web analytics
April 19, 2015 / 30 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Reflections On The Feldman Affair


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 mschick@mindspring.com.


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 “Reflections On The Feldman Affair”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
ISIS affiliates murdering Christian Africans in Libya
African Christians Slaughtered by ISIS-Affiliates
Latest Indepth Stories
Temple Israel Of Boston

“The resentment towards us (Jews/Israelis) was really intense. They clearly hate Zionism & Zionists”

US has no problem with Egypt's bombing hundreds of homes of Gaza civilians but can't stand to see Israel destroy a terrorist's home.

Egypt has been more effective against Gazan smuggling tunnels than Israel’s military operations

Mrs. Golda Katz a"h

She had many names and was many things to many people, but to me she was just Babineni.

ISIS terrorist carries the group's black flag.

Is ISIS in Gaza? “No, but there are ISIS loyalists here..we pray to God they unite under ISIS’ flag”

Rabbi Portal was that great “inspirer,” changing people for the better, enriching the lives of all

Iran knows Obama, Putin, and the Europeans don’t have a Red Line beyond which they will go to war

There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there…

When a whole side of your family perishes, friends become the extended family you do not have.

“We stand with Israel because of its values and its greatness and because its such a wonderful ally”

Mr. Obama himself inelegantly cautioned members of the Senate to be careful not to “screw up” the negotiations by seeking to have input into the future of the sanctions regime that has been imposed on Iran.

For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

Understanding the process described in Dayenu reveals deep relevance for us today.

For Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the tanks, planes, and uniforms of the IDF were implements of mitzvot

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

My guess is that most yeshiva students also winged it or cut corners because they, too, had rather onerous schedules.

Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

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: