Religion & Beliefs

The Media Savvy Man of G-D

"I can’t give you a sound bite" on the name change, Rabbi Ponet said Tuesday, speaking about what must have been a difficult decision before beginning his freshman year at Yale (class of ’68)."   That’s a quote from Rabbi … Read More

By / August 4, 2010

"I can’t give you a sound bite" on the name change, Rabbi Ponet said Tuesday, speaking about what must have been a difficult decision before beginning his freshman year at Yale (class of ’68)."

 

That’s a quote from Rabbi James Ponet in a New York Times article today.  If you aren’t familiar with Ponet, he’s the rabbi who married Chelsea Clinton and her Jewish husband, and just by reading this profile on him, done by one of the largest newspapers in the world, I can tell he’s no stranger to talking to the media.

The story of Rabbi Ponet isn’t much different than most other people who choose to serve God: spiritual awakening, intense re-immersion into religion ("he was known to storm undergraduate dining halls, hop on a table, and blow the shofar, or ram’s horn, loudly to herald the arrival of the Jewish New Year"), and sooner or later, a career in said faith. 

Then things shift:

"about five years ago, Rabbi Ponet’s public persona began to change. The yarmulke disappeared; he could be heard joking about eating shellfish again, as young Podnetsky had in his youth."

 

So Rabbi Ponet isn’t the holiest holy man–so what?  Are any us perfect?  I’m certainly not.  But what about interfaith marriages?  Now that Ponet’s known as the man who married a Jew to Bill and Hill’s daughter, what’s his stance on such a hot button topic among Jews?

 

"I think it’s something I have only done over the last three years or so."

 

And by judging by this article alone, those ceremonies tend to be for more high profile couples, like the Executive Director for Moveon.org:

 

"I remember saying, ‘What do you think about gospel music and Autumn’s mother singing the Lord’s Prayer?’ and he said, ‘That is so great!’

 

So the rabbi is media savvy; is there anything wrong with that? He works for one of the most recognizable college brands in the world, writes for some of the biggest internet publications, and seems to be good at keeping himself in the spotlight.  This may pose a fundamental issue for some, but in reality, Rabbi Ponet’s renown has only really caused debate among people (such as the people commenting on this article) who question the movement Ponet is affiliated with (Reform). 

Theological debates aside, is it a good or bad thing for a rabbi, let alone any religious figure, to be considerably media savvy in the 21st Century?