Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Here he is, Noah Feldman, in all his adorable elegance.

Noah Feldman, another feather in the cap of American Jewry, the product of an Orthodox Jewish upbringing, the globally-acclaimed intellectual wunderkind, the author, the political pundit, the Harvard Law Professor -- formerly of NYU -- who barely looks old enough to shave, let alone get married.

To an Asian, non-Jewish woman, as he details in the pages of this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Well, who cares, really?

Noah cares. He cares that the yeshiva he attended for 12 years -- The Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass -- has airbrushed him out of any of their newsletters, thereby erasing any evidence that he ever attended their institution.

And he cares enough to write an essay that lays out a dangerous game of connect-the-dots, hopscotching from his personal tale of being hurt by exclusion to finding a basis in Judaism itself for the terrorist actions of Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir.

By the end of the magazine piece, any sympathy I might have had for him had evaporated and in its place was sheer disgust. Reading postings on the blogosphere, I know that I am hardly alone.

Oh, Noah, you meander through childhood memories that are hardly unique to anyone who attended Orthodox Jewish day school. So the Maimonides School had to cloak their obligatory sex ed in the prohibitions of negiah, hauling out the philosophy of Feinstein in a multi-volume set to suppress your teenage hard-on. Big freaking deal. So you got reprimanded for holding hands with a girl? Been there, done that. So, your rebbes said stupid, parochial things about...goyim? Wow. I never heard of that happening.

There is a Talmudic debate about saving the life of a non-Jew on Shabbat? How fascinating that this took place so many centuries ago! Of course it is as dated as most of the discussions in the Talmud about women. Isn't the proof of the pudding in the fact that Jewish doctors are a worldwide institution, saving the lives of Jews and non-Jews without discrimination on Shabbat, on Yom Kippur, on every day of the week????

Do you hope to reveal some ugly, hidden face of Judaism to your shocked readers who previously had such a positive view of Jews? A pile of gentile corpses outside of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, all the unlucky goyim in Upper Manhattan who had the misfortune to get sick on Shabbos?

Which readership are you writing for, anyway? The subscribers to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

You delve into the stories and teachings of our tradition, trying to out an ugly underbelly.

By connecting the dots, the reader might assume that Judaism is a hateful religion, promoting genocide, leading to acts of terrorism.

Gee, speaking of religions associated with promoting acts of contemporary terrorism...isn't something missing from your essay?

Here's the thing: I personally think that Maimonides' decision to airbrush you out of their newsletter was pretty stupid. But you shouldn't have been surprised. To be surprised is kind of disingenuous, isn't it, Noah? You know the consequences of marrying a non-Jew within the Orthodox community.

Some readers of your essay familiar with the goings-on inside Orthodox Jewish community might conclude that you must have been dozing in day school during that lesson on sure-fire ways to obliterate the Jewish future. Numero uno: marry out and raise non-Jewish kids. Have the line end with you. Finish the job Hitler left undone.

Other readers might conclude that you want it both ways: to spit in the face of the community and receive applause for marrying the woman you love...who happens not to be Jewish.

But this reader thinks that in your pain and hurt at the rejection of you and your wife by the Orthodox community of your youth, you have marshalled all your forces, all your intellectual aptitude and built a dangerous missile, pointed straight at the Jewish community at large, packed with enough ammo to inflict real damage.

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