Rep. Weiner, Snubbed By Muslim-Jewish Group?
Updated, 10:35 p.m.
A new group focused on strengthening Muslim-Jewish relations has come to Washington this week to bring Jewish and Muslim power brokers in government together.
But one prominent Jewish member of Congress who wasn't invited to participate in the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding's activities is Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) -- arguably Washington's most prominent present example of fostering love across religious lines.
Weiner's recent engagement to Huma Abedin, a well-known aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who is also a Muslim, ignited a press frenzy over the interfaith power couple and got the chattering classes of New York and Washington speculating on the wedding ceremony: imam, rabbi, or both?
It undoubtedly will not be Rabbi Marc Schneier officiating, even though Weiner is a semi-regular visitor to Schneier's synagogues in the Hamptons and Manhattan.
Schneier, an orthodox rabbi who is president and founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, tells The Sleuth he didn't include Weiner in this week's Muslim-Jewish forum because "we're trying to put forth more of an international spiritual/political movement as opposed to creating a whole new wave of Muslims and Jews seeking a... you know... any kind of romantic reconciliation."
Schneier's definition of spirituality apparently doesn't include love. He says he has no advice for Weiner and Abedin on how they should tie the knot.
"I'm an Orthodox rabbi. I don't get involved in any kind of interfaith marriages," he told us during a telephone interview Wednesday. "I'm clearly not the one they should seek guidance from."
Schneier seems to speak for a majority of Orthodox Jews on the topic of interfaith romantic relationships. As a story in The Jewish Week notes, "Observant Jews view intermarriage as religious treason."
The story quotes angry commenters on the Yeshiva World News blog saying "OY," "Hashem Yeracham [May God have mercy]," and "Never liked that bum" in reaction to the news of Weiner's engagement to Abedin.
Another commenter is quoted questioning whether the timing of Weiner's engagement announcement was "meant to coincide with the parsha in which some members of Bnei Yisroel sinned with midyanite women (in particular Zimri and Kosby) and [brought] down a plague?"
All of which may help to explain why Rabbi Scheier didn't invite Weiner to participate in his Muslim-Jewish forum this week. "We're more about spiritual and political reconciliation," Scheier reiterated. "That's very much our focus."
Adam Muhlendorf, a spokesman for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, e-mailed us later to say that Weiner's engagement to Abedin "played absolutely no role" in the group's decision to invite Jewish members other than Weiner to participate in the Muslim-Jewish discussion. He added that invitations were sent out "months ago," before Weiner's engagement was announced. (But well after Weiner's relationship with Abedin was known.)
"We have tremendous respect for Rep. Weiner and look forward to continued warm relations," Muhlendorf said.
Weiner's office was unaware of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding event on Capitol Hill Wednesday. But Weiner spokeswoman Marie Ternes had no comment on how the congressman felt about being left out.
Mary Ann Akers
July 22, 2009; 3:51 PM ET
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