web analytics
March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 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
Some 1,500 teens from around the world at the Chabad CTeen convention hear a personal greeting from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 1, 2015.
Ban Ki-moon Greets 1,500 Jewish Teens at Chabad CTeen Convention
Latest Indepth Stories
Middle-East-map

Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall ahead of his speech next week at the US Congress.

Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.

Netanyahu carried his message to Americans through the media after meeting with President Obama and castigating Iran at the UN. (September 30, 2013)

Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering

israel-day-parade-bds

Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.

March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck

The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government.

Former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, provided one of the clearest and most compelling analyses we’ve seen of the importance of the prime minister’s speech.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

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

Front-Page-090514

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.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

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: