Former Mamaroneck pastor co-led Chelsea’s big wedding

One more note on the Chelsea Clinton wedding (yes, I’m sick of hearing about it, too).

It turns out that the minister who co-officiated the wedding with a rabbi was the Rev. Bill Shillady, former pastor of Mamaroneck United Methodist Church.

Lots of Mamaroneck folks probably recall Shillady, who was a very visible figure during his years as pastor (1988-2000). I got to interview him a few times — including about a “Sunday night live” service aimed at teens — and found him to a real engaging clergyman.

I wasn’t surprised when he was chosen to lead Park Avenue United Methodist Church on the Upper East Side, a flagship United Methodist church in New York.

It’s well known that Hillary Clinton is a United Methodist. Chelsea, apparently, is one as well, according to the United Methodist News Service. They say that Chelsea has occasionally attended Shillady’s church in NYC.

The wedding was co-officiated by a rabbi, as the groom, Mark Mezvinsky, is Jewish. The rabbi was James Ponet, the Jewish chaplain at Yale.

The wedding was held two hours before sundown on Saturday — during the Jewish Sabbath — which goes against Jewish tradition. Many Jewish blogs have been filled with Oy Veys about the wedding.

I was on Bob Dunning’s show yesterday on the Catholic Channel on satellite radio, talking about, among other things, Chelsea’s wedding. He wondered why Jenna Bush’s wedding in 2008 didn’t get nearly as much attention. A good question, I think.

UMNS file photo by John C. Goodwin

Rabbi Bruce Cohen dead at 65

I wrote recently about the declining health of Rabbi Bruce Cohen, a longtime White Plains resident who founded and ran the peace group Interns for Peace.

He died this morning at his home.

Cohen was a unique guy. I first wrote about him in 2000, when I learned a bit about Interns for Peace.

He was something of a dreamer, a guy who believed that peace between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis could be achieved with a little work.

Emphasis on a little work.

His thing was to skip all the talking and get together to do something. The “interns” trained by his group were taught to bring people together to work on simple (or not so simple) projects: road safety, community gardens, etc.

If people could stand and work side by side, they could learn to talk, he said.

He told me in 2000: “Jews and Arabs disagree and probably will until the end of time. ‘ We do not teach people that we are all the same and think the same and have the same political platforms. We say that even though we are different culturally – and we might not like aspects of each other – we can still coexist and respect one another.”

I visited the home of Bruce and his wife, Karen, a few weeks ago. The leaders of Interns for Peace had come to their White Plains home to plan for the future of the group and even to expand its vision.

The end was near for Cohen.

He became ill a year ago with sternum bone cancer. After treatments failed to work, he chose to finish his days at home while caring for Interns for Peace as best he could.

A memorial service for him will be held at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains on Nov. 7.

ADL opposition to ‘Ground Zero mosque’ leads to a debate in itself

The Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” is getting a lot of attention, for good reason.

Abe Foxman and his ADL are famous for fighting to protect the rights of religious minorities (namely, Jews). Its motto: “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people…to secure justice and fair treatment for all.”

So many will say, no doubt, that its position on the mosque goes against the group’s historical mission.

If you read the ADL’s statement, they’re basically saying that Muslims have every right to build a mosque in NYC, but to do so near Ground Zero is just too much for the survivors of 9/11.

The final paragraph sums things up:


Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam.  The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong.  But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.  In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.


But the ADL also raises more serious questions about the Cordoba Initiative, which is seeking to build the Islamic center:


In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.


Gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, who is building his candidacy around opposition to the Islamic center, is hailing the ADL’s stance:


The Anti-Defamation League deserves praise for their courage in taking the responsible and correct position of supporting my call for more transparency in the financing of this 100 million dollar Mosque at Ground Zero. Andrew Cuomo could end the public’s concern on the Cordoba Initiative by simply doing his job and shed the necessary light on this project. Andrew Cuomo must show the same political courage demonstrated by the Anti-Defamation League.


Commentator Jeffrey Goldberg says the ADL made a “terrible decision.”

He writes on the Atlantic’s blog: “The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.”

Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the NYC-based National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, told the NYT: “The ADL should be ashamed of itself. Here, we ask the moderate leaders of the Muslim community to step forward, and when one of them does, he is treated with suspicion.”