web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Noah Feldman And The Fear Of Being Different


Ayatollahs in business suits is what Noah Feldman would have the world believe we all are. If the Orthodox were going to leave him out of his alma mater’s reunion picture just because he married out, then Noah Feldman was going to out the Orthodox.

His tell-all expose painted a picture, as he saw it, of the inherent primitiveness and backwardness of Orthodoxy. We may look modern, but scratch the surface, and we all harbor beliefs that are inconsistent with the more enlightened values of Harvard Square.

In his New York Times Magazine article, Feldman made a point of highlighting practices and attitudes toward non-Jews that he bargained would – or should – make us uncomfortable. We have always preferred to keep them under wraps, not always quite sure how to explain them to others, or even to ourselves, but quite sure that if others found out about them, they would hold them against us.

In making us face up to them Noah Feldman may have done us a favor. We have dealt with “problematic” texts in roughly the same way for the better part of a millennium. The old way will not work any longer, and the sooner we realize and react appropriately, the better.

The medieval church did a good job – often aided and abetted by Jewish apostates – in ferreting out what they saw as anti-gentile and anti-Christian nastiness in the Gemara. Modern anti-Semitic groups have revived the practice, and there are no shortage of websites that will gladly direct you to the exact places in the Talmud that prove we detest all non-Jews, and actively promote their demise.

(I am not saying, God forbid, that Noah Feldman is an anti-Semite.)

One of the prosecution witnesses in the Beilis blood libel was a Fr. Justinas Pranaitis, possibly hired because of his 1892 work “Talmud Unmasked,” still used by Jew-haters today. Most Jews are unaware of the literally thousands of hate sites on the Internet because we simply don’t run into the untermenschen who hang out on such sites. The New York Times Magazine, however, is harder to run from.

Our first line of defense was part of the shah-shtil mentality: we ran for cover. We tried to hide these passages, and if that failed, we reacted with surgically applied apologetics. Someone was always prepared to offer an explanation that seemed somewhat reasonable, and if presented by someone who looked sage and rabbinic enough, the non-Jews could be placated.

This approach will no longer work, because the nature of communications today insures that there are no longer any secrets, period. Almost anything you have ever said or written to anyone can come back to haunt you. An apologetic interpretation of a Talmudic passage – even if entirely correct and authoritative – is often not the only one on the Jewish street. For every politically correct explanation, there is a very non-PC one that can be dredged up in moments through the right search engine There will be many people, perhaps entire communities, who take a different approach. Their little secret will surface to haunt the rest of the Orthodox world.

There is no longer any option other than to own up to difficult sources and uncomfortable attitudes, and to deal openly with them. If we don’t, others will do the talking for us, which we can ill afford. We must learn where these passages are, acknowledge them, and learn to deal with them without hesitation. We will find more understanding and acceptance than we might think.

The first step is to weed out the misquotes and the misunderstood sources. Nine times out of ten, the proof-texts cited by critics are goofy errors. We must learn what the errors are, and be quick to demonstrate the fallacies.

The remaining ten percent can still do much damage. But they don’t have to – and won’t for most decent people – for several reasons.

First of all, many of them are a product of their times. Certain references to early Christians are a case in point. Can you discuss these passages with a believing Catholic without upping your life insurance? Of course you can. The person who taught me how was a Catholic priest and scholar with whom I once shared a platform at Loyola Law School.

About the Author: Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Sydney M Irmas adjunct chair, Jewish Law and Ethics, Loyola Law School.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Noah Feldman And The Fear Of Being Different”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Gidon Saar Resignation Announcement
Minister Gidon Saar Unexpectedly Announces Resignation
Latest Indepth Stories

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

For too long the media and international community have been preaching that “Palestinians” bear no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and they are passive victims of the conflict.

Iron Dome intercepted over 1,000 rockets aimed at Israel with a success rate of over 90% in 2014

We talked about the responsibility that comes with the pen, its potential to influence and inspire.

Amnesty International:The crippling of the power station was “collective punishment of Palestinians”

Originally scheduled to be held elsewhere, the hotel canceled, pressured by local missionary groups

It’s likely that some of the rebel factions, including US clients, have indeed made pacts with ISIS

Imam Tafsirli of the Harlem Islamic center: “You cannot be a Muslim without believing in Jesus”

If simple fuel choice were implemented, the power of petroleum and those who sell it would cease.

More Articles from Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein

A monastery in Israel is desecrated, almost certainly by nationalist extremists.

The desecration was condemned by the prime minister and others in the government. Chief Rabbi Metzger called it a “heinous deed.” The Internal Security minister did not hesitate to use the word “terror” and announced the formation of a special police unit to combat it. Many people traveled to the monastery to personally apologize, including Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, who took brush in hand to help scrub the offensive words from the walls.

Berachah – blessing – says the Gemara, is found only in things that remain unwatched and out of sight. Hasbara – the way Israel explains itself to the world – might be in better shape taking a cue from that Gemara.

The one hundred and thirty children and young adults share two things. They are all Jewish, and they all contend daily with serious and debilitating illness. Many of them have done so all of their lives. You would think spending time with them would provide the ultimate mussar ride for Elul, an in-your-face confrontation with your own mortality, and the need to be grateful to God for life itself and the parts of it we take for granted.

It doesn’t take very much to lose a neshamah.

The young woman was witty, charming, frum, and a Harvard Law School graduate. She was also black, and lived in an Orthodox neighborhood. One Purim, she was treated in a neighborhood shul to the sight of a young mother with a few children in tow. As her Purim get-up, the mother had chosen to adorn herself and her kids with blackface and thick lips. The connection to Purim was not clear.

“I don’t care what group you identify with, as long as you are ashamed of it.” There is much wisdom in the throwaway line with which Dennis Prager frequently challenges audiences to admit to the flaws of the groups with which they identify.

Ayatollahs in business suits is what Noah Feldman would have the world believe we all are. If the Orthodox were going to leave him out of his alma mater’s reunion picture just because he married out, then Noah Feldman was going to out the Orthodox.

A tuna fish caught in the Indian Ocean this week has excited Kenyan Muslims who are flocking here by the hundreds to see a Koranic verse apparently embedded in its scales.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/noah-feldman-and-the-fear-of-being-different/2007/08/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: