Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Will Chelsea and Mark’s Intermarriage Last?

Chelsea Clinton was raised Methodist, and Marc Mezvinsky, the man she will marry this weekend, was raised Jewish. Among the questions being raised, even before they have the ceremony is, “Will it last?”
In a world in which about half of all marriages end in divorce, that’s a reasonable, if entirely unromantic question. What’s intriguing about it being asked so often with respect to this wedding is the reason why so many people are asking it.
Many of those questioning the likely durability of Chelsea and Mark’s marriage, do so based on the statistics which show that couples in interfaith marriages are “three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.” But do we even understand what that statistic means, or is it simply quoted because it serves the interests of those who do so?
Statistics, a teacher of mine used to remark, are used much as a drunk uses lampposts — more for support than for illumination. Nowhere is that more possibly the case than in the oft-reported statistic that couples in two-religion marriages are three times more likely to divorce or separate than couples in single religion marriages.


Those opposed to such relationships relish this statistic as providing good evidence for the reasonableness of their opposition. Some go so far as to say this proves the wisdom of religious rules which prohibit such relationships. After all, they argue, the religions are simply looking out for the happiness of both partners, regardless of what tradition they may follow.
Regardless of one’s religious position on intermarriage, such reasoning is both specious and bad for religion itself. There are plenty of reasons one could legitimately and ethically oppose intermarriage, but that statistic is not one of them.
First, coincidence and causality are not the same. The fact that such couples are more likely to fall apart may have nothing to do with the fact that they maintain a two-faith relationship. The assumption that it does so, says more about those making such assumptions than it does about the couples.
Second, it may be that people who marry across religious lines are simply less attached to traditional practices of any kind and therefore are both more comfortable creating such marriages and also walking away from marriages altogether. It’s not an “intermarriage thing”, it’s a “commitment to inherited norms” thing.
Third, it may be that people who intermarry put personal happiness ahead of familial or communal approval, in which case they are more likely to walk away when a relationship is no longer as personally meaningful. Perhaps they walk away too readily, but that would simply indicate that inter-marry’ers put too much weight on personal happiness, while in-marry’ers may put too much on standing pat even if they are less personally fulfilled.
Ultimately, neither in-marriage nor inter-marriage, in and of themselves, are likely to be good indicators of either the happiness or the durability of marriages. What we have always known remains true regardless of the religion(s) of the couple — when people are in touch with the values most important to them, live out those values actively in their lives and have a partner with whom they share those values and ways of living them, they are more likely to have happier lives and healthier relationships.
I would hope that all religions would help people to accomplish those goals, and were that their animating issue, I suspect that the rate of both in-marriage and durable inter-marriage would rise.

  • Robert

    If 50% of couples divorce, and the divorce rate is three times higher among couples who do not share a religion, does this mean that 150% of mixed couples divorce?

  • Dick tug

    Women must submit to men to achieve happiness

  • Jim

    God made the woman as a helpmate for the man. (Old Testament) Man must love his wife as he loves himself. (New Testament) A marriage is made of of man, woman and God. (New Testament)
    Will this marriage last? It is up to the couple, not you and for sure not me.

  • Leslie Perkel

    I wish Chelsea and her new husband all the best! I live in a midwest community where about 50% of the couples in our congregation are interfaith. Some spouses converted and some didn’t. Most chose to raise their children as Jews. My son who is 16 has been raised with a strong sense of Jewish identity and is proud of who he is. The only thing I have stressed as essential when he marries some day is that he raise his children as Jews. Having just come back from Europe and Israel, he understands full well the impact of the Holocaust on the worldwide Jewish community. We don’t know who we will fall in love with. All that matters is that our life-partners support our choices for ourselves and that their be a unified plan on how to raise the children.
    It would be wonderful if Chelsea would consider raising her children as Jews. What a wonderful example of tolerance and religious pluralism that would be for the rest of the world, not to mention that it would be a tremendous Mitzvah to perform in honor of all the children lost in the holocaust!

  • Nicole

    I don’t think that religion plays a part in the failure of mixed-faith marriages. There are other problems that cause the breakdown of a marriage and if both couples practiced their faith more in their daily lives the marriage wouldn’t become troubled as all faiths view marriage as sacred.

  • Roseanne Fenton

    I was married for over 25 yrs to a Jewish gentleman. We were married with a priest & rabbi. Our two children were baptised Catholic but we celebrated ever single Jewish holiday with them & the entire family.We taught them both religions. It has never bothered them and we let them choose what they wanted to practise and it turned out to be both religions. Our very religious Jewish grandfather on my husbands side said if you two truly love each other you will overcome all problems in life, but never forget this love and promise you take to each other. We did overcome everything life had thrown our way until my husband cheated on me with my sister in law’s sister and never showed any remose for doing so. I could not over come that and went on living without him. Life is so hard now a days and I think my Jewish Grandfather was very smart in what he told us.
    If you truly love each other you have to work really hard to stay together to make the marriage last forever and overcome the problems you will encounter along the way.

  • Rose

    According to Orthodox and Conservative Jewish law, a child born of a non Jewish woman is not a Jew, no matter how they are raised. Reform Judaism does recognize patrilineal descent, as long as the child is raised as a Jew. I doubt very highly that Chelsea has any interest in raising her children as Jews, and I doubt Mark cares.
    Chelsea and Mark have two things going for them; similar political backgrounds with controversial/illegal behaviour by each of their fathers and the fact that they have known each other since their teenage years. They take solace in each other. That alone could help their marriage survive.

  • buttercup

    It is rather premature to start taking bets on whether this marriage survives or not. I agree with the author that statistics are used to bolster arguments. That said – interfaith couples can obtain support from various places, including most Reform synagogues through Outreach groups. Additionally there is a wonderful internet newsletter/blog that discusses issues of interest to those who are intermarried, converted, interested in the issues, working with those in the previously mentioned groups:
    Please check it out for more information.

  • Eric

    In the good ole days men could just slap their women in public for being disobedient. the bible says men should cain their women to achieve love. this is the only way marriage will last.

  • Lucy

    Woman must submit to Man to achieve happiness? I hope that was a joke though I fear it was not.
    Chelsea and Mark are both mature individuals, not silly children, so I figure they have a pretty good chance at a strong, enduring marraige. I doubt either one is extremely “religous” in the sense that points of doctrine would get in the way. If they have children, I am sure they won’t have trouble deciding how to raise them.
    I am the product of a mixed marraige. My Mom’s family is Jewish (most of them very secular) my Dad is Christian. My husband is Jewish and I regard myself as Jewish also, though I have to admit, I am closer to being Unitarian in my actual beliefs. If we had kids, they would be raised Jewish and we would fight about many issues anyway because he is conservative and very traditional while I am liberal (a bleeding heart liberal or sometimes a radical feminist if he is mad at me). Good thing my “children” have four legs! :-)
    Anyway, I wish Chelsea and Mark all the best. Good article, Rabbi!

  • choddie59

    well, i figure Chelsea will convert. I think her parents’ marriage guarantees that she wants to do what’s best for the kids.
    buttercup, what’s that website? thanx.

  • Susannah

    My husband is a member of Church of England, and I am a Seventh-day Adventist. We have been married for five years, and we have never quarreled about our beliefs, thank goodness! But he agrees that if we had children we were to bring them up as Adventists. Why? Because I would be the one who gave birth to them and who would be around them more than he would, because I’d stay at home all the time. I have several friends who are Jewish, and they have never spoken of Holocaust. In fact a lot of people think I am Jewish, because of my keeping Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.
    My husband is hearing while I am profoundly deaf. In the beginning a lot of people did not think our marriage would last…because of me being deaf and because of our religious differences.
    We are more in love today than on our wedding day! 😉 God be with you, Chelsea and Marc!

  • http://flipperthedolphin Phillip Smith

    Yeah, this story was in our weekend paper. I’ve read the arguments, and, personally, I find the arguements over “will it last, or won’t it?” a bit premature, silly, and probably a tad arrogant. Sure, I suppose those who argue for the statistics have a point, but at the end of the day, statistics are just that. Statistics, and let’s be honest. Who pays much attention to statistics these days , anyway? Personally, I wish them all the best, and I dont’ think it matters what religious beliefs they have, anyway? After all, it is my belief that we are all one on this beautiful planet, regardless of any distinction, and that includes religious affiliation and belief. In fact, come to think of it, one of my best mates is Buddhist, and his wife, I think is Catholic, and they seem as happy as ever. Thtere is only one true religion, and that is compassion.I wish Chelsea all the best.

  • http://flipperthedolphin Your Name

    By the way, as always, great article, Rabbi!

  • Claudette

    I wish for Mark and Chelsea, all the very best, as they embark on their new life together. May they have many, many happy years together. Really, in my opinion, we ought not to start the divorce discussion even before the marriage has taken place! I am reasonably sure that the “d” word is not on their minds at this time!!!

  • Star

    Chelsea is an ugly girl! Mark just wants to marry a Clinton

  • Ronald

    Isn’t it a bit prurient even to ask the question? That is, unless the good rabbi is presenting them to us as a role model.

  • Alicia

    Congratulations to Chelsea and Marc. I’m thrilled for them. It’s quite likely that neither of them is religious, so the interfaith ceremony was showing respect for tradition. Given that they’ve been friends for something like 15 years, I am rooting for them. I don’t know much about Marc other than what I’ve read, but I watched Chelsea grow from a shy child into a poised and attractive (and talented) young woman. Bill and Hillary can count how Chelsea has turned out as one of their greatest achievements.

  • Richard

    Mark looks like a drunk and needs to be to look at Chelsea ,she is fugly!

  • Goldiemae

    I wish the couple every happiness. Intermarriage is no longer looked upon as something to be avoided at all costs. We all believe in the same God. We just worship in different ways. To heck with all the doomsayers. It’s really none of their business, anyway.

  • Kind spirit

    Celsea looks like a drunk hillbilly a bag over her head would assure a long marriage

  • Emily with the Kippah

    I don’t know if the marriage will last. I’m not a psychic. But one thing “committed/religious” Jews are good at is being judgmental about others’ relationships. What pleasure they get in declaring someone “not one of us” I will never understand. Maybe if we declare “nobody is Jewish except matrilineal descended people who keep kosher wear black from skullcap to toenail live in Israel and observe every single Law to the letter” then we can also reduce the number of people who have been killed or attacked for “being Jewish.” After all, they weren’t *really* “Jewish.” Right?

  • Gary Berman

    If Marc isn’t committed to his own Judaism how committed to his marriage will he be? Time will tell. The individuals that can’t have a commitment to their religion often times they have even much less of a commitment to their marriage.
    The non-Jewish spouse goes to church and sees all the families there together. The Jew goes to synagogue and sees al the families there together. Both are left out of their communities and neither one of them will admit it.
    If one compromises their religion for the sake of a “relationship of love” the relationship is what gets compromised. Intermarriage with a Jew often does not work. The Jewish religion is very different from other religions. When a Catholic marries a Methodist or Protestant they both celebrate the same main holidays of Christmas, Easter, etc.
    Jews don’t celibrate these holidays.
    Marriage laws were originally set up to protect future children.
    When a couple intermarries there is no guarantee as to what religion the kids will be raised in. Regardless of what a couple discusses before children it’s not until those children arrive on the scene that the individual parents experience how they feel. A non-Jewish woman usually doesn’t want her baby boy to undergo a bris (ritual circumscission), and on the dining room table while a bunch of guest watch and then eat and celebrate, unthinkable. By the same token a Jewish male isn’t so keen on having a batism done. In addition the Jewish males parents just won’t be as excited to go to church as his spouses parents. The Jew will understand his parents and the non-Jewish spouse will not. In an intermarriage, it’s not a matter a give and take, or someone not being as happy. Usually it ends up with no one being happy.
    If two parents of the same faith do end up dissolving their marriage in divorce there is usually not an issue as to what religion the child can and will be raised in. Parents of intermarriages have the additional battle over what religion their children will be raised in.
    Divorce of two parents of different faiths often end up with children that are brought up with confusion. In the end these children often end up with feelings of betrayal to one parent and/or end up lacking a sense of totally belonging or being accepted with-in there religious community.
    Most organized religions center events around the family. Not having ones spouse fully committed or involved means that the individual themselves is not fully included.
    Unfortunately individuals of intermarriage don’t fully realize the importance of their religion until they are married and living with a spouse that doesn’t share their religion. So when these couples aren’t busy having sex, these are the issues they have conflict with.
    Of the intermarriages that do last often times they are not happy successful marriages. The kids of such marriages are often times not successful in belonging to or committed to one faith. In addition life events for these families bring further stress. The non-Jewish parent can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetary. The Jewish spouse won’t get last rights. The list goes on and on.
    The Rabbis that perform intermarriages are the same Rabbis that are incapable of upholding the laws of Judaism. They perform the service for a fee or salary because as Rabbis they can’t make a living any other way. Real Rabbi’s know that according to the laws of Judaism a Jew can only marry another Jew of the opposite sex. No exceptions.
    The future of the Jewish people is every Jews responsibility. Rabbis that perform intermarriages shirk thier responsibilities as Jews.

  • Zvi I Weiss

    In his book: “How to Stop an Intermarriage”, the author provides several very cogent reasons as to why Intermarriage is more likely to fail and is not simply a “coincidence”. Among them: conflicts as to how to raise the children; [initially] latent feelings of bias against the partner’s religionj that arise on either side; a partner who decides later on to get close to his / her “original” religion. It is unfortunate that people ahve so little understanding of their own roots, tradition, and background that they can CELEBRATE what is actually a tragedy. No doubt the people who are celebrating this marriage would have been utterly appalled at the courageous work of Ezra and Nechemia in attacking the population that intermarried after the return from Babylon.
    Nobody seems to care that this intermarriage hands the Nazis (may their names be blotted out!) yet another “delayed victory” as yet anotehr Jewish line “comes to an end”…
    Perhaps, the most to be hoed for is that this couple will split BEFOE there are children so that we will not have children with “Jewish names” who are not halachically Jewish — leading to pain, ocnfusion, and suffering.

  • Lukker Tontish

    Congratulations to Chelsea and Marc. Because I am not a hater, I don’t fully understand the reason for writing this column or what you hope to gain by it, but I do feel much better about myself knowing that I am honestly not all that bigoted about interfaith marriage.

  • Vii Jesusberg

    This marriage is an obomanation to god! Marc is turning away from god! God will surely make their babies mongloids!

  • Christopher

    How dare the above commenter relate this to the damn Nazis. Religious Jews love to use the Shoah in their favor. I’ve got news for you, about 1.5 million of those ‘Jews’ killed among the six million number you love to throw around to people who diagree with the religious establishment for people like me who you don’t consider Jewish. People who were half and quarter Jewish, which from my understanding of Orthodox halacha, people such as yourself don’t even belief exist. You’re either Jewish or you’re not! Yet Hitler and the Shoah if anything showed how in the eyes of the world this is not so. Us ‘mixed-breeds’ part Jews get no repsect from you, even though we suffer the same anti-Semitism as religious Jews, if not more, and yet we don’t count in your eyes, but you love to throw around our numbers. Maybe you should detract two million from number your religious counter-parts throw around when mentioning the Shoah, cause after all ‘our kind’ don’t count. By the way I study Torah and read the Tanakh, I pray and I’m trying to live a life of faith, but people like you and the religious establishment make it impossible for us, why we would we want to ever submit ourselves to your Orthodox system. Do you really think those in the Bible were a bunch of yeshiva bouchers? Read that portion as well before espousing from the Writings.

  • alsdorf

    the holocaust is a lie yes some jews were rounded up but not the way the jews lie about it

  • howard

    have you all lost your minds?

  • Vi

    I for one and Jewish the holoaust was real, I have friends who had families in it.
    Check out Schindlers’s List, The Jews who were fortunate to have came to the USA, Irving Berlin was one who came to Ellis Island as many others were.
    God Bleses all his children how rude for someone to wish such bad things on this marriage between Chelsea and Marc. I wish them a long life of happiness and faith in the teachings of the Torah.
    We are not the judge of others God is, let him be the one to guide them in their journey of love, life and whatever God has in store for them.

  • Your Name

    God teaches His children to pray and that’s what we all need to do for each other,let’s pray one another.And for Marc and Chelsea,i pray for their marriage to be blessed,a marriage that God bestows His blessing,i believe it will last.

  • David

    If one looks to the scriptures for guidance, then it is not difficult to answer the question whether or not they should have married.
    “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:14)

  • Vi Jesusberg

    The Jews will slowly fade out and suffer the same fate as the native Americans, leaving the Jewish heritage to the Christians.

  • Martha

    My best wishes to Chelsea and Mark. My hope never divorce. You know why? For God We are children, and the Lord wants the best and wonderful things for everyone. The both can interchange their believes. Holy Bible and Thora
    Shalom nice people.

  • Theresa Osei-Bonsu

    It is my prayer that Chelsea and Mark marriage will work in Jesus name Amen.Afterall Jesus had jewish background

  • withyobadself

    after all jesus was the messiah that came to free the jews from religion and give ONLY two laws for everyone to follow …have nothing to do with the world because the world is given to lucifer…the space people are really lucifer and his fallen angels…learn to love eachother as your family and learn to trust god

  • luv2all

    My two sisters and I were raised christian. My middle sister married a wonderful Jewish man 29 years ago. They raised 2 sons teaching them both religions and took them to temple and church. They are still happily married and both our families love and respect each other dearly and are truly blessed!

  • Frank

    A beautiful “Open Letter To Chelsea” can be found here:

  • cheap air max shoes

    Your suggestions are extremely distinctive, I help you. I think you should always be described as a clever man. So i prefer to know you.

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