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Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky–The Poster Child of Intermarriage?

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Poor little Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.

Let’s be clear about the term ”poor”–the adorable newborn daughter of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky isn’t actually “poor” in the financial sense. And it is already clear from the tweets of doting grandma Hillary that she is loved and adored–so there is no need to pity her for being lonely or neglected.

And yet, life won’t be easy for this brand new little girl. The eyes of the world will be upon her–perhaps not as unflinchingly as they are on young Prince George. But if she turns out to be the only child in American history with a grandmother running for president of the United States and a grandfather who once held the job, she and George may have a lot to talk about. 

Of course her mother, Chelsea Clinton, should be equipped to help guide her through life in the spotlight–although Chelsea, as a child, was shielded to a certain extent by the fact that she, like Malia and Sasha Obama, grew up protected by the White House gates. In this sense, her father Marc, who has described himself as a “nerdy Jewish boy from Philly,” may be a bit more help, as he weathered his parents’ political careers: His mother and father served a term in Congress, and scandal surrounded his father’s financial misadventures (he served prison time for fraud).

But while both Chelsea and Marc know what it’s like to grow up in public through both triumph and scandal, neither of them bear Charlotte’s burden of being the poster child for the offspring of intermarriage.

That is Charlotte’s unique legacy, as the potentially Jewish grandchild of a potential presidential candidate. The operative word is “potentially”–neither her parents nor grandparents have spoken out publicly about how she will be raised. The fact that she was born female means that her parents weren’t forced into the early giveaway of deciding whether or not a bris was in order, and it is far too early to be talking about a baptism in the Methodist church in which Chelsea Clinton was raised.

The high level of interest in her spiritual life, especially from the Jewish community, popped up the minute Chelsea’s pregnancy was announced.

It seems inevitable if we dial back to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky’s high-profile union in 2010.

Dubbed “the most publicized interfaith wedding in recent American history” by the New York Times, the paper’s blanket coverage of the event went heavy on the religion angle, both profiling the rabbi who co-officiated in the ceremony, Rabbi James Ponet, and ran a feature on intermarriage linked to the event, complete with a description of “Marc Mezvinsky, outfitted with a yarmulke and a prayer shawl, and Chelsea Clinton, luminous in a strapless gown and a 100-watt smile.”

The intermarriage feature included a full-out survey of clergy and Jewish leaders weighing in on the union, including Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, then the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, quoting him as saying that he, “hoped Ms. Clinton and Mr. Mezvinsky would raise any children they have in a ‘stable religious tradition, because that’s what works.’ And, as a rabbi, he hopes the tradition will be Jewish.”

But that resolution doesn’t seem to be in the cards, since it doesn’t appear that either of her parents has given up the religious tradition they were raised in since they were wed.

Last year, Chelsea Clinton agreed to co-chair the board of New York University’s Of Many Institute which aims to “develop multi-faith dialogue and train multi-faith leaders

When she discussed her involvement with this particular line of studies at NYU in a 2012 interview, she said that one of the reasons she was attracted to the topic “with all candor, because my husband is Jewish, and I’m Christian and we’re both practicing, it’s something that’s quite close to home.

So it appears that not only has Chelsea Clinton definitely chosen not to convert to Judaism after marriage but still considers herself a “practicing” Methodist. It sounds like little Charlotte is likely to be one of the many, many children of intermarriage who will be exposed to both faiths as a child and then left to decide which one, if either, she identifies with as an adult.

If this is the case, we don’t know yet whether her choice of religion will happen before or after Charlotte chooses to follow in the steps of her grandparents and run for public office, perhaps even for president.

But all of these big decisions can, of course, wait–at least until Charlotte is eating solids and out of diapers.
@BillClinton and I are over the moon to be grandparents! One of the happiest moments of our life. pic.twitter.com/Cww4r8C9Zt

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 27, 2014

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