While we are busy wishing Prince Harry and his fiancé, Meghan Markle, fond words of congratulations, should we also be wishing them mazal tov?
Which is to ask:
- Will the Windsors and the Markles dance the hora at the royal wedding, which will happen in 2018?
- Will the band play “Sunrise, Sunset”?
- Will Prince Charles dance the mazinka, the traditional dance that marks the occasion of your last child’s wedding?
In a word, no.
This, despite the fact that USA Today referred to Meghan as a “biracial Jewish-American actress. This, despite the fact that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited the royal couple to spend their honeymoon in Israel.
Which is an excellent idea. At the very least, the couple could visit the grave of Harry’s great-grandmother, Prince Alice of Battenberg.
Princess Alice was a bona fide recognized-by-Yad Vashem righteous gentile who saved Jewish lives in Greece. She is buried in a crypt at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
But, no. There is nothing Jewish about Meghan Markle — other than the fact that her first marriage was to a Jewish man.
Her mother, Doria Radlan, has a masters degree in social work; she is African-American. Her father, Emmy-award winning lighting director Thomas W. Markle, is of Dutch, English, Irish, and Scottish descent.
Meghan Markle is actually a descendant of King John, and a distant relative of Prince Harry. That’s a totally royal family thing — though, come to think of it, most Ashkenazic Jews are also distantly related, as well.
So, in the game of “spot the Jew,” this one is a non-starter.
Where did people get the idea that Meghan was Jewish? Is it that Markle “sounds” “Jewish?” Because it almost sort of kind of rhymes with “farfel?”
Frankly, I don’t get it — this incessant desire, on the part of some Jews, to locate celebrities and to “out” them as Jewish.
I am thinking of “Let Us Now Claim Famous Men” by Ralph Schoenstein, in which the main character spills much sweat in finding famous people and either discovering, or imagining, that they are Jewish.
Remember our glee when we discovered that Bob Dylan was Jewish.
Remember our disappointment when the rumors of Jewishness for Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, and Pat Benatar turned out to be false.
I would have thought that this tendency would have died, right around the same time as disco. It is a form of fetishization that should be utterly foreign to this generation, for whom ethnic ties are, woefully, attenuated.
If I were going to trace a recent cultural trend, it would not be Jews claiming gentiles.
It would be gentiles claiming Judaism.
I am thinking of a friend, who is a “cradle Episcopalian.” He can trace his ancestry back to William Tyndale, who was the source of the King James Bible. That is as old as it gets in the Western world.
And yet, he recently discovered that his grandfather was Jewish – an Austrian Jew who hid his identity.
“So, that makes me kind of Jewish?” he asked shyly.
“Why not?” I answered him. “Join the club. You are now a Jew-by-surprise.”
Consider the last two decades — people who have discovered that they are Jewish, or sort of Jewish, or almost Jewish, or had a Jewish grandparent, or a Jewish great-grandparent.
That list would include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, whose grandmother married a Jewish man; and former Secretary of State John Kerry. That is just a short list. It has been estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of potential Jews in the United States — people with Jewish ancestry, who could easily claim or reclaim their Jewish identity.
But, perhaps the real news is simply this: the royal family had heard those rumors of Meghan’s member of the tribe thing — and they appeared to be totally cool with it.
Or, at the very least, that stiff British upper lip.
Mazal tov, anyway! May we all dance at the wedding!