It is easy to be cynical about celebrity marriages. And it is easy to fret about the obstacles faced by interfaith and interracial marriages. But I can’t help feeling thrilled by the birth this week of Walker Nathaniel Diggs.
Walker is the son of Broadway luminaries Idina Menzel (a nice Jewish girl from Long Island) and Taye Diggs (her African-American costar from the original Rent cast). The two started dating in the 1990’s, they married in 2003, they have endured racist harassment, and they waited until they were both 38 to have this baby. So in celebrity terms, they have already shown powerful longevity in their relationship, which bodes well for baby Walker.
For many interracial/interfaith couples, the faith issues take a back seat to more obvious race issues. But it is clear the couple have also thought about their interfaith status. They named their terrier after Sammy Davis Jr., the African-American entertainer who converted to Judaism.
Menzel is a role model to generations of girls for originating the feisty roles of Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in the girl-power musical Wicked. Last year, a reporter from the Jewish Chronicle asked Menzel whether they would raise their (theoretical) children as Jews. Menzel replied, “…I feel strong connections to my culture and, so yes, I would like to bring them up with knowledge of the stories and awareness of the history. I’m just not sure about the rest. I’m a spiritual person, not a religious person.”
Those are the exact words uttered by many of the parents who found their way to independent interfaith communities . I am sure Menzel will feel pressure from Jewish institutions to raise her son exclusively as a Jew. And she’s got the whole “matrilineality” thing working for her. On the other hand, in a Jewish context Walker Diggs, with his Christian last name and brown skin, will always be obvious as an interfaith child. Christians will make the assumption that he is Christian. So he will grow up with an interfaith identity on some level, even if he is raised exclusively as a Jew. In an interfaith community, he would grow up with “knowledge of the stories and awareness of the history” from both sides of his family.
Susan Katz Miller’s book, Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family is available now in hardcover, paperback and eBook from Beacon Press.
4 Replies to “Welcome Walker Diggs, Interfaith Child”
I love them both and I agree-Menzel is a great role model for young women as Diggs is for young men. As far as their faiths I don’t see why you have to raise a child as either or. I think a well rounded child is one that is introduced to a variety of religions. Not just for personal growth, but so they can have a better understanding about other people’s beliefs. Most people have no problem knocking another religion, but rarely do others try to connect the similarities instead of the differences. Great post.
Idina Menzel is my idol, when I found out that her and Taye were going to be parents I was overjoyed. No matter how they choose to raise little Walker, I’m sure that he will be a beautifully talented child.
I’m simply happy for Taye and Idina-
I’ve loved them since RENT’s opening in 1996.
Walker is the sweetest baby I have ever seen.
Bless his little heart.
His name is a strong name.I love it. WALKER NATHANIEL DIGGS.
May Taye-Idina-and Walker have MANY years of SEASONS OF LOVE.
Especially with their first Holiday Season together coming up.