussions about intentions are relevant to a confessor’s booth. But they are childish in the context of ultimate moral and geopolitical issues that affect the fates of entire societies. Arguing about whether people who deride, impugn or slander Israel “mean well” is pointless and distracting from the real issue; which is whether their policies in the real world will end well…or not.

    Their engagement in that conversation is an important clue to their real motives.

  15. Phil says:

    Good point, Ori, but it looks to me that Rabbi Adlerstein did his best /not/ to judge the new groom by the action of his uncle.

  16. Ori says:

    Nice use of the element of surprise, but lets not judge people by the actions of their uncles. Jacob was not Laban or Ishmael, Judah was not Esau, and Mark Mezvinsky is not Norton Mezvinsky.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Having Hillary Clinton as his mother-in-law may be enough punishment for Marc.

  18. mb says:

    No the first Jew in the family, though. Secretary Hilary’s brother married Barbara Boxer’s daughter.

  19. Baruch Pelta says:

    It is a tremendous nebuch that intermarriage is now justified as a pro-Jewish phenomenon and sad indeed. I can’t comment on all the individuals mentioned, but I think the general points of this post nailed some problems on the head.