Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Religion Again?

 Yep, this is religion week here at the Spew.  Didn't mean for it to be, but this is an events-driven blog.  And what event is inspiring this post?  The marriage of Chelsea Clinton to a Jewish dude.  I was not paying attention to this event, as it reeked of slow news and celebri-trivia (is that a new term?  can I coin it?).  But I caught this NYT piece which indicated that Clinton was marrying into a Jewish family.  So, this raises all of the usual issues of inter-marriage, including some pride that a Jew could be a suitable mate for the child of an American President and of a Secretary of State/Senator. 
In an editorial, The Forward, a liberal Jewish affairs newspaper, called the Clinton-Mezvinsky marriage “a milestone of sorts, a measure of social acceptance, a sign that we’ve arrived.”  But it took note of the conundrum: “This nuptial is also representative of an increasingly vexing challenge within American Jewish life because we know that — apart from the celebrity and the Secret Service — the Clinton-Mezvinsky union is fast becoming the new normal.”
Is ambivalence a key part of Jewish identity?  "Great, they love usCrap, we love them."  Of course, the big concern is the intermarriage part:
Commentators like The Forward are reacting to surveys that show that the intermarriage rate has spiraled up in the past half-century, particularly outside the New York area. The last major population study of the nation’s Jews, in 2001, found that since 1996, 47 percent of marriages involving a Jew were interfaith. Before 1970, the rate was 13 percent.
Nice to know that I was ahead of the curve in the early 1990's.  Clinton's wedding is timely for me as I just had the latest argument with a relative who stands out as the only one who has opposed my wedding to a non-Jewish Mrs. Spew (Spew is not a terribly Jewish name, perhaps it should have been Spew-stein or Spew-berg).  This relative is not even upset, so he says, about the religion part but about the ethnic part--that I will not be passing on the traditions and identity to my child (wee, little Spew Junior).  Indeed, not only do I lack faith, but I am, as we have seen in this blog, skeptical of tradition.  Doing something because it has always been done this way is, to me, not much of a justification.  Yes, some traditions are swell (the hava nagila, menorahs), but others are less so (oppression of women, family feuds).  I was hostile to tradition long before I met and married Mrs. Spew.  Indeed, I remember questioning all of this while I was going to Hebrew school and before I began the semi-painful training for my Bar Mitzvah--painful because it combined improving linguistic skills and singing, my two great weaknesses (other than a lack of discretion and an insatiable need for attention).

To me, the best part of being American is about challenging tradition (such as monarchy) and valuing people for the content of their character* rather than the color of their skin, their heritage (inherited class or ethnic background), their religion, their language, etc.  That is a tradition worth valuing.

*  Obviously expressed far better by Martin Luther King.


Mrs. Spew said...

Well we did break the glass.

Steve Greene said...

1) Missed that earlier tradition post the first time-- that was awesome.
2) Quite clearly, the parenthetical weaknesses, are actually the greater, no matter how badly you sing. Lots of people are bad singers, but surely your percentile score in "lacking discretion" is much higher.
3) Have Nagila at weddings = best tradition ever. Breaking the class ain't so bad, either.