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PAGE 4B HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 31, 2014 Is inten0000arriage the new norm for American Jewry? tions in the wedding process, and then try to integrate their mixed-background family into the modern melting pot that is America. Edmund Case--CEO of Interfaith Family, a Boston- based national interfaith organization that provides information and assistance for couples planning Jewish interfaith marriages and other life cycle events--told that most cases of interfaith weddings the group handles have many common features of a traditional Jewish wedding. "The weddings we are most familiar with look like Jewish weddings--Ketubah (in non- traditional wording), chuppah, Seven Blessings (in non-tradi- tional wording), circling, glass breaking, a Hebrew formula (not usually the traditional 'harey aht' verse)," Case said. While not meeting the criteria of a "traditional" interfaith wedding, Jordan Samuel of Washington, D.C. had a gay interfaith wedding with his husband Claudio Volo- nte shortly after gay marriage became legal in our nation's capital in 2009. For Samuel, who is Jewish, and Volonte, who is from a Catholic family biat was raised By Seam Savage JNS .org Since 2005 nearly six in 10 American Jews have married a non-Jew, up from 46 percent in 1990 and 17 percent before 1970. This statistic rocked the Jewish world last fall when it was revealed in the Pew Research Center's "A Portrait of Jewish Americans" survey. Is intermarriage the new norm for American Judaism in the 21st century? While Jewish leaders and organiza- tions debate that question, interfaith couples continue to cope with their differing tradi- We are uour source for: Brochures Letterheads Envelopes Business Cards Progroms FIuers Post Cards Forms Invitotions secular, the decision to have a Jewish wedding was an easy one. "Claudio was not raised in any religious denomination. We identified more Jewish from my side and upbringing," Samuel told The biggest challenge for Samuel and Volonte wasn't finding a rabbi to perform the gay marriage, but finding a rabbi to officiate an interfaith ceremony. "Our initial thought was to go to the rabbi of a local LGBTtemple. However, when I called and spoke to the female rabbi, she told me she would not do the wedding because Claudio was not Jewish. I was, to say the least, taken aback." Samuel said. "You (the female rabbi) are the rabbi to a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender temple, but won't do a mixed marriage?" Jordan asked rhe- torically. The couple eventually found a rabbi to officiate thewedding through a friend at the local Jewish federation. Samuel said the couple in- cluded most Jewish traditions in the ceremony. Since Voionte was secular, they used a bottle of wine from his hometown in Uruguay for the blessing on the wine at the chuppah, to make that tradition special for him. While it proved difficult for Samuel and Volonte, Interfaith Family's Case said he has seen an increase in rabbis willing to conduct interfaith marriages. "Our impression is that more and more rabbis are de- ciding to officiate for interfaith couples," he said. Yet Case said most rabbis will only agree to officiate an interfaithweddingifthe couple agrees to certain conditions, such as the non-Jewish spouse taking an introductory class on Judaism and agreeing to raise the children Jewish. Rabbi Natan Margalit--a non-denominational rabbi who is originally from Hawaii but now lives in Israel and runs the organization Organic Torah--has been officiating interfaithweddings for the past 14 years. He said he generally only officiates interfaith cere- monies when the couple agrees to have a Jewish household or to raise their children Jewish. "I do so in cases where both partners show me their inten- tion to have a Jewish household 407.767.7110 www. elegantprinting, net 205 North Street Longwood, FL 32750 Mention This Ad and R:eive an 18% Discount Steven Rosenberg, M.D. Carlos M. Jacinto, M.D. Harleen Anderson, M.D. lteafg /n Cenlra/ for over 25 Years Treating ABerg/c Diseases of the Ears, Nose & Throat Our phys/c/ans are  Ce#med AJergy. Asthmo & nmunology & Cerb3ed Pemfs Orlando 407-370-3705 Viera 407-678-4040 Winter Park 407-678-4040 Altamonte Springs 407-331-6244 Kyle Cassidy via Wikimedia Commons Chelsea Clinton, whose 2010 high-protile interfaith wedding included Jewish traditions such as groom Marc Mezvinsky donning a yarmulke and Jewish prayer shawl, and the signing of a Ketubah. But the wedding was also co-ofciated by a Methodist minister and was held before sunset on Saturday, in violation of Shabbat. and to raise children to be Jew- ish. I do this because I feel that the people in front of me want to be involved in Judaism and are choosing a Jewish wedding as a statement of that inten- tion," Margalit told That was the case with Paul Mauriello from Port Washing- ton, NY. "We agreed, on our second date, that the kids could be raised Jewish, as long as I was never expected to hold back sharingwhat I believe, to con- vert, etc. We wanted them to have a foundation and they can decide what they believe as an adult, just as I did,'Nauriello told Born Catholic, Maurielio married his wife Stacy, who is Jewish, in 2002. He said the couple chose a rabbi to officiate their wedding, but wanted to keep the ceremony non-denominational to make it as inclusive as possible. The 2010 high-profile in- terfaith wedding of Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was more complicated and drew significant attention and criticism from the Jewish community. Chelsea, raised Methodist, married Jewish investment banker Marc Mez- vinsky. While the wedding in- cluded many Jewish traditions such as Mezvinsky donning a yarmulke and Jewish prayer shawl and the signing of a Ketubah, theweddingwas also co-officiated by a Methodist minister and was held before sunset on Saturday, in viola- tion of Shabbat. "Instead ofdistancingthem- selves, ]Jewish leaders] should have been congratulating the couple and inviting them to continue to be engaged in Jewish life," Case said. Interfaith affairs like the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding, where both religious traditions are honored but reinterpreted to fit the modern world, are becoming more common for young Jews. Case attributed this to the changing modern society, where traditional racial and social barriers are falling left and right. "Young adults tend to be universalistic and not par- ticularistic and accepting of people from other religious and cultural and racial back- grounds, and young Jews [in America] don't encounter anti-Semitism to any signifi- cant degree for the most part," he said. Complicating matters in Judaism is that the different denominations have different views on who is a Jew--tradi- tional halacha says Jewish faith is determined by the mother, but the Reform movement accepts patrilineal descent-- and thus what constitutes an interfaith marriage. Reform Judaism will allow its rabbis to officiate interfaith ceremonies. But the Reform movement draws the line at officiating the weddings on Shabbat or co-officiating them with clergy from other religions, according to the most recent guidelines of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the principle organization of Reform rabbis in NorthAmerica. Often, how- ever, such decisions are made by the individual rabbis, as was the case with Reform Rabbi James Ponet, who officiated Clinton's wedding. Other Jewish denomina- tions have increasingly stricter guidelines. The Reconstruc- tionist movement allows its rabbis to officiate interfaith weddings, but not to co- officiate with clergy from other faiths, and Conservative rabbis are not allowed to officiate interfaith weddings at all, but are open to engaging interfaith Jewish couples and encourag- ing non-Jewish spouses to con- vert. Orthodox rabbis consider intermarriage a rejection of Judaism, though some liberal strands of the movement do reach out to interfaith couples. For decades, Jewish leaders across the denominational spectrum believed that inter- marriage was an existential threat to Judaism. But while intermarriage continues to increase, there are also signs that more childrenofinterfaith couples are being raised Jewish. Margalit believes that it is important for the Jewish com- munity to embrace interfaith couples in hopes of maintain- ing a vibrant Jewish future. "Refusing to perform wed- dings between Jews and non- Jews does not stop anyone from marrying the person they have fallen in love with, but only pushes them out of the Jewish community, when, in many cases, they are in fact very interested in remaining in, or coming closer to, the Jewish community," he said.