As many Americans may know, President-elect Joe Biden is a deeply spiritual man, a practicing Catholic whose faith has gotten him through times in his life of devastating tragedy and loss. But did you know that the Biden family tree includes several interfaith branches? They’re the result of his three children marrying Jewish spouses.
Joe Biden had three children with his first wife Neilia: Beau, Hunter and Naomi. Neilia and Naomi were killed in a car accident in December 1972 that badly injured his sons, but both survived. Three years later, Biden met educator Jill Jacobs on a blind date and they married in a Catholic ceremony in June 1977. Their daughter, Ashley, was born four years later.
Beau Biden was married to Hallie Olivere, the Jewish daughter of Joe Biden’s childhood friend—and classroom crush. “I was the Catholic kid. She was the Jewish girl. I still tried. I didn’t get anywhere,” Biden once joked. Hallie and Beau married in 2002 and had two children, Natalie and Robert, before Beau’s tragic death from brain cancer in 2015. Hallie subsequently dated Beau’s brother Hunter, who was separated from his wife Kathleen at the time.
In May 2019, Hunter married Melissa Cohen, a documentary filmmaker and environmental activist who was born in South Africa to Conservative Jewish parents. It was a whirlwind romance. They got engaged the first week they met, and Hunter got a tattoo of the word shalom to match his bride’s. On March 28, 2020, Melissa gave birth to a son, whose name has not been officially released but is thought to be Beau, after Hunter’s brother.
The President-elect is also grandfather to Hunter’s three girls from his first marriage: Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy, and a daughter from Hunter’s brief relationship with Lunden Roberts, who gave birth in 2018.
Social worker and fashion designer Ashley Biden and Dr. Howard Krein, a Philadelphia-based surgeon and professor, were introduced by Beau Biden in 2010. They married in an interfaith ceremony in 2012 at the Delaware church where Ashley was baptized. It was co-officiated by a Roman Catholic priest and the Reform rabbi, Joseph M. Forman.
“A ketubah (traditional Jewish marriage contract) was signed. The couple got married under a beautiful chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy), made of natural branches with a cloth covering,” Forman, the rabbi at Or Chadash, a congregation in in Flemington, New Jersey, told The Forward. “The wedding ceremony started with the traditional baruch haba (welcoming) and included the priestly blessing and the sheva brachot (seven blessings). The groom stepped on a glass at the end.”
Joe Biden danced the hora at the reception. “I’m the only Irish Catholic you know who had his dream met because his daughter married a Jewish surgeon,” he said at a political event in Ohio in 2016.
Photo: Gage Skidmore