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Marc Mezvinsky's Main Line 'grooming'

July 29, 2010 By:
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ormer President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky last September in New York Reuters Photo/Chip East

 July 31 will mark perhaps the highest-profile interfaith marriage in the country, as former first-daughter Chelsea Clinton ties the knot with Philadelphia native Marc Mezvinsky.

The couple has not revealed how they will incorporate religion into their wedding or lives, leaving the blogosphere rife with speculation. Will they have a chupah? Will Clinton, who was baptized as a United Methodist in Little Rock, Ark., convert? And what about their future children?

For Mezvinsky, at least, giving up Judaism doesn't appear to be under consideration. The 32-year-old banker attended the Conservative Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley as a child, and was seen last fall with Clinton at High Holiday services at the Jewish Theological Seminary on New York's Upper West Side.

The Conservative movement, however, discourages intermarriage and forbids rabbis to officiate at them unless the non-Jewish spouse converts.

Although the two come from different religious backgrounds, their lives share striking similarities.

Both are children of politicians. Clinton has the more famous pair -- with former President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mezvinsky's parents served stints as representatives in Congress.

And both know what it feels like to have their fathers the focal point of a public scandal: Ed Mezvinsky for swindling $10 million, and Bill Clinton for lying about having sexual relations with a White House intern.

Part of a Blended Family
Though Mezvinsky doesn't have as much name recognition as his fiancée, his family has had its share of limelight, too -- some of it unwanted.

Mezvinsky, who could not be reached for comment, grew up among 11 children, stepchildren and adopted children in a large home on the Main Line.

His mother, Marjorie Margolies, started her career as a television journalist for a Philadelphia NBC affiliate after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Moved by a story she covered, she adopted two foreign children as a single woman in the 1970s.

While covering another story on adopted children, Margolies met then-Iowa Congressman Edward Mezvinsky, a divorced father of four daughters.

The couple married in 1975. Together, they had two sons -- Marc and Andrew -- and adopted three more children from Vietnam.

Though the family no longer belongs to Har Zion, they were active members when Marc was growing up.

"He and his family took their Jewish education very seriously," said Steven Goldberg, who was Marc's teacher in seventh grade, and now serves as co-principal of the synagogue's Hebrew high school.

Parent-teacher conferences, for example, were often sparsely attended, recalled Goldberg, but "every year, you knew that usually his dad was going to be there to talk about his kid's progress. They were always taking an interest, asking questions."

Likewise, Marc Mezvinsky "came religiously to religious school," and made sure to look out for his siblings, said Sara Cohen, the synagogue's former education director.

"He really stood out," she said.

In class, Mezvinsky had a great sense of humor, recalled Goldberg, but was also respectful and knew when it was time to take his studies seriously.

"I think he really enjoyed being Jewish," said Goldberg.

For Ed Mezvinsky, his Jewish identity was a point of pride, according to news reports. During his two terms in congress, Mezvinsky supported legislation related to Israel in spite of the views of his brother, Norton, a professor emeritus of history at Central Connecticut State University who questions whether Jews have a right to a Jewish homeland.

Ed Mezvinsky's political career ended when he lost re-election in 1976, just before Marc was born. He later campaigned unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, for attorney general and for lieutenant governor.

In 1992, Margolies-Mezvinsky narrowly became the first woman from Pennsylvania to be elected to the U.S. Congress and the first Democrat in the state's 13th District since 1916.

But her political career was short-lived. She lost her bid for re-election after casting the deciding vote in 1993 for President Clinton's budget, which included tax increases for the wealthy. The move angered her fiscally conservative constituents.

It was around this time that Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton, then teenagers, first met. The two became close friends. When Clinton was choosing colleges in 1997, Mezvinsky gave her a tour of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where he was studying finance.

Margolies publicly dismissed rumors that Clinton's decision to attend Stanford had anything to do with a budding romance. But Ed Mezvinsky apparently bragged about the family's association with the Clintons to potential investors. According to a 2007 article in The New York Times, he even used his son's bank account to hide money transfers, though Marc Mezvinsky was apparently unaware of any fraud.

The extent of Mezvinsky's financial schemes surfaced in 2002, when he pleaded guilty to swindling $10 million from associates, friends and even family members. He was released from a halfway house in April 2008 after serving five years in prison, but remains on federal probation and still owes roughly $9.4 million in restitution, according to recent news reports.

The couple divorced in 2007.

Margolies went on to teach courses on politics and the media at the University of Pennsylvania, and presides over the nonprofit Women's Campaign International, a nonpartisan organization she founded to encourage women globally to participate in public advocacy and political processes. She declined to be interviewed for this article.

In Town Together
The family's financial woes didn't keep Marc Mezvinsky from building a successful career on Wall Street.

He worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs before taking a position for the hedge fund G3 Capital. Property records show that he purchased a $4 million condominium in the Flatiron district in February 2008.

He began openly dating Clinton a few years ago, when she moved to New York after completing a master's degree in international relations at the University of Oxford. Clinton also worked at a hedge fund before returning to school for a master's degree from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The couple announced their engagement last November in a mass e-mail. An elite crowd of several hundred guests is expected to attend the celebration in the upstate New York village of Rhinebeck.

Local attorney Marcel Groen, a friend of Marjorie Margolies who is active in Democratic politics, said that he hadn't interacted much with Marc lately, but saw Chelsea Clinton when she attended services at his synagogue, Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, the weekend before Passover in 2008.

He said that Clinton told him she was in the area to campaign for her mother, who was then running for president, and that she planned to attend two seders with Marc.

Attested Groen: "She's always been comfortable in Jewish arenas." 

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