At the time of Chelsea Clinton’s interfaith marriage, I was interviewed by ABC news on the topic.
So now that she is having a baby I wonder, “Will they have a briss if it is a boy? Will they conduct an interfaith baby blessing? How will they raise the child? If it is a boy, will they have the briss performed by the moyle AND have a minister bless the child? If it is a girl will have have a Jewish naming (giving the child a Hebrew name), call the generations and appoint godparents as is Christian tradition? Will they raise the child in both faiths or will they choose one? Will the baby’s ceremony be a combination of the traditional and the personal?” If I remember correctly, Chelsea’s husband’s family is fairly conservative in their faith. So perhaps they will raise the child Jewish. What will the grandparents’ opinions be on this?
The choices, joys and challenges that this famous couple face are the same as so many other interfaith families. As I commented in my book, BLESS THIS CHILD, there is no right or wrong way. Each family must do their own soul searching and discover what is right for them collectively. I am grateful that today there are more resources than ever for interfaith couples. 20 years ago interfaith ceremonies that honored both traditions were considered revolutionary. Today they are common place. 15 years ago when I was interviewed people would ask me WHY were intermarriages on the rise. Now everyone knows. 15 years ago it was believed that you had to choose one religion for the child. Now more and more families are choosing to celebrate the children’s full heritage. There are many homes with menorahs along side Christmas trees! They are twice blessed.
The world is changing. Why not keep the best of time honored traditions and add new traditions that are relevant to our current lives. The interfaith motto is, “Never instead of, always in addition to.” That motto was coined by a former Hasidic Rabbi who lost most of his family in the holocaust. He went on to be the founder of the first interfaith seminary. That Rabbi was my teacher. He told me, “Susanna, the more I study other religions, the more Jewish I become. ” To which I responded, “Rabbi, the more I study other religions, the more I realize that “I am Christian, I am Jewish, I am Sufi, I am Muslim, I am Hindu, I am Taoist, I am Buddhist. I am all of it. It all lives within me.” He smiled, and perhaps was taken a bit aback. After all, he was more than two generations older than me.
The world will be watching how this famous interfaith family raises their children. It is my belief that children of interfaith marriages grow up learning the meaning of respect, tolerance of understanding. After all they have lived it by watching their parents.