Sisterhood Blog

Cronkite, Trump, and the Validity of Jewish Marriages

By Rebecca Honig Friedman

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Ivanka Trump’s conversion/engagement to Jared Kushner may be interesting to most readers because of its wealthy-elite-hooking-up gossip factor, but their story is also quite relevant to the controversies that have been surrounding Orthodox conversion in recent years.

My unsolicited advice to the happy couple, who shall heretofore be known collectively as Jivanka: Don’t try to get married in Israel, and definitely don’t get divorced there (unless Trump decides she’s had enough of the whole being Jewish thing, in which case, gey gezunte heyt).

(If this latest news is a sign of things to come, though, I might reconsider my advice.)

But speaking of famous people and the validity of Jewish weddings, would you believe that Walter Cronkite, may he rest in peace, could be responsible for the birth of a mamzer? (No, not that kind of responsible.)

The possible bastard child in question is Beliefnet Editor-In-Chief Stephen Waldman, who reveals on his blog that Cronkite, who was not Jewish, served as a witness to Waldman’s parents’ wedding, a no-no by Jewish wedding standards.

Waldman explains:

Though my mom lost touch with Cronkite over the years, they were colleagues at the time of her marriage to my father. Cronkite was the witness at their wedding. This led to some interesting family speculation about one arcane matter of Judaism. As I recall, when orthodox rabbis started exerting more control in Israel some time in the 1970s, they frowned upon marriages that didn’t follow proper Jewish procedures. Orthodox Rabbis were needed, and certainly the key witnesses to the wedding had to be Jewish.

We thought: what a fun test case we would make! Let’s take my parent’s Jewish wedding certificate to Israel and dare them to declare that it was invalid because the witness wasn’t Jewish — just go ahead and say that the Most Trusted Man in America wasn’t good enough for this marriage!

It’s my understanding that even non-Orthodox Jewish weddings require those who sign the ketubah — the official Jewish marriage document — to be Jewish. So I’m guessing that while Cronkite may have signed Waldman’s parents’ marriage license, he didn’t sign the ketubah, if there was one.

But if Walter Cronkite did sign his parents’ ketubah, Waldman stands to make a mint off selling it on eBay.



Comments
Ivanka is still a Gentile Tue. Jul 21, 2009

I don't know how anyone can believe that Ivanka's conversion was valid. It's obvious that Ivanka obviously only went through a "conversion" to marry Jared Kushner which is forbidden under Jewish law. Also how can anyone go through an Orthodox conversion in only one year? It takes at least 2-3 years. I guess money can now buy "conversions" in Modern Orthodoxy.

Of course Ivanka's "conversion" wouldn't be recognized in Israel and it shouldn't. It's obviously a fraud. Ivanka's "conversion" is a slap in the face to all real Jewish converts who went through an ardous process because they have Jewish souls, and not to marry a rich spouse.

It will be a sad day in Modern Orthodox history if Jared actaully gets married to Ivanka in an Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony.

Yossi Ginzberg Wed. Jul 22, 2009

There you go again, making Jewish religious references without having a competent fact-checker on hand.

While witnesses to a Chuppah are required to be Jewish, a non-Jew signing would not invalidate the wedding, nor would the child be a mamzer. That unpleasant title is reserved for only the proven child of an adulterous union, and because it has serious Halacha implications usage of the word should be more circumspect.

While an innocent child carrying that burden is unconscienable, for a child who is in fact not one but is only thought to be one because of linguistic error it would be an even greater tragedy.

Dan Thu. Jul 23, 2009

It's very possible that Cronkite was a witness for the non-religious aspect of the wedding. A witness is often required for a marriage license or for a marriage certificate that is registered with the city, county, or state.

Mr Mel Sat. Jul 25, 2009

Keep the club closed and we'll wind up with Jewish Sharia.

Paul Durgin Thu. Oct 22, 2009

WE have no idea what is in Ivanka`s heart. It`s not up to us to judge her or the Beit Dein that said that she passed all the criteria that was needed to become a Jew. I welcome her with both arms to the Jewish way of life, and many children.

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