“Sociological conversion” to faith

As a side note to the Chelsea Clinton wedding, some people have wondered whether this means Chelsea is joining the Jewish faith. In the midst of this wondering, David Breakstone of the Jerusalem Post speaks to a sociologist and introduces me to a new term:

“Many non-Jewish spouses are going through sociological conversions rather than rabbinical conversions,” Prof. Steven Cohen, eminent sociologist of American Jewry and personal friend, tells me in another article on the subject that appeared in this paper. “They’re becoming in effect members of the Jewish community without official rabbinical instruction or authorization. Sociological conversions may be the biggest denomination of converts today.”

This term apparently means that people can become Jewish without adopting Judaism. As one writer at Haaretz.com says, “In the Israeli reality, it is no longer true that the only way to join the Jewish people is to adopt the Jewish religion.”

It would seem these “sociological conversions” could have a large impact on what is means to be Jewish in the future.

Opinions on interfaith marriages

The Washington Post hosts a panel about religious intermarrying as Chelsea Clinton, brought up in the Methodist denomination, and Marc Mezvinsky, who is Jewish, are set to be married. The panel includes Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Deepak Chopra, and others of various faith backgrounds.

Some of the statistics posted on the front page:

Statistics show that 37 percent of Americans have a spouse of a different faith.

Statistics also show that couples in interfaith marriages are “three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.”

Another relevant statistic regarding the younger generation: “Less than a quarter of the 18- to 23-year-old respondents in the National Study of Youth and Religion think it’s important to marry someone of the same faith.”

It seems to me that it could be very difficult to be married if both spouses take their separate faiths seriously.

Being left off the guest list for the Clinton wedding

The New York Times talks to some people left off the guest list for the Chelsea Clinton wedding. Those left off the list may want to be at the wedding to wish Chelsea well (and several do say this toward the bottom of the article) but there is another dynamic at work:

After all, Washington is a town that revolves around power and access to power, and Ms. Clinton’s wedding has inadvertently provided the chattering class with an imprecise — and, many say, inaccurate — measure of where they stand in Clintonworld.

This is a reminder that much of the adult world revolves around acquiring and defending one’s social status.