Sunday, July 22, 2007

Orthodox Paradox: Noah Feldman on Modern Orthodoxy

Everyone I know is talking about this article in the New York Times Magazine.

I am not the person to write a rebuttal to this piece, but I would like to point out the author's subtle manipulation of his readers. I suggest you read the article first to understand what I am referring to:

I didn’t want to seem paranoid, especially in front of my girlfriend, to whom I was by that time engaged. So I called my oldest school friend, who appeared in the photo, and asked for her explanation. “You’re kidding, right?” she said. My fiancée was Korean-American. Her presence implied the prospect of something that from the standpoint of Orthodox Jewish law could not be recognized: marriage to someone who was not Jewish. That hint was reason enough to keep us out.

This paragraph is very unclear. Look how he's phrased it. This woman's presence "implied the prospect" of marriage to someone who was not Jewish. That hint was reason enough to keep us out.

Do you notice that he has not stated whether this was actually the case, i.e. that the woman actually is non-Jewish? He has instead insinuated that Orthodox Judaism is racist. Korean-American people cannot possibly be Jewish. Therefore whoever chose to edit this magazine and/or this photograph cropped her out of the picture.

As a result, I have not felt myself to have rejected my upbringing, even when some others imagine me to have done so by virtue of my marriage.

Here is the first place where he does in fact demonstrate that he did intermarry, "by virtue of my marriage." Secondly, note his defense. The school is supposed to accept him and include him in their publications due to the fact that he has "not felt himself" reject his upbringing. Why is this their job, to take into account his standard and feelings with relation to religion? The school has a standard; they advertise those students that fulfill that standard. Do I necessarily agree with this approach? Perhaps not. But since when can I decide that I do "not feel myself" to have rejected the religion, therefore it's not fair when I'm not included?

Lieberman’s overt normalcy really is remarkable.

You can read the rest of that paragraph; the insinuation is that none of that (wearing tzitzis, tefillin and keeping kosher) is normal. In whose opinion? The author's, of course.

Morning prayers are accompanied by the daily donning of phylacteries, which, though painless, resemble in their leather-strappy way the cinched cilice worn by the initiates of Opus Dei and so lasciviously depicted in “The Da Vinci Code.”

Explain to me why the comparison between phylacteries and the cinched cilice is necessary. Although Feldman covers himself and writes that tefillin are "painless," he knows that the immediate image that will occur to everyone as soon as he mentions the words cilice and Da Vinci Code in conjunction is the mad albino monk, his thigh dripping with blood. Is this really the image he wants to associate with Modern Orthodoxy? Apparently yes! Feldman is deliberately weaving these evocative images into his piece; he wants us to identify Modern Orthodoxy with extremism in all its ugly forms.

The category of the unkosher comes unconsciously to apply not only to foods that fall outside the rules but also to the people who eat that food — which is to say, almost everyone in the world, whether Jewish or not. You cannot easily break bread with them, but that is not all. You cannot, in a deeper sense, participate with them in the common human activity of restoring the body through food.

"But also to the people who eat that food"- The category of unkosher comes to apply to non-Jews as well? Delightful insinuation. Well, my dear friend, what can I say. You're unkosher. I am unable to participate in the "common human activity" (note how he used the word "human" here for effect) of eating with you. By not eating with non-Jews at an unkosher restaurant, I am forgoing some aspect of common humanity. I am intolerant. How lovely!

Among other things, this meant that when I encountered the writings of the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I felt immediate kinship. They read those same exact texts again and again — often in Hebrew — searching for clues about their own errand into the American wilderness.

This is subtle, but he felt immediate kinship with the Puritans? The majority of us have learned that section in history. Hardly any of us feel immediate kinship with these oppressive people who forbade dancing, singing and other forms of entertainment, who imposed harsh punishments for the smallest crimes and who strictly believed in work and an authoritarian, tyrannical God. By suggesting that he feels kinship with these people, despite the fact that he ostensibly limits it to the fact that they "read the same exact texts again and again" he implies that our faith structures are similar.

Because honestly, if the only similarity is that they "read the same exact texts again and again," why not feel kinship to Christians? Protestants? Any other relatively normal accepted group? No, but Puritans was used here purposely...

Even among the rabbis there was a smattering of Ph.D.’s and near-doctorates to give us a taste of a critical-academic approach to knowledge, not just a religious one

Insinuation here is that the majority of rabbis don't have Ph.D's and near-doctorates (note the phrasing: even among the rabbis...a smattering) which suggests that they don't value higher education as much as they should/ they are uneducated. (Whether or not that is true is moot; I simply want to note the implication.)

And the teachers of the secular subjects were fantastic. One of the best taught me eighth-grade English when he was barely out of college himself, before he became a poet, a professor and an important queer theorist. Given Orthodoxy’s condemnation of homosexuality, he must have made it onto the faculty through the sheer cluelessness of the administration. Lord only knows what teachers like him, visitors from the real world, made of our quirky ways.

The implication is that they would not have hired this teacher had they known he was homosexual (I believe that is illegal, so he is stating that Jewish administrators would illegally discriminate based on sexual orientation, something which is patently false. In addition to being an extremely serious charge.) When he references"visitors from the real world," there is the obvious implication that the religious world and/or Orthodox Jewish world does not constitute the real world. Then we have the mention of our "quirky ways." He's now characterized us; we are all officially strange.

One time at Maimonides a local physician — a well-known figure in the community who later died tragically young — addressed a school assembly on the topic of the challenges that a modern Orthodox professional may face. The doctor addressed the Talmudic dictum that the saving of a life trumps the Sabbath. He explained that in its purest form, this principle applies only to the life of a Jew.

I am not the person to rebut this argument, because I don't know the halakha well enough. However, note that the man begins by stating "one time at Maimonides a local physician" came to speak to us and ends up asserting that this is the absolute law. On whose word? On the word of one person who once came to speak to you? And who says their understanding of the law is correct? Have you checked into this? Oughtn't you to do that before asserting that Jews are all horrible people who can't save other non-Jews without having certain reasons in mind?

The entire section about shomer negiah, sex and the rest of it is told over from a mocking viewpoint. The same exact story could have been told factually (without the snipes and slurs) and would not have the same effect. The facts tell one story; the words chosen tell another. Simply keep that in mind.

My Talmud teacher — the one who took the physician to task — handed me four tightly packed columns of closely reasoned rabbinic Hebrew, a responsum by the pre-eminent Orthodox decisor, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, “in the matter of a young man whose heart lures him to enter into bonds of affection with a young woman not for purposes of marriage.

Something like that seems utterly absurd when not presented properly; everyone will immediately wonder why a teenager is being given reams of "closely reasoned rabbinic Hebrew" to tell him not to have premarital sex. You can all appreciate how absurd it seems, due to its presentation. The relationship between Jews and texts within the school is not explained to begin with, so everything else becomes confused.

Perhaps I feel sympathy because I can recall the agonies suffered by my head of school when he stopped by our biology class to discuss the problem of creation

Agonies is extreme given what the principal actually said, namely, "despite what I have just told you, I still have a hard time believing that man could be descended from monkeys.” Assuming you don't like this, fine, so the principal prefers to believe in a fairy tale over scientific fact. But that is preference, not sign of an incapability to resolve the two if he so choose. More importantly, agonies? Where?

Gay Orthodox Jews find themselves marginalized not only because of their forbidden sexual orientation but also because within the tradition they cannot marry the partners whom they might otherwise choose.

Note the firm statement, not an opinion but a fact: Gay Orthodox Jews find themselves marginalized...so now Orthodox Judaism is not only racist, but also intolerant toward the LGBT community. Great.

In a few cases, modern Orthodoxy’s line-drawing has been implicated in some truly horrifying events.

Unforgivable sentence in terms of what he says next. He talks about Yigal Amir and Baruch Goldstein and insinuates that their thinking and reasoning was perfectly logical according to the tenets of Modern Orthodoxy. So we are all would-be murderers? Excellent. As should be obvious to any fool, the problem with Yigal Amir's and Baruch Goldstein's action has nothing to do with "modern-Orthodoxy's line drawing" but with the warped thinking of particular individuals operating alone.

Like a Puritan seeking the contemporary type of the biblical archetype, he applied Deuteronomy and Samuel to the world before him. Commanded to settle the land, he settled it.

And we've come back to Puritans. Feldman has a bit of a fascination with Puritans, doesn't he? Apparently he identified with them; now it seems that Baruch Goldstein must have identified with them, too. Projection, anyone?

It would be a mistake to blame messianic modern Orthodoxy for ultranationalist terror. But when the evil comes from within your own midst, the soul searching needs to be especially intense.

This is so lovely. After doing just that (blaming supposedly "messianic modern Orthodoxy" for ultranationalist terror) he covers himself by suggesting that's not what he's doing. He then uses value-laden terms to complete his sentences. When the evil comes from your own midst, then we have to engage in soul-searching. Ah ha. Because we are all responsible for the actions of a Baruch Goldstein; our religion apparently respects, honors and applauds his actions. That's how we train up our children, yessir. Go out and kill today; "messianic modern Orthodoxy" mandates that you do so!

Anyone involved in this religion reading this article (and reading it carefully, unlike I did the first time, when I merely skimmed it) should step back, blink, and think "What the?"

When you look back on this piece, you will note that it is only a collection of unsupported personal experiences at a particular high school which the author has taken to be universal and characteristic of an entire affiliation, Modern Orthodoxy. He subsequently engages in grand posturing and oscillates between trying to "defend" the poor, uneducated but well-meaning followers of this sect and trying to condemn them. Having awarded himself victim status, he is the sad onlooker trying to understand the cruelty behind these good people's actions. He uses language to accomplish his ends, trying to win the reader's sympathy by introducing words that connote extremes, words like "agonies" or "Puritan." Is this an honest article? Not at all. This is an extremely dishonest piece. If he limited his accusations to those in his own particular high school, that would be one thing. It is his assumption that everything he dislikes must of necessity be utterly absurd, false and untrue, and furthermore, representative of Modern Orthodoxy (a term he uses but does not mean, incidentally, as it is obvious the entire article refers to Orthodoxy on a whole, hence the title, "Orthodox Paradox," though the uninformed reader will almost certainly read it as Judaism on a whole) that is completely unforgivable.

If this seems incredibly hypocritical to you in light of my recent Templars post, I will remind you that I had far more to deal with than merely being cut out of a magazine photograph, and more importantly, I objected to the specific methods of emotional abuse utilized at my high school much more than the ideology on a whole (which I have subsequently learned I cannot blame.) I appreciate how difficult it must be for Noah Feldman to separate the actions of those at his particular school from Modern Orthodox ideology on a whole, but it is hardly fair to suggest that everyone would react in the same way and every school would choose to cut him out of the magazine. Other assertions he makes without support, and worse, the insinuations that the casual reader will not catch, are simply unprofessional. Within the one article, he has insinuated that Modern Orthodoxy is outdated, outmoded, racist, intolerant, unappreciative of science and greedy (quick to latch on to the achievements of others and claim them for their own, per his last section, "Lives of Contradiction.") It's amazing that the New York Times published this piece of uninformed crap. Since when is the NYT a venue for airing the grievances of those with personal agendas?

89 comments:

Eitan Kastner said...

Chana,
While I was similarly not blown away by this piece, it has not riled me up as it did you.
I saw it as an expose on the difficulties of religious centrism. (that is the Orthodox Paradox).
The best way he showed this was through the example that so perturbed you when he brought up the two embarrassments to the tribe, Goldstein (a YU alum) and Amir.
You can find quite a few supporters of Baruch Goldstein even in YU. Yigal Amir might be more of a stretch in the States, but he certainly has his admirers in Israel. While not representative of Modern-orthodoxy as a whole, they certainly represent where it can be taken in extreme cases. They considered themselves dati liumi (while I adamantly disagree that Religious Zionism is equivalent to American Modern Orthodoxy, many others do think so). Many “Moderns” are sympathetic to these animals because of their understanding of Modern Orthodoxy. So this again shows the contrast…on the one side you have the nutbags on the religious side…that's one place the modern orthodoxy can lead….and then on the other side you have people like the author who still feel some kind of connection to religion, but they have been swayed by secular culture. This just shows the precarious nature of a centrist religion (or any centrism for that matter). So while many of your complaints are legitimate, I disagree with the crux of your argument.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Ick. What a bitter bastard. Although many people make the mistake of equating DIasporan Modern Orthodoxy with the Israeli Dati Le’umi community.

Anonymous said...

Wow, way to defensively overanalyze something to death. The way you pick apart every word he wrote shows your own bias clearly. Heaven forbid someone admit that modern orthodoxy can be oppressive and problematic in some peoples' lives. Oh no, they must be lying or have some anti-Jewish agenda.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong about discriminating against gay people. Only 33 states make it illegal, and even then I'm not sure that it applies to religious institutions. It is well known that many Jewish institutions do actively discriminate against openly gay people and/or discourage their participation. This is done even when it's illegal, by religious organizations Jewish, Christian and otherwise. It is simple to discriminate: You simply come up with an excuse to fire someone or not hire them that doesn't have to do with their sexual orientation. Then they can never prove a case against you. This is how countless gay people lose or are prevented from getting jobs each year without it being obviously "illegal."

I really like your blog and you have some interesting points in this critique but you discredit yourself by making clueless statements like this that show your naivete about how the world works. You say the author should have used more facts and less slurs, but then you make countless statements that could be considered slurs and are factually questionable.

I find it especially interesting that you are so angry and defensive about racism and homophobia in the Orthodox community being pointed out. How many Orthodox black people or gay people are you friends with? Because I can tell you right now the ones I know have given me more than enough information to reach the conclusion that Modern Orthodoxy is far from inclusive.

Personally, I welcome critique from people who came out of the Jewish communities I am part of. I think that is part of how we learn where our shortfallings are, and what we do and don't want to change. It is part of how we look at ourselves in a realistic and reflective way minus the starry-eyed idealism. There were things that annoyed me about the NY Times article, sure, but at some point you have to learn not to get your hackles up every time someone questions things about Jewish institutions and communities and mores. Questioning and critiquing is, for better or worse, part of our Jewish heritage.

Ezzie said...

I think my comment is probably going to combine aspects of all of the above, even while disagreeing with a lot.

I definitely didn't find the article as offensive as you had, but on the other hand, I didn't grow up MO.

I thought it was an interesting, clearly biased perspective of someone who can't understand that his overly intellectual, liberal understanding which has been ingrained from places such as Harvard is diametrically opposed to the reality. (pause for indignant response) He thinks that however he feels is enough - that his actual actions aren't what's important, but how he grew up, what he likes to believe.

The last two paragraphs of the piece are really what shows his thoughts, and where he's so clearly mixed up.

His belief: It is more than a little strange, feeling fully engaged with a way of seeing the world but also, at the same time, feeling so far from it. I was discussing it just the other day with my best friend — who, naturally, went to Maimonides, too. The topic was whether we would be the same people, in essence, had we remained completely within the bosom of modern Orthodoxy.

for some reason I resisted the conclusion. Couldn’t the contradictory world from which we sprang be just as rich and productive as the contradictory life we actually live? Would it really, truly, have made all that much difference? Isn’t everyone’s life a mass of contradictions?


His friend, who laughed at his approach: He didn’t think so. Our life choices are constitutive of who we are, and so different life choices would have made us into different people — not unrecognizably different, but palpably, measurably so.

The friend is right. It's really the same difference you see all the time in so many aspects of life - similar to your post about House and Intentions vs. Results. It's the results, ultimately, which define us.

Chana said...

Anonymous 11:49,

When it comes to discriminating by gay people, I personally take it very seriously and find it incredibly reprehensible, as I expressed here. I am not angry and defensive about it being pointed out; I am upset that it was assumed that the administration would not have hired the man had they known, that it is assumed that they are that judgemental and cruel.

I know about four or five Orthodox members of the LGBT community and it is true that their experiences have not been pleasant, but to cast aspersions on the school and assume that they would certainly not have hired the man had they known of his sexual orienation is wrong. Why judge them this way? Perhaps they are amongst those of us who believe in the inclusion of all people and who are willing to leave judgement for such matters up to God. Is it incredibly naive of me to hope this is the case? Perhaps. I just do not think it is fair to assume the worst.

What bothered me more was that it was not made clear in the article whether the gay teacher in question was even Jewish, in which case it really comes across as discriminatory, that is, that Orthodox people wouldn't even hire gentile homosexual teachers, let alone Jewish ones. (And I know, you can get into the seven Noachide laws, even so...)

Ezzie said...

I think that you did a good job of fisking a lot of the piece, even if I don't agree with some of them. But all of those come down to his view, which is all set from that last set of paragraphs - and he simply doesn't get it.

FWIW, I'd guess that a private school can hire/fire for sexual orientation (or at least have a don't ask/don't tell policy) seeing as how it's in direct contradiction to their school's beliefs. No that they necessarily would (bad PR, etc.) but they could.

Miri said...

I didn't read the article in full; I'd just like to say that Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir shouldn't necessarily be lumped into the same category for several reasons.
1) Baruch Goldstein, after being made aware of a situation which, when he went to the authorities, they refused to control, acted out of a belief that he was saving lives. This belief was corroborated by a number of things, including the massive arsenal of weapons found in the Arab section of Mearat Hamachpaila, warnings by the government to clear hospital beds over the next few days (because, the implication was., they would be needed for massive casualties,) and also the fact that assumptions about the supposed impending attack were never, not once, refuted by anyone at all.
2) Baruch Goldstein was brutally murdered by the people he was trying to keep from his community, but he did prevent a pogrom on a potentially massive scale.
3)Many people, mostly the people who lived in Israel a the time and so actually knew what was going on, as opposed to people in America who only heard the distorted version of the international media, not only supported Goldstein's actions but actually consider him a hero.Because, you know, of the whole saving lives thing.

Yigal Amir acted on his own, with on nobody's consultation or advice, and was roundly condemned by just about everyone. Also, and this may not be true but I was under the impression that he had some sort of psychological disorder. I don't know that for sure though.

Sorry, it's just it really bothers me when people put these two guys in the same boat.

One more thing; two people out of how many millions of us? perpetrated acts of violence, vs. the how many suicide bombers that have attacked Israelis? In the last ten years alone let's say. I haven't run the numbers, but I can tell you; more than two.

Mordy said...

Whether or not the author of this piece had a ridiculously unfair bias (and honestly, when I first read the piece, I found it very judiciously written. It doesn't sound bitter at all.), the question is whether he has valid points. Does Modern Orthodoxy condemn intermarriage? Yes. Does Modern Orthodoxy makes assumptions about people's lifestyles? (After all, they assumed his Korean-American wife wasn't Jewish. As it turns out, maybe she wasn't. But from his retelling, how did they know?) Well, I know a number of converts, and they haven't all had happy-happy experiences in Orthodoxy.

Does M.O. make divisions between Jews and Gentiles? Yes. Does M.O. put Jews on an exalted level? Yes. Does M.O. condemn homosexuality? Yes. (Chana, some personal trivia. Ask some people for the history of YSU president as it relates to homosexuality.)

Your points about his biases might be correct (or overreaching, I don't feel like sitting down and analyzing Noah Feldman) but your obsession with disproving them is odd. You KNOW that Modern Orthodoxy has all these problems. Are you just upset that he aired them?

Anonymous said...

There may be some problems with the piece, but i dont understand why youre being so defensive about it. By in large all his points are correct, and the modern orthodox are just about as backwards as the ultra orthodox.

You chose to attend an orthodox college so youre to some extent shielded from the reality of how orthodox practices are perceived by the general population. You may feel that your religious practices can somehow be distinguished from those of other religious extremists, and perhaps they can. But to an objective bystander, its all just crazy religious zealotry.

Leather straps and the prohibition of pork may be normal at YU, but to the rest of the world its pretty fucking crazy. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if youre afraid god will punish you for eating a cheeseburger, youre a card carrying religious fanatic.

Ezzie said...

But to an objective bystander, its all just crazy religious zealotry.

LOL. Because anti-religious bias is objective.

Anonymous said...

"LOL. Because anti-religious bias is objective."

an anti religious bias is not required in order think that a prohibition on cheeseburgers is crazy. sorry.

Chana said...

Mordy,

"Whether or not the author of this piece had a ridiculously unfair bias (and honestly, when I first read the piece, I found it very judiciously written. It doesn't sound bitter at all.), the question is whether he has valid points."

This is precisely the distinction I am trying to make! Perhaps some of his points are valid. His mode and method of presentation and delivery is not; it is dishonest. He suggests his points as though they are factual when in truth they are merely his personal experiences, now grossly overdrawn to represent the entire sect. How is that honest? How is that fair? How is such reporting professional? It is that deliberate confusion and conflation of fact and opinion/ personal experience that is bothering me.

"but your obsession with disproving them is odd"

Mordy, please read what I said. I am not trying to disprove all his points; I am not claiming that everything he said is wrong. I am trying to show you how he peppers his article with insinuations and implications that are sneaky and subtle and lead one to sympathize with him, the "victim" rather than consider the validity of his argument on the strength of the facts.

Anonymous 1:31,

My belief that I cannot eat milk and meat together harms no one. You think I'm a card-carrying crazy religious fanatic? Fine. I can live with that. Insinuating, however, that Modern-Orthodox line drawing leads to acts of terror is completely beyond the pale. As are the other suggestions of racism and intolerance, both of these exercises in mere speculation, none of these supported and corroborated facts.

the only way i know said...

just to say - I read the piece via a pointer on Ezzie's post.
Skimmed through quickly, and was left with a yukky taste in my mouth. I felt the guy was really smug.
I was glad when you took it apart and spoke your mind. So there!

Anonymous said...

The New York Times has an ultra Left wing (in line with Europe's)agenda to distroy and discredit the the so called (Christian)religious right and the perceived backers of Republican party, they view Orthodox Judaism as being an extension of that. Whether in fact this is true or not is irrelevant. The same newspaper that wants to destroy and discredit Israel, moral Christianity, and also Orthodox Judaism is the same paper that will go out of it's way to defend the Islamic religion in the hopes that this will appease them. I am very familiar with the NYT's bias and tactics.

Where I differ:
What is described about orthodox Jews is accurate in that this is exactly how Orthodox is viewed by outsiders and from my own experience, Orthodox Jews are truely less than welcoming to those they views as not so Frum. In my many conversations with Orthodox Jews, many of the points in the article have been validated.

Orthodox Jews are not racist but the creed is tribalist and therefore racist. Throw in a the words that it is commanded by God. How should an outsider react to this?

A Haredi friend from Israel told me this about loving goyim which offended me:
"The Torah explicitly says we must respect the goyim but..."
We disputed this at length and because she could not concede that love was important, and I failed to convince her that to love the goyim was important because all her elitist Ravs say otherwise. Finally she said,
"Sure, I agree but we are not meant to love the goyim. Only to respect them."

Only to find for myself a year and half later that the Torah explicitly states:
"Love the stranger for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt".

Back to the discussion:
Judaism (or how it is currently practiced) holds the tribe together by pitting it against all outsiders.

The observations about Orthodoxy are vey value but the presentation of it is absolutely EVIL.

Where I agree with you and take heated issue with the NYT and the secular-atheist's point of view is about religious people being cave dwellers and less/uneducated. All it proves to me is that as education increases, the power to commit evil increases. In every such condemnation I see a superstition, an arrogance that lacks the power of highest intelligence of all: LOVE

But I hold great respect for the virtues of your mind.

Diet Dr. Pepper said...

Chana,
About the Hilchos Shabbos question. I learned the exact same thing concerning pikuach nefesh in R' Willig's Hilchos Shabbos class that Feldman learned at Maimonides. I tried (unsuccessfully) to find a source for that exact ruling, but here are some other sources on the topic that give a general picture of the Halachic approach to this topic: sefer Hilchos Shabbos K'Hilchasa perek 40, (halacha?) 14; Mishna Berura Hilchos Shabbos Siman 329, si'if 3.

Diet Dr. Pepper said...

An important piece to this issue is emotion. Being photoshopped (or the like) out of a picture is an emotionally hurtful experience. Although Feldman is an intellectual, his analysis is clouded by his emotions, I think. For that very reason perhaps, you find it so easy to tear apart his intellectual attack. As long as emotional damage remains, intellectual discussions are only half of the story.
As an aside, Feldman never really describes the intellectual reasons that motivated him to abandon modern Orthodoxy (intermarriage would constitute abandonment of modern Orthodoxy, some would say). Perhaps that decision was emotionally motivated in part, as well.

Jewish Atheist said...

Chana,

I agree with you about the general tone of the piece. Someone emailed it to me and I declined to write about it because it was so uneven. That said, the general criticisms appear to me (who also grew up MO) absolutely true:

1) The way the MO community manages to wipe away the memories of those who have left (in the author's case, literally, in general metaphorically.) Questions about people like me are answered vaguely, ambiguously, striving to leave open an interpretation that I'm still religious. When I lived with a gf, that subject was studiously avoided even when people inquired to my parents where I was living and with whom. The few people I grew up with who turned out to be gay are almost never, to my knowledge, so much as mentioned in public, while other adult children return home frequently and are often discussed.

2) Non-jews and people who eat non-kosher ARE often seen as themselves (metaphorically) non-kosher. Didn't you post just the other day about the looks you got from Stern girls for daring to talk to an obviously non-Jewish guy?

3) Was the Puritans' nonacceptance of dancing and singing that different from OJ's nonacceptance of mixed dancing and singing by women? Or than much of OJ's nonacceptance of movies, theater, art, etc.? What of the notion of bittul zman?

4) You acknowledge that it may be true that rabbis don't value higher education -- what then is your objection to that point?

5) Maimonides might have and might not have hired an openly gay teacher. But isn't it fair to point out that a majority of Orthodox institutions might not have? Or at least, not if they could help it? Just because you are exceptionally tolerant doesn't mean that the institutions of OJ are.

6) The question of whether pikuach nefesh applies to a non-Jew is not limited to that "local doctor" and is a disgrace to Rabbinic Judaism. (It's also involved in the organ donation debate.)

7) You object that taking out of context the story of being giving religious texts against premarital sex makes it seem absurd, but I'd argue that only by looking at it from the outside can one see just how ridiculous some of that stuff is.

8) You seem shocked and offended by the implication that OJ is "intolerant" towards the LGBT community. Are you kidding?

9) Racism is indeed common even among the MO, in my personal experience. I heard ni**er jokes, disgusting slurs about Arabs, etc. None of these was spoken against by the authorities and indeed many of the ni**er jokes in particular CAME FROM a rabbi.

10) I was in Israel when Yigal Amir murdered Rabin. I had friends at his yeshiva (KBY.) More than a couple of Orthodox yeshiva students I knew openly celebrated Rabin's killing and even a couple rabbis (if I recall correctly -- this part may have been hearsay, but I'm pretty sure I heard it directly) put forward the rodef defense.

11) For sure, I heard many adult OJs defend Baruch Goldstein, as one of your commenters already has.

12) You imply that Maimonides is atypical for MO institutions, but it strikes me as quite mainstream, and probably on the more liberal/tolerant end of MO.

You, personally, have none of the failings he implies. That does not mean that Orthodoxy as a whole doesn't have a lot to answer for. I regret the tone and unevenness of the piece because it's a distraction from some of the very real issues he raises.

They cut him and his wife out of the class picture! It's right out of Orwell or Stalin's play-book.

Anonymous said...

The notion that orthodox or mordern orthodox jews are tolerant towards other races is also quite laughable. Other races are automatically assumed to be outsiders who are not welcome.

Have you ever been at a kosher restaurant and seen asians or blacks eating there? All the jews stare and gawk at them as if they are from a different planet. None of the jews eating there are assuming its a black jew.

I even know this asian guy who refuses to eat at kosher places anymore because of all the stares he gets.

another anonymous said...

I don't know, Chana. The article is obviously a first-person account and is not supposed to be straight reporting. Many of your criticisms seem not quite apt.

daat y said...

Your analysis is to the point and insightful.He is on a personal vendetta and since he is bright he tries to hide it with intellectual talk which you saw right thru it.

Anonymous said...

In response to several comments I have read:
I think ALL people who engage in sex outside of traditional marriage should be DISCRIMINATED against. Currently, there are no laws in any STATE that prevent GAYS, LESBIANS, PHILANDERERS, and FORNICATORS outside of traditional marriage from having SEX.

The so-called discrimination theories are nothing less legitimization of bad and irresponsible behavior that does much to enhance the degeneration and moral decay of our society.

The good people of the world who do things the right way are the people who are being discriminated against on a daily basis, receive no special attention and receive NO so special protection for their now minority lifestyle.

For the record, I am unaffiliated and NON-observant JEW who has NEVER had SEX and has always been SHOMER NEGIAH. I can't be observant because I can't worship with hypocrits who don't keep my values! I don't understand why GAYS get more love, respect, and attention than I do.

I don't really care what GAYS do in the privacy of their homes but I really tired of seeing it in public, the news media glorifying it, and Orthodox JEWS defending it to be politically correct.

Chana said...

Before I begin my response to you, Jewish Atheist, let me pose a question to you:

Were I to write an article in which I asserted that the Agudah/ Chareidi system is completely flawed, and offer as support my personal experience at my highschool, would I be taken seriously? No, I should think not. Because everyone knows you cannot extrapolate from your personal highschool experience and label an entire ideology flawed because of what happened to you. Now, if you do enough research and get enough reports from people at other highschools, then come up with a trend or some kind of statistics, perhaps you will be listened to; then you can demonstrate a correlation. But otherwise? Pshaw.

Now, suppose we add the title Harvard professor to my name and make me somehow important. Now is everyone going to listen to my article? I should hope not, because it is my hope that people pay attention to ideas over stature. And that people pay attention to facts over blanket assertions. But this does not appear to be the case.

Now, let us go through your points:

1) The way the MO community manages to wipe away the memories of those who have left (in the author's case, literally, in general metaphorically.)

Since I want to specifically deal with the contents of the article, let us focus on the article. Explain to me. If you were an administrator and you were going to put out a publication that would be sent to everyone in order to advertise your school and have alumni give money, would you prominently display the student who grew up to marry a non-Jew, something which is patently against the values and ideas that you ostensibly teach? No. I think not. As a human being, do I value this person? Of course! But think of the administrator. What does Noah Feldman reasonably expect? He broke the rules, as it were; he shall have to deal with the consequences. He doesn't like the consequences? He doesn't think they're fair? He feels himself to still be part of Judaism? Tough! According to the school's definition, he isn't.

Now, is this something I would do? Probably not. But can I understand it? Yes. I can.

2) Non-jews and people who eat non-kosher ARE often seen as themselves (metaphorically) non-kosher. Didn't you post just the other day about the looks you got from Stern girls for daring to talk to an obviously non-Jewish guy?

Uninformed people who have never interacted with gentiles (as was the case with those particular girls) hardly count in this scenario. This is Modern Orthodoxy we are talking about, people who work and interact with gentiles every day! You are telling me that when I go on a business lunch and can't eat at TGIF, this is because I am intolerant of others; I lack a sense of common humanity? Please! It's utter rubbish.

3) Was the Puritans' nonacceptance of dancing and singing that different from OJ's nonacceptance of mixed dancing and singing by women? Or than much of OJ's nonacceptance of movies, theater, art, etc.? What of the notion of bittul zman?

You know that there is a halakhic component to all of this which must be discussed and understood. It is not the complete lockdown on girls and women who dance or sing, throwing people in the stocks or finding them immediately guilty of Eve's "temptress'" nature or the like. Not at all. I am amazed you can even think there's a comparison to be made.

4) You acknowledge that it may be true that rabbis don't value higher education -- what then is your objection to that point?

The slur. The slur with absolutely no objective facts or evidence to back it up, no research, no data, no facts. The assumption.

5) Maimonides might have and might not have hired an openly gay teacher. But isn't it fair to point out that a majority of Orthodox institutions might not have? Or at least, not if they could help it?

To point out, yes. To suggest that Maimonides absolutely would not have, no! Not without first checking facts.

6) The question of whether pikuach nefesh applies to a non-Jew is not limited to that "local doctor" and is a disgrace to Rabbinic Judaism. (It's also involved in the organ donation debate.)

I can't answer this point because I don't know the halakhot involved. I'd have to learn them first.


7) You object that taking out of context the story of being giving religious texts against premarital sex makes it seem absurd, but I'd argue that only by looking at it from the outside can one see just how ridiculous some of that stuff is.

Each of us is entitled to our opinion on this one.

8) You seem shocked and offended by the implication that OJ is "intolerant" towards the LGBT community. Are you kidding?

No. And I hardly think that I am the only Modern Orthodox person who believes in treating people kindly and well, regardless of what sins they may or may not commit (so long as they are not offenses against other people.)

9) Racism is indeed common even among the MO, in my personal experience.

We again fall back on personal experience, but surely Modern Orthodoxy does not dictate or approve of racism? You yourself write that it happens even in Modern Orthodoxy.

10) "More than a couple" celebrated- does this put the whole movement at fault? Is all of Modern Orthodoxy to blame for some teenagers' glee? Does Modern Orthodox doctrine advocate murder, as is implied?

11) For sure, I heard many adult OJs defend Baruch Goldstein, as one of your commenters already has.

I don't know enough about the details on this one; I still think that Modern Orthodoxy is hardly the religion advocating for us to go out and shoot up people without cause.

12) You imply that Maimonides is atypical for MO institutions, but it strikes me as quite mainstream, and probably on the more liberal/tolerant end of MO.

And you are allowed to have that opinion; that this is how it strikes you. But it doesn't matter, because the fact remains this man went to Maimonides and only has experience with Maimonides. His drawing upon this experience to apply it to the sect of the religion and doctrine of Modern Orthodoxy on a whole is inappropriate!

Another question: Do you think such an article, if replaced and written about "Modern Orthodox Muslims" would be tolerated in our society? I think whoever who would write such an article would find himself under instant censure.

anonymous 5:47,

I don't know where you get your facts but it seems once again you are relying upon personal experience. In which case, I will tell you that I happen to know black Jews and everyone gets on just fine.

So you have one experience; I have another, huzzah, we've proved nothing.

Another Anonymous,

But don't we have standards? This wasn't an opinion-piece in the OpEd section; this was an entire article in the magazine. If one is going to make such assertions, oughtn't one to have proof, facts, data before stating that what one experienced/ learned at his high school applies to an entire sect of Judaism? Or do we believe that so long as this is a "first-person account" we can have whatever generalizations, insinuations or lies we please, and it's fine to print that?

anonymous mom said...

The New York Times is a biased paper with many examples of poor journalism that goes beyond "Jewish issues" and a proclivity to publish liberally-slanted "personal journey" pieces. After 10 years as a subscriber, I got fed up and switched to the Wall Street Journal. More objective, less propaganda, just plain interesting to read. 4 years later, best decision I made.

anonymous mom said...

Wait, here it is in subliminal form:
Boy, the Times is anti-Israel (Wall Street Journal). Boy, the Times is annoyingly liberal on all issues(Wall Street Journal). Boy, the paper of record is just plain freakin' boring and predictable (the Wall Street Journal). Boy, the NYT seems to pander a lot... and loudly (Wall Street Journal)....

Anonymous said...

Dear Chana,

I think you should rewrite your piece using also some points which you expanded upon in the comments, make it fit on one page. Then, you should email it the AP (Associated Press) then forward a copy of that sent email to the NYT editor and possibly also send the same text to the editors of several Jewish newspapers in the NYC and Chicago area. I think it would be more constructive then to put it here on a blog.

Daniel said...

Chana,

Your analysis is sound, but, unfortunately, most, if not all, newspapers rely on generalisations from unproven personal experiences in many of their stories, especially more informal, magazine-type articles. Both right- and left-wing journalists do this.

As for breaking shabbat for non-Jews, this article by the late Rabbi Jakobovits, former British Chief Rabbi, examines the halachic basis for such action, and whether it stems from fear of non-Jewish reprisals, or from a belief that a law that discriminated in such a way would be ethically incompatible with the spirit of the Torah, and comes to the conclusion that it is the latter.

Anonymous said...

"So you have one experience; I have another, huzzah, we've proved nothing."

"Uninformed people who have never interacted with gentiles (as was the case with those particular girls) hardly count in this scenario."

"You seem shocked and offended by the implication that OJ is "intolerant" towards the LGBT community. Are you kidding?"

"9) Racism is indeed common even among the MO, in my personal experience.

We again fall back on personal experience,"

I dont at all believe that you havent experienced this. Im guessing this is more wishful thinking and the way you think should ideally be in the MO community. Either that or youre so known to be one of the "pc police" that no one will express their opinions in your presence.


Have you really not noticed the intense amount of racism in orthodox and modern circles? As someone who attended several ivy schools, i could tell you that the MO community is probably one of the last bastions of racism in these top institutions. Don’t mean to break your heart, but it isn’t just a few ignorant charaidim.

Are you also telling me that you ahve never experienced openly hateful and bigoted views towards gays or even goyim in general?

Mordy said...

Chana,

I don't understand. So you admit that many of his points are valid. You just don't like the way he "dishonest[ly]" presented them. And you don't like that he implies that it's everyone.

Well, for the first thing: All writers use rhetoric tricks to earn the reader's sympathy. Unless they are particularly trying to drive the reader away (a technique used in literature), they want the writer to sympathize with their points. You're upset that he relies heavily on this rhetoric and doesn't provide statistics? That's unfair. It's outside the scope of his article. He makes it clear this is his personal experience. He asks you to buy into his personal experience, not into statistics.

And if you're upset he's painting with a broad brush? That's his prerogative. As it goes, as someone whose family lives in a well-known M.O. community (the Mainline) and attends a well-known University (Yeshiva U), I found his generalizations both accurate and useful.

Not to mention that this was published in the NYT Magazine, not on the front page. This isn't a news article. It's like "My Turn" in Time Magazine.

Anonymous said...

Last Anon:
"Don’t mean to break your heart, but it isn’t just a few ignorant charaidim."

Chana has a beautiful heart and soul. Since you don't understand that the heart is more valuable than the mind, I think you should not try to break her heart. If you have an intellectual arguement, you should bring it forth. But in any case the mind should only be used to raise the heart, not bring it down. The heart is the source of LIFE eternal...something that should always be respected...the mind is and endless labrynth of self-deception that withers away after awhile. All people on the face of the Earth are connected internally through the HEART.

Jewish Atheist said...

Chana:

First, you know I have the deepest respect for you. I hardly ever speak up to argue with you except when it touches on my area of expertise, as it were, of having been MO and having left.

You ask, were I to write an article in which I asserted that the Agudah/ Chareidi system is completely flawed, and offer as support my personal experience at my highschool, would I be taken seriously?

I agreed with you up front that the tone of the original article was all wrong and that it was uneven. My only point is that a lot of the points made in the article are true. That the article is not (and does not purport to be) a carefully constructed scientific study of all Modern Orthodox institutions doesn't mean that it's worthless.

You wrote recently about how you are a story person. This article is a story, and my history is a story. Anecdotes matter, especially when they reveal broader themes, as I think ours (mine and the author's do.) Just for the record, I went to a MO school that was not Maimonides, but my experience mirrors his completely. So that's at least two datapoints.

If you were an administrator and you were going to put out a publication that would be sent to everyone in order to advertise your school and have alumni give money, would you prominently display the student who grew up to marry a non-Jew

It's blatantly dishonest to use a class reunion photo which you have photoshopped out the undesireables. This particular instance is emblematic of the broader theme of the communal denial of those who left or don't fit the community's ideal. I understand that it's against halakha to marry a non-Jew and that the school wouldn't want to advertise the fact that one of it's alumni did so, but to simply erase him from a picture as if he didn't exist is disgusting.

He doesn't think they're fair? He feels himself to still be part of Judaism? Tough! According to the school's definition, he isn't.

So now Maimonides gest to decide that people who intermarry are no longer Jewish? I hope that was just a mental slip you had.

Uninformed people who have never interacted with gentiles (as was the case with those particular girls) hardly count in this scenario. This is Modern Orthodoxy we are talking about...

Those "uninformed people who have never interacted with gentiles" were Stern girls. Stern is part of YU, the flagship school of the Modern Orthodox movement. If Stern students regularly interacted with non-Jews, I doubt they would have been so shocked.

You are telling me that when I go on a business lunch and can't eat at TGIF, this is because I am intolerant of others; I lack a sense of common humanity? Please! It's utter rubbish.

First of all, I said no such thing. I explicitly differentiated you personally from the movement with which you identify. The fact of the matter is that the most obvious societal effect of kashrut is a de facto separation from non-Jews.

You know that there is a halakhic component to all of this which must be discussed and understood. It is not the complete lockdown on girls and women who dance or sing, throwing people in the stocks or finding them immediately guilty of Eve's "temptress'" nature or the like. Not at all. I am amazed you can even think there's a comparison to be made.

You seem to think that if something is halakhic it's automatically sensible. But wasn't it the Puritans' version of halakha which forbade dancing? How can you not see the comparison?

The slur. The slur with absolutely no objective facts or evidence to back it up, no research, no data, no facts. The assumption.

If it's common knowledge, is it really an assumption?

And I hardly think that I am the only Modern Orthodox person who believes in treating people kindly and well, regardless of what sins they may or may not commit (so long as they are not offenses against other people.)

Again, you may treat gay people kindly and well, but the MO community as a whole does not. Yes, there is more compassion than there used to be, but they are still considered sinners and are often de facto excommunicated. That is the epitome of intolerance.

We again fall back on personal experience, but surely Modern Orthodoxy does not dictate or approve of racism? You yourself write that it happens even in Modern Orthodoxy.

By "even MO" I meant as opposed to UO, not as opposed to the country. Can you imagine a teacher at a secular school making ni**er jokes? It happened at my yeshiva.

Another question: Do you think such an article, if replaced and written about "Modern Orthodox Muslims" would be tolerated in our society? I think whoever who would write such an article would find himself under instant censure.

I'm not so sure. Regardless, it's completely irrelevant to this conversation.

Overall, your argument appears to be that while much of what he refers to happens to be true, he doesn't have the data to back it up, and besides, you don't like his tone. Well, I ask you, which is worse? A man writing a bitter article because he and his wife were photoshopped out of a picture or a community in the 21st century that prefers to pretend intermarried (and gay and nonobservant) people simply do not exist?

Beam, mote.

elf said...

Chana,

It's not unreasonable for you to have been offended by this piece, but I think you read quite a lot into it that isn't really there. Some examples:

Do you notice that he has not stated whether this was actually the case, i.e. that the woman actually is non-Jewish? He has instead insinuated that Orthodox Judaism is racist. Korean-American people cannot possibly be Jewish.

I think it's implied that his girlfriend, like most Korean-Americans, was not Jewish. Her presence "implied the prospect" of marriage to a non-Jew because they were not yet married, only dating.

the insinuation is that none of that (wearing tzitzis, tefillin and keeping kosher) is normal. In whose opinion? The author's, of course.

All he's saying here is that one would expect these practices to make it difficult to fit in in the American political scene. "Normalcy" doesn't imply a value judgment; it's just a statement about what is common and what is not.

By suggesting that he feels kinship with these people, despite the fact that he ostensibly limits it to the fact that they "read the same exact texts again and again" he implies that our faith structures are similar....Puritans was used here purposely...

I may be wrong, but I got the impression that he studied Puritanism in some depth, probably in college. He felt a kinship with people who looked to the Bible for guidance in the modern world. Is he trying to make a subversive statement by comparing Orthodox Judaism to a religious sect that modern folks tend not to like? Possibly, but I don't think it's his main point here, or that it's as overt as you think.

insinuation here is that the majority of rabbis don't have Ph.D's and near-doctorates (note the phrasing: even among the rabbis...a smattering) which suggests that they don't value higher education as much as they should/ they are uneducated.

You say that whether this is true or not is moot, but I think it's material. A disproportionate number of teachers at Maimonides have Ph.D.'s (probably something to do with the location). Most of them teach secular subjects. This makes sense: An Ph.D. in English who can't get a job that he or she wants in academia may choose to teach English in high school. Ditto for science, history, etc. For a rabbi, a doctorate would essentially be a second higher degree (you can get a Ph.D. in rabbinics, but it would be tangential to semicha).

note that the man begins by stating "one time at Maimonides a local physician" came to speak to us and ends up asserting that this is the absolute law. On whose word? On the word of one person who once came to speak to you? And who says their understanding of the law is correct? Have you checked into this?

I don't think "checking into" the halakhah would be warranted in this case. The point is that a school speaker discussed this halakhah, presenting two possible conclusions: that a non-Jew's life can be saved on Shabbat, and that it cannot. The speaker favored the former conclusion. There were apparently rabbis present, and one objected to the speaker's position, but nobody seems to have disputed the presentation of the law itself (which, for the record, is basically correct).

He talks about Yigal Amir and Baruch Goldstein and insinuates that their thinking and reasoning was perfectly logical according to the tenets of Modern Orthodoxy. So we are all would-be murderers?

Obviously not. He clearly states that according to rabbinic law there are no longer Amalekites, and that "it would be a mistake to blame messianic modern Orthodoxy for ultranationalist terror." Moreover, immediately after the citation of Goldstein and Amir, Feldman quotes a teacher whom he describes as "himself a paragon of modern Orthodox commitment" as saying that "the innocent blood of the Palestinian worshipers dripped through the stones and formed tears in the eyes of the Patriarchs buried below."

The point of this part of the article, and to an extent, the article as a whole, is that Modern Orthodoxy straddles a difficult line. The same tradition can produce universalists and bigots, murderers and Nobel Laureates. It's certainly not a totally evenhanded piece, but it's also not as bad as you're making it out to be.

Anonymous said...

Chana,

I think that you missed the point of the essay. Feldman PRAISED the secular education he received from Modern Orthodoxy and he still feels connected to it. The goal was not to critique MO.
The goal was, however, to point out the PARADOX of having so many great elements: a good education, noble prizewinners, the legacy of the great Maimonides, yet also having so much provinciality and parochialism.

The question is why did you take it as an attack or critique to be refuted? Why could you not hear the complexities of Feldman’s soul who feels a personal paradox?

Many a Catholic author has praised their Jesuit education but also pointed out the paradox of the sexual repression and authoritarian Church. We understand when James Joyce, JFK, and Rudy Guilliani write like this about their Catholicism.

The NYT’s has been running articles for years about the paradoxes of Evangelical CEO’s who pray with their board members or use the Bible to make 21st century political decisions. They have also written on the tensions of modern Muslims who move from Brooklyn to NJ, and on the difficulties of those keeping hallal. They serve as human-interest stories of the paradoxes of faith in our decade.

What you demonize as the “author's subtle manipulation” is really part of why it is an effective essay of the paradoxes of his soul. You assumed incorrectly that he was seeking to critique your religion, when the subtlety was needed to present his complex and torturous loves, attractions, fondness, repulsions, and shock at his religious upbringing. When someone tells over their memories of Beis Yaakov, Catholic School, or Maimonides Day School, the point is not whether a given nun or rabbi is the party line or reflects the administration, rather it is the collective memory of moments in ones socialization. Many a HS grad has had lifelong memories of a teacher telling them that their skirt was to short or that the book they are reading is forbidden regardless of alternative more open opinions. The vignettes are not to be globalised for the whole community, as you think, but reflect his experience. However, every day school graduate would have memories of different things, that all point in a single direction, they all need to work through similar memories.

For all your appeals to emotions and stories, your definition of MO is rather ideal and theoretical. Feldman’s stories unnerved you as not true about the greater collective of your MO. Why did you read it as ideology and not narrative? Why did it bother you? Does sociology rattle your basic idée fixe? Why did you read it as an ideological attack?

paradoxical Orthodox

another anonymous said...

No, this wasn't in Op-Ed, and yes, some readers might take all of it as objective reporting, but this was in the magazine and not in the hard news section, and from context it is obviously a first-person account containing information that is not to be received the same as assertions of an investigative report that has been properly researched with attributable sources.

I think you as a reader are incorrectly interpreting much of what is said as insinuation of general fact.

That said, I do think it's important when writing and publishing such things to look at how this might come across.

It's just that you seem to be upset by facts you claim he is asserting, and I really don't see him making many plain statements of absolute facts. Personally, I've seen popular bloggers present as absolute fact more problematic information about Judaism than I see in this article.

It's great that you are so passionate, ready to defend Judaism, and worried about a shandah for the goyim. I think, however, your criticism would come across better if it were less reactionary, more measured.

The issue here is understanding different types of journalistic writing. This might be a problematic article for a number of reasons, but how can it be faulted for not being a type of reporting it isn't even pretending to be?

You mention lies; are there any flat-out lies in this article? I am seriously asking.

As for the original issue of the photo, you note that the author did not state whether or not the woman was in fact Jewish, and then you bring him to task for insinuating that Judaism is racist because a person of Korean descent cannot possibly be Jewish. What does one have to do with the other?

Is it only if it turns out that she was Jewish that accusations of making assumptions could stand? If it turns out she wasn't Jewish, does that excuse the actions of the newsletter editor? Are assumptions about who might be Jewish racist in nature?

The point is that one shouldn't make assumptions about whether or not a person is a Jew based on appearance.

Of course we know that a person of Korean descent can indeed be Jewish. If the newsletter editor did not know for sure that the woman was not Jewish, was it not wrong of him to assume so? What if she were Jewish, but the newsletter editor was afraid that alumni would see the photo and assume she was not? If the author's companion had been an Italian Catholic whose appearance seemed to fit right in with all the others in the group, would the couple have been cut out of the photo?

And basically, it is really hurtful to be publicly cut off in this fashion. Not only might this type of action be against the halakhah that forbids causing embarrassment, but it also does not follow your stated value of "treating people kindly and well, regardless of what sins they may or may not commit (so long as they are not offenses against other people)."

Inclusion in a rather large group photo does not strike me as "prominently displaying the student" in the newsletter; neither do insertion of one-line birth announcements in a "Mazel Tov" column. I could understand the newsletter not doing a special profile on this particular graduate, or even being choosy about what information to include in the marriage announcement, but the main issue of the photograph hardly shined any spotlights.

Also, about the gay issue: how one treats the person differs from whether or not the interpretation of the laws of Judaism and the traditions of Judaism marginalizes the person.

Whether it is illegal for a religious institution to refuse to hire a teacher because he is gay is tricky because of the issue of the government intervening in religious affairs. Most states exempt religious groups from sexual orientation employment discrimination laws. In any event, the hiring of the teacher in question appears to have taken place more than a few years before sexual orientation became a protected class for the purpose of employment in Massachusetts.

I am struck by the juxtaposition of your position against the administrators discriminating in this way and your position for them discriminating against the author with respect to the newsletter.

Thank you for reading my feedback.

Irina Tsukerman said...

I've thought about the article for a full day before posting.

1. I am not a Modern Orthodox, nor have ever attended a MO institution.
2. I don't know whether any of the general trends are true or not and
3. I've met a number of MO people by now, and none of them seemed to fit those characteristics
4. But from what I do know about this movement of Judaism it's really NOT encouraging of terror... otherwise we'd be seeing many more terrorists... and it's just NOT true. Sorry.
5. I am not sure whether he MEANT to be QUITE as subtle and anti-MO as Chana argues...
6. But I definitely noticed many of the things she mentioned, and couldn't agree with her more on the use of language. Trust me, it's a very powerful thing... that's why, even I, who grew up outside the system, couldn't help feeling very unpleasant at the end of the article, and quite angry as well (mostly at the author).
7. Don't like the trend of using personal accounts as opposed to objective articles either, doesn't matter which POV it's coming from.
8. However, I definitely feel VERY STRONGLY that the school absolutely had the right to exclude someone who didn't fit its views on Judaism... and there's no reason why the professor should feel wronged by that. He made his own lifestyle choices... and if he didn't like the system in the first place, what's the point of trying to fit back in, if it's obvious he didn't like so many things about it and didn't feel he'd fit in? Seriously, to each his own, but there's no reason to discredit so many people, just because your paths no longer converge, as is clearly the case.

Anonymous said...

Having gone to public schools my whole life in a wealthly JAPY suburb on the North Shore of Long Island where the Jewish public school population is about 70%, mostly of conservative and reform affiliation, and a minority of Orthodox attending public school, I can say that the issues presented in this article about MO are rather similar to that of secular Jewish. It is endemic of a mindset and culture which pervades most Jews of a common origin. Some commonalities which I recognize are the same self-imposed isolation and living in a common gated-community mentality which fears the either the poverty, the crime, or the influences of greater society while experiencing the very same problems that everyone else who is not Jewish has to face.

Oddly enough growing up completely secular but personally and privately a dati I was shocked to find the very same problems in Israel, in a place where one does not have to worry about non-Jews.

another anonymous said...

In comments published right before my last one, Mordy, Jewish Atheist, and Elf covered some of the same points as I did and a lot of others that I had wanted to make, and did so much more eloquently than I. I agree with them. I hope you don't feel attacked by us, Chana.

Also, the Anonymous right before my last comment raised some good points and interesting questions.

Chana, if nothing else, do you feel, perhaps apropos of what you write in your Templars post, the pain the author feels from the rejection from Maimonides as he tries to find his own way in his Judaism and in his life?

Chana said...

Pain and condemnation of an entire way of life are not necessarily compatible.

Do I feel the author's pain? Of course I do. Do you think I would like to be cropped out of a picture, that I would like to be ignored, have others treat me like I don't exist? Of course not...The entire article is directed toward me in a manner which engages the emotions and makes me sympathetic towards him.

Do I therefore believe that what he states is correct, written in a factual manner and that it applies to Modern Orthodoxy on a whole? No.

another anonymous said...

"Once, I was called on the carpet after an anonymous informant told the administration that I had been seen holding a girl’s hand somewhere in Brookline one Sunday afternoon. The rabbi insinuated that if the girl and I were holding hands today, premarital sex must surely be right around the corner."

Doesn't the above sound like some of what you report went on at Templars?

You do actually seem to have a bit in common with the author of the article, Chana. You both are able to tell the stories of your experiences well. You both had experiences of ideological conflicts that remain clear memories to this day.

Anonymous said...

If he engages your emotions and sympathies then why shut down feeling the pain by intellectual critique?
You seem to be angry at him for making you engaged, and then you recoil.

Maybe you can open your heart to see where you share some of Feldman's emotions and some of your own frustrations with the provinicalism and parochialism of your own MO?


paradoxical Orthodox

Chana said...

May I ask you all a queston?

And I mean it with the utmost respect.

Those of you who believe that those issues discussed in the article really do exist and are flaws, what practically are you doing to stop them or help get rid of them?

We already have the awareness and the knowledge; we spend time discussing these ideas (whether because they are plastered over the NYT or on the blogs), but what practically ought we all to do to fix these problems once they have been identified?

You say there is low tolerance for the LGBT community, for racism, for more. What practically ought we to do about it?

What ought I to do about it?

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I disliked this article so much after reading it. He condemned the problems (though I don't agree that everything he mentioned there is necessarily problematic) but offered no solution other than soul-searching. Well, I can search my soul, but what ought I to do?

What ought we to do?

That's what I want, I think...some practical way to better the things that are bothering us all.

Mordy said...

I think you have two options, Chana. Either continue to be a tolerant person yourself, and hope that eventually enough people will become tolerant as to make that the status quo...

Or become a writer and thinker for M.O. and preach what you believe. And try to be persuasive enough to win followers.

But honestly, neither of us have the obligation to do the latter. Especially if we aren't already associating with/throwing our lots in with Modern Orthodoxy. And saying you can't critique without a solution is unfair. Sometimes solutions arise from the critiques themselves. And sometimes you just need to make people aware, and they design the solutions themselves.

Anonymous said...

Maybe since we are talking about Orthodoxy there is nothing that can be done.

For example, the low tolerance for the LGBT community.

There are several on the humanities faculity at YU as there is also a given % of the student body that always will come out of the closet after they graduate.
It is not talked about openly and humanistically.
Those who graduate YU and then enter a more open enviroment will look back at the closed enviroment they lived through. Then and only then will they be able ponder openly about how they knew their humanities teacher was GLBT and could not openly discuss it before.
Then they could ponder what effect it had on their own emotions.

But during college there is nothing they can do.




paradoxical Orthodox

Anonymous said...

"That's what I want, I think...some practical way to better the things that are bothering us all."

I know that I have quietly suggested exactly such a thing already several times...but it fell on deaf ears. What more can I do?

Anonymous said...

Also while part of the Orthodox educational system everyone hides their heterosexual lives.
Unlike Columbia or NYU, One does not talk about one's sexual life in class, in essays, or openly let one friends know details. Nor can the Orthodox campus offer a "sexual health office" to discuss options.


paradoxical Orthodox

another anonymous said...

Here's an interesting response to the article:

http://osewalrus.livejournal.com/165964.html

Warning for those it concerns: the entry uses a couple of times a profane word to indicate the act of engaging in sexual relations.

The entry is very critical of the author and the article, getting past a lot of things addressed here and examining instead the opinions and positions and philosophy.

another anonymous said...

Post in response to the discussion in the article about the halakhah of breaking Shabbat to save lives:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2007/07/the-ny-times-ca.html

another anonymous said...

Ha ha ha! This one:

http://tzvee.blogspot.com/2007/07/nytimes-magazine-noah-feldman-wants-to.html

is really pithy!

Okay, here's a middle-school-style reading comprehension question: What is the Orthodox Paradox that the article describes?

Do you think the author meant specifically to describe a paradox, or was that just a too-appealing title for an editor?

And also:

http://chayyeisarah.blogspot.com/2007/07/hello-again-so-here-we-are.html

has an interesting perspective and a good observation or two. And a commenter on that post says some very succinct things!

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Those of you who believe that those issues discussed in the article really do exist and are flaws, what practically are you doing to stop them or help get rid of them?

Usually when i hear someone in my community make an idiotic obnoxious bigotted comment, i call them on it.

Incidentally, someone who is not racist accidentally proved, that contrary to the protestations, 'shv--tza' IS intrinsically negative.

Chana said...

Jewish Atheist,

You wrote recently about how you are a story person. This article is a story, and my history is a story. Anecdotes matter, especially when they reveal broader themes, as I think ours (mine and the author's do.) Just for the record, I went to a MO school that was not Maimonides, but my experience mirrors his completely. So that's at least two datapoints.

I think this is the crux of where we differ and/or are misunderstanding one another.

You see, I am perfectly fine with relating stories or anecdotes. A story or anecdote relates to you and it can only demonstrate what happened to you at a particular place at a particular time. A story and/or one's personal experience is not necessarily indicative of an entire system or way of life. Had this essay merely been Feldman's personal story, I would have been fine with it.

And I am fine with an argument. I am fine with a critique of Modern Orthodoxy, a well-supported, factually-based argument that explains the flaws, problems and other issues and ideally offers a solution.

I am not fine with an argument based on a personal story. I think that is ludicrous. One cannot argue about an entire system and entire sect of a religion based on one's personal experience.

Today a religious community that seeks to preserve its traditional structure must maintain its boundaries using whatever independent means it can muster — right down to the selective editing of alumni newsletters.

He has taken his own particular personal experience with one school and has applied it to an entire religious community. Today, he asserts, "a religious community that seeks to preserve its traditional structure" must do it by utilizing these methods.

This is where I find fault. The way I read his story, it is indicative of only one thing: Maimonides High School. Maimonides apparently has a policy of selectively editing its alumni publications. You can agree or disagree as to whether this is allowed or the correct way to go about things. But this is hardly proof that the entire Modern Orthodox community does this or indeed supports it.

The entire article continues in this manner. Feldman uses his personal experience as a stepping-stone to make claims about the entire sect of Modern Orthodoxy. I find this to be very dishonest.

Feldman can write his story. I have no problem with his writing his personal story of what happened to him at his high school, then leaving it up to the reader to decide whether or not this is indicative of the entire philosophical system. Or he can make an argument, in which case he needs well-supported facts and data. But he cannot make an argument based on a story. He cannot make a story more than it is; he cannot make his personal experience the symbol and stamp of Modern Orthodoxy on a whole.

Anonymous said...

Here is one from a different perspective:

http://incertus.blogspot.com/2007/07/noah-feldmans-orthodox-paradox-in.html

Anonymous said...

“And I am fine with an argument. I am fine with a critique of Modern Orthodoxy, a well-supported, factually-based argument that explains the flaws, problems and other issues and ideally offers a solution.

I am not fine with an argument based on a personal story. I think that is ludicrous. One cannot argue about an entire system and entire sect of a religion based on one's personal experience.”

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this style of article. He never pretends that this is a peer reviewed social science study to be published in an academic journal. It is very clear that this is an opinion piece based on his own personal experiences, anecdotal evidence and biases. And he does not conceal this. he lays it all out on the table, stating how he used to be orthodox and not an non-involved party. He also tells us up front that he is not too pleased with the way his former highschool handled the situation.

This type of story/opinion piece is perfectly appropriate as long done properly. In this case I think it was all handled in a proper fashion. The magazine even noted that the writer was a law professor, which further ensures that no one confuses him for a news journalist or social scientist.

Jewish Atheist said...

I decided I had to post about this myself.

Chaim Rubin said...

there is no way I can read through all these comments, but I did read the post. I thought it was very good. It's sad that these things happen, but its sadder to attack an entire group of people because he is bitter about it.

I know a few people I grew up with who married non jewish people and none of thier pictures were removed from family homes or erased from school photos.

I have a close relative who married a non jewish woman and i speak with him almost monthly, sometimes more then I speak with other family members.

It's sad that someone marries "outside the faith" but it was HIM who choose to leave the community. It's he who chose to abandon the most basic of principles of being Jewish. Which is continuing the bloodline and pru revu.

I think there is much to say on this topic, but its important to try to keep relationships with people who marry outside the faith.

I dont think anyone should "cut them out" but if they do, well, Noah doesnt have the right to be bitter. He's the one who left us.

Boomer said...

See my comments on Orthomom today.

another anonymous said...

"Regardless of his many accomplishments as an adult, Mr. Feldman was one of those arrogant teenagers who felt himself above the pack, who got beaten up on a regular basis in high school, including by one of my brothers.":

http://chirocitizen.blogspot.com/2007/07/high-school-bashing.html

Look at the forest, not the trees:

http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/07/dont-turn-your-back-on-us-and-then.html

Anonymous said...

I thought your analysis was brilliant...simply brilliant. The more I reflect on this ass of a guy, the stronger I feel towards Orthodoxy. I am just livid the way he paid back the personal slights that are more than deserved.

Anonymous said...

The curious thing about the school in question is that it grooms its students for the Ivies (traditionally Christian schools, turned secular liberal) while at the same time rejecting virtually all of their values. They wallow in their insularity, while counting on the cosmopolitanism of the outside world.

drewsky said...

I think that Chana is right that Noah Feldman's piece was more than just personal narrative.

Looking at it again, there is a fairly straightforward structure to his analysis of MO:

1) personal anecdote of experience of rejection/pain/conflict (MO not "working" for him)

2) rejection of the idea that his experience was an anomaly, attributable to the particular circumstances or bad character of the MO people involved

3) exposition of the deep-seated irreconcilable conflicts between the "Modern" and the "Orthodox" parts of MO

The title of the article "Orthodox Paradox" is then quite apt.

On a deeper level, though, I got the sense that Noah Feldman really sees HIMSELF as the Orthodox Paradox. The difference is that he has followed through more completely on the "Modern" part.

MO is Orthodoxy first - Modern second. Noah is the reverse.

But Noah Feldman treats his own situation (predicament?) much the same way that he treats each anecdote. His analysis of MO is an attempt to show that he is not an anomaly to be written off as a product of particular circumstances or bad character. He is the unavoidable product of the MO enterprise. In his view, MO at its best will ALWAYS produce some people like him. He is not a "failure" of the system.

What the article raises for MO is how it chooses to treat its children - the ones whose exposure to the "Modern" part of MO leads them (pushes them?) off the derech.

Will MO accept Noah's argument that he is just as much a product of their system as his "model" Maimo classmates, or will they write him off (and out) as an anomaly, failure, or person of bad character.

In some ways, Noah reminds me of Rav Elisha Ben Abuya (Acher) in "As a Driven Leaf" - a "heretic" who believes that teshuvah is not an option.

Teshuvah requires seeing yourself as having made choices that you might NOT have made if you had been stronger or wiser. The process of teshuvah strengthens you so that faced with the same choice again, you would make the right one.

Teshuvah requires humility and regret.

Noah's article, on the other hand, conveys a mixture of pride and resignation.

For the record, I am quite sympathetic to Noah Feldman's analysis of MO. I don't think (nor does he think) that MO has to produce ALL Baruch Goldstein's or Noah Feldman's for us to say that MO can lead to people like them. MO wrestles with internal tensions and contradictions that make BG's and NF's real possibilities - in every generation and graduation class.

Abbi said...

Miri-
On Baruch Goldstein: I was in Israel at the time of the massacre and I've been living here for the past seven years.

I have never in my life heard the Goldstein preempted an Arab massacre.

I think you've been listening to too much arutz sheva

Ezzie said...

Abbi - I was in Israel at the time. There were nice caches of weapons found, etc... but I wouldn't jump and assume that a massacre was imminent. There's room to wonder, though.

I found it interesting that he claims it was on Purim, when it was two days earlier. While obviously it doesn't change what happened, his placing it on Purim was to tie it to Amalek, etc. Very dishonest.

Anonymous said...

I think the point that some have made but bears repeating is that Feldman conveniently, and as Chana points out, rhetorically and imagistically, associates Modern Orthodoxy with violence.

Many of the posters and readers here have different takes on whether it's ok to intermarry or to be less than welcoming to people who do. I'm not here to comment on that. I agree that it's a painful issue that we as a community are still working out, individually and collective.

However, the insidious suggestion that because MO is not "open" to certain populations we also condone murder, violence and terrorism is outragious, misleading, immoral, and self-serving. It's one thing to air a personal grievance (though Feldman had to know what the institutional response--right or wrong--to his intermarriage would be), but another altogether to claim that because a community distinguishes between group members and non-group members, that community is automatically implicated in homicidal fanaticism.

At least as I have understood and lived it, MO's whole point is to to avoid radicalization, and rather to remain in complex relation to a variety of sometimes competing values. Feldman subtly undermines his explicit acknowledgment of that fact and flattens us all into intolerant and potentially dangerous religious wierdos.

I hate to say it, but ultimately this article reminded me of the language of Haman--There is a nation among us whose ways are not our ways . . .

norm depalma said...

chana:
i chanced upon your blog, looking to find a new voice on the feldman article--and your talmudic parsing of various points was perfection. I wish you could spend even more time parsing every sentence and explaining its disingenuous nature.

This is what i wrote in another blog, in a similar vein.


i hate being the guy wading in towards the end of an extensive debate to pick off the mixed metaphored low-hanging fruit but, what the hey:

1) the point/purpose of feldman's piece was not his anguished cri de couer, his feelings of exclusion, his analysis of modern orthodoxy etc...
-it was simply another half-baked essay to include in his 'publications' section of his resume/ a way to keep his name 'out there'. publish or perish applies to non-scholarly papers as well, if you are a media hound. and as others have mentioned, judging by the dated material, it is reasonable to assume that he dug this up out of his non-accepted submission file circa 1996 to fulfil his nyt mag contract requirements.

2) the arguments against his piece shouldn't stem from his actions: i.e. marrying a non jewish woman, airing jewish 'dirty laundry' in public etc...
-the arguments should center around his sloppy reasoning and jayson blair like b.s.
i.e. his absurd claims that he knows the 'better part of the hebrew bible by heart', his dramatically ironic praise for the (non-violent?) purim megilla, his shocked!, shocked! reaction to goldstein's headstone not stating 'there lies a mass murderer', and a host of other little inaccuracies and disingenuous comments that add together to another typical NYTimes unfact-checked, unedited drivel.

3) the same shoddy reasoning and fact presentation that marred this piece certainly mar the rest of his work as well. (see any of his other NYT articles) Can anyone reading this crap believe that the constitution he (may) have drafted for Iraq was not similarly flawed? or are we to believe that his understanding of the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish people was more nuanced than his understanding of his own M.O. group?

4) accumulating degrees is no substitute for a deep understanding of an issue and resulting novel propositions. any bright hack from maimonides (whose parents teach at harvard?) can get into harvard, and do well in that grade-inflated zoo, taking courses which heavily replicate work he's already done in yeshiva.
the doctorate in islamic thought at oxford isn't too much of a stretch either---gee, i wonder if his thesis was on something like the comparative halachic and sharia treatment of something like ribbit.
and law school is law school...anyone with a bit of ability to learn gemara can do fine.

5) the absurd anti-intellectual strain of American public life has an interesting result: 99% of america leave it to 'eggheads' to do the heavy thinking. And they decide who the eggheads are based on institutions attended and degrees received. this excuses any actual analysis of the accuracy and logic of ideas.

6) the brow beating over intermarriage misses the point.
It is simply a numbers game! I doubt Feldman got to know over 100 modern orthodox women his age group in his entire dating life. The numbers are stacked against the M.O. Obviously, it is much easier to meet your match when you can choose from hundreds of thousands instead of hundreds...is it so shocking that he chose to marry a bright, attractive girl who was not jewish? the shocking thing is that the vast majority of m.o men and women decide to narrow their options and often compromise on ideals in order to marry within.


anyway, i'm probably missing some points but you get the general idea.

chani, keep on truckin! and don't get bogged down by a discussion of all MO and its failings and successes. the true story here is, just as you originally posted, a story of another dissembling hack.

Feldman's sloppy arguments said...

From JEWISH WEEK

Unfair arguments

As for Feldman’s arguments, insisting that Maimonides himself, the 12th century rabbinic scholar and philosopher, believed that knowing the world was the best way to know God, he ignores the fact that it was Maimonides who codified Jewish law, established the 13 principles of faith and insisted on adherence to halacha, or Jewish law.

Feldman then goes on at some length to cite Jewish law’s tensions over violating the Sabbath to save the life of a non-Jew. But he fails to mention that the dispute is Talmudic, not practical; no Modern Orthodox doctor would hesitate to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath.

Perhaps most upsetting, and unjust, the only allegedly Modern Orthodox Jews Feldman describes in his essay besides Sen. Joseph Lieberman are Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzchak Rabin, and Baruch Goldstein, the American-born physician who murdered 29 Arabs in Hebron in 1994. The two are cited as examples of men who took Jewish imperatives to their logical conclusion by committing murder.

“That’s like judging the peacock by its feces,” noted Rabbi Saul Berman, a scholar and former head of Edah, an organization that promoted Modern Orthodox values.

Indeed, no serious Modern Orthodox Jew is unaware of the tensions between upholding the Torah law and recognizing the values and benefits of Western democratic ideals. Rabbi Berman credits Feldman with pointing out the need to explore such tensions, which when unrecognized or out of balance can produce an Amir of Goldstein, “but it’s not fair to judge the system” by such aberrations, he maintains.

Psychic pains

In the end, Feldman’s essay is less about modern Orthodoxy than about his own psychic pain over being rejected. He wants it all: to be embraced if not applauded by the Jewish community whose values he has discarded by marrying out.

As Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, noted in a letter sent to The Times, “fealty to Jewish tradition requires more than a ‘mind-set’ expressing ‘respect and love’ for its teachings; it presupposes certain fundamental normative behaviors. America is a country of choices, but choices have consequences and not every choice is equal. It is unrealistic for Mr. Feldman to expect to maintain good standing in a community whose core foundational behavioral -- as well as value -- system he has chosen to reject.”

Judaism is not alone in this attitude. Witness, for example, the Catholic Church’s discomfort with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a divorced Catholic who favors abortion rights, or any religious faith’s attitudes toward members who publicly violate its tenets.

Empiricist said...

A couple of comments - much belated.

1. My daughter goes to Maimonides. During the course of the year, the partner of one of the teachers died. In the weekly newsletter, the school expressed its condolences to the teacher on the loss of her partner. Hardly the response expected from an anti-gay institution.

2. Extrapolating from Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir to a broader indictment of modern Orthodoxy is curious behaviour from someone who has devoted so much of his career to cautioning the public against extrapolating from terror-Islamists to a broader indictment of Muslims.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the Jewish Week article today - Noah admitted that he knew before publication that he was not intentionally cropped out of the reunion picture; other classmates were also cropped out because the photographer couldn't fit everyone in the frame.

Anonymous said...

The notion that Feldman should be cut some slack because this is just an opinion piece is absurd. He knows the extent of readership of the Times, and should be held to a rigorous standard of truth. This is all the more the case if he's going to incite enmity against an entire group of people.

Anonymous said...

"Have you seen the Jewish Week article today - Noah admitted that he knew before publication that he was not intentionally cropped out of the reunion picture; other classmates were also cropped out because the photographer couldn't fit everyone in the frame."

This speaks volumes about his character, as well as the characters of those who will persist in supporting him.

Anonymous said...

Regarding gays, equating disapproval of a homosexual lifestyle with gay bashing or the incitement of hate crimes against gays is sheer nonsense.
Suddenly no one can have an opinion anymore but the atheists, or those that promote a "liberal" agenda. Disagree with liberals or atheists, suddenly your "intolerant."

Anonymous said...

Is it racism? You tell me.
I am a Caucasian European with both Western and Eastern European ancestry. I frequently find myself in discussions with my husband's distant relatives at family gatherings, and they assume I am Jewish. This caused one fellow to turn bright red after he let me in on some his prejudices and I told him the truth about myself rather than to let him get in deeper.

The fact that both of us blush makes us look a little different from the Palestinians. It would argue that his blond hair and blue eyes came from somewhere where I got my red hair and blue eyes. The "raped by Cossacks" excuse won't wash with me.

Yes, there is change afoot, and racism against Asians is practiced by the most smug Jews. I know a woman who is about 80 and she refuses to see her Chinese daughter-in-law or the son who married her. Yet she is cordial with me. Why? Because I look like I belong in the group and it easy to forget that I was held over a baptismal font rather than taken to a naming ceremony when I was one week old. Furthermore, genetic testing reveals that I am no different from many Jewish women.

That friends is what is going on.

steven said...

Noah Feldman's inflammatory article unleashed two weeks of debate within and about modern orthodoxy.

Not only was the article poorl argued--lumping tefillin with Oped Dei accoutrements and pulling in Yigdal Amir and Baruch Goldstein as representative examples of the movement, the social slight that justified the article--his being cropped from a class photo because he had a non-Jewish fiance--was a fabrication.

As Feldman admitted in the Jewish Week, he knew two weeks in advance of the article's publication that many photos were taken at his reunion, none of which captured all the students. The one that appeared didn't have Feldman and his wife to be, but it also excluded fourteen other people as well.

One would expect a Harvard Law professor to be more careful with the facts and less loose with prejudicial innuendo that is patently false.

Frum Jew in Recovery said...

Chana, very good and well thought out post. I think you did a good job expressing how horrible we all felt about this article.

I see Mr. Feldman as a resentful, hate filled individual, more closer to evil than anything.

I don't know if it was mentioned that he was also a pro bono lawyer for a group of residents of Tenafly who wanted to prevent an Eiruv from being constructed.

At the time, he used his Yeshiva background in equally insiduous ways, showing a fact here and there, but displaying his hatred of his past.

He would be wise to get therapy. He had nothing better to do than to willfully trash a whole mass of people.

It would not surprise me if he has a substance abuse problem.

Toby Katz said...

Brilliant post, kol hakovod

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