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“I Do” --Vows to Keep In An Interfaith Marriage

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The marriage of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky generated speculation about how this couple's religious differences would sort themselves out:
How will they raise their children?
Will she convert?
Will he keep Kosher?
And, of course: will they have a Christmas tree?

The newly married couple has been spotted in Namibia on a safari. But soon enough, the honeymoon will be over. Since I have a bit of experience regarding interfaith marriage, I thought I’d offer some unsolicited advice.

Dear Chelsea and Mark,

David and I have been married for 22 years. While the religious details of our wedding are a bit different than yours--I converted and we had a Conservative Jewish wedding--we have faced many of the joys and struggles of an interfaith marriage. So, I thought it might be helpful to share what we have learned as the two of you begin your new life together.

--Don't ever expect that your spouse will change their values or their belief system. While an individual’s religious beliefs can evolve (as mine did), that change can only come from within. Even then, it’s really hard. I sailed through my conversion process that consisted of “10 Easy Lessons to Becoming Jewish.” Then I spent the next 10 years figuring out (and struggling, at times) how to embrace a new faith while honoring and respecting my past.

Mark, I was thrilled to see that you signed a Ketubah, stomped on a crystal glass, and danced the hora on your wedding day. Chelsea, I hope that you, too, incorporated equally meaningful symbolic moments into your day. To be honest, I was a little worried that they weren’t as evident in all the pictures that we saw. Remember, each of you has entered your marriage with over 30 years of traditions-—family traditions, religious traditions, cultural traditions. They make you who you are. Getting married is an opportunity to share them, not abandon them.

---Decide what religious beliefs and traditions will guide the upbringing of your children, and, figure it out well before they’re born. We got this one right from the beginning. In our case, it was easy; the kids would be raised Jewish.

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