The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
The Feldman Affair, by which I mean both the New York Times Magazine article and its aftermath, is a significant event in the development of American Orthodoxy, encompassing important issues about Modern Orthodoxy that have not been sufficiently explored, intra-Orthodox divisions, and our approach to intermarriage.
The episode is likely to be cited for years to come and I imagine that, in due course, Professor Feldman will have more to say about his encounter with Judaism, if only because one of the inescapable messages in the article is his strong desire to remain part of the Jewish people, irrespective of his marrying out. He is young, gifted and blessed with much cachet, even star quality.
The controversy that erupted immediately after publication merits reflection. Doubtlessly, the Times venue added immeasurably to the attention the article received, adding as well to the view in certain Jewish quarters that the newspaper we like to read and like to hate is too willing to play loose with Jewish sensibilities, as is frequently evident in reportage from Israel.
The Modern Orthodox who especially have been critical of the Times now have additional ammunition because of the nasty and gratuitous association of Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir with their camp.
Their reaction inadvertently discloses a fault-line in American Orthodoxy. While the Moderns cried foul, with the exception of a small number the affair has not been an important story within the yeshiva world and certainly not in chassidic circles. Neither Hamodia nor Yated Ne’eman, the two English language weeklies that serve these sectors, has given the story much attention. Perhaps it is because haredim do not read the Times as much as the other Orthodox do or, alternatively, they find nothing new in the newspaper’s anti-religious slant.
I suspect that also at work is the familiar and lamentable tendency of many haredim not to care about the concerns of the Moderns whose lifestyle and attitudes are often out of sync with theirs. It is as if haredim believe the Moderns inhabit a different Jewish universe.
More curious, perhaps, is the anger of the Moderns, including those of a Centrist Orthodox orientation. These are religious Jews who are not often given to communal histrionics, except with regard to Israel. Likely, a key factor in their fierce reaction was that Feldman’s target was Maimonides, the Boston day school established by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and intimately identified with him for decades.
Although there has long been an intra-Orthodox dispute over whether the Rav can be labeled as Modern Orthodox, it is incontrovertible that the Moderns regard him as such and venerate him as a transcendent figure in Jewish life. Had Feldman attended another day school and written in the same vein, I believe the response would have been considerably muted.
The article did not break new ground in its depiction of Orthodoxy, yet the Moderns reacted as if their world was under siege. Media and scholarly attacks against Orthodox Jews are routine and routinely they include ample doses of nastiness. In fact, the genre is a mini-cottage industry in both Israel and North America, with sociologists – real and imposters – using religious Jews as punching bags. Haaretz apparently feels that it hasn’t done its journalistic duty if more than one issue goes by without an article or two that vilifies the Orthodox, especially the haredim.
The following is from a recent Haaretz book review: “Haredi society contains reactionary, conservative, extremist and violent elements. Corruption, parasitism and an abundance of other disorders also plague the society.” The parasitism charge is classical anti-Semitism and it was utilized by Communists and Nazis in their anti-Jewish campaigns.
The Moderns have no reaction to the drumbeat of media and scholarly attacks against yeshiva-world and chassidic Jews. The Orthodox Union issued a sharp statement critical of the Times and the Feldman piece. It is silent when haredim are denigrated and demonized. There is no anger when Professor Samuel Heilman vilely compares Orthodox yeshivas with Islamic seminaries that have trained suicide bombers. In fact, Heilman is a star on the Modern Orthodox speaking circuit. He was prominently featured at conferences of Edah, the unlamented ultra-Modern Orthodox organization that is no more, probably because its rhetoric was never matched by a sufficient religious sensibility.
About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
For a peace treaty with the PA, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Jerusalem
As for the president’s new, softer tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, this is most likely being driven by the results of the recent Israeli election.
What especially appeals to us is his grand – some critics would say extravagant –view of what the borders of Israel should look like.
The establishment of Hebrew University was a cause much beloved to Einstein who in 1923, during what would be his only trip to Eretz Yisrael, delivered the university’s inaugural lecture on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and, discussing the theory of relativity, spoke the first few sentences of his address in Hebrew.
The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was beneath the ground – oil.
Ida Nudel’s account of how the Soviets persecuted and punished her was far worse than imagined.
Swim4Sadna is an annual event benefiting Sadna, an integrative special-ed community in Gush Etzion
Prof. Wistrich, was THE foremost historian of anti-Semitism; committed spokesman & advocate of Jewry
Jewish Voices for Peace’s 2015 Haggadah is a blatant anti-Israel screed crying, “L’chayim to BDS!”
On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor
After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process
Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria
My guess is that most yeshiva students also winged it or cut corners because they, too, had rather onerous schedules.
Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.
We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.
Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.
As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.
As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.
A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/reflections-on-the-feldman-affair/2007/08/22/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: