The Orthodox Paradox

Harvard law professor Noah Feldman retains some Orthodox friends and some Orthodox feelings for Orthodox Judaism but he’s deeply hurt that his former Orthodox school won’t publish notices about him in their alumni newsletter since he married a non-Jew.

For Feldman, this is paradox. How could someone such as himself who was raised Orthodox and retains some sentimental attachment to the faith not receive honor from Boston’s Maimonidies day school.

I don’t see a paradox. Every group has rules and Noah chose to break a big one and to throw it in people’s faces.

I don’t exactly know what people find so fascinating in this New York Times Sunay Magazine article. What I got out of it is that Feldman’s a narcissist who wants to do what he wants and pay no price for his choices. End of story.’s Joey Kurtzman plans to interview Noah Feldman and he asked for suggested questions. I emailed in these two:

Given that you married a Gentile, how exactly do you expect the Orthodox and their institutions to treat you?

Why do you bother to take your children to shul as they are not Jewish?

Naomi emails: "AH AH! Not funny. Sad? yes. Moving? absolutely but not funny… Perhaps he is trying real hard to connect the two (children and Yiddishkaiet) despite his wife’s religion. Can you blame him? Sometimes I feel real Reform.They are handling this much better then us and don’t break up families by forcing the mate and the kids out."

Chaim Amalek emails:

While I’m all in favor of hybrid vigor, this recent tendency of Jewish men to marry Asian women has me troubled. Don’t we have enough women with black hair who are good at math and counting pennies? We should instead be encouraging the descendants of inbred ghetto culture to be marrying people with the sorts of traits we lack but need. I’ve recently been encouraging my Jewish female friends to get themselves impregnated by strapping Irish firemen named Shamus and of course we Jewish men pine for tall, athletic Valkyrie-like natural blondes who are the daughters of Ivy-league professors.


Luke, with your goyishe genes, I’m surprised that a number of Jewish women haven’t already tapped into your gametes for the sake of the race. Or have they?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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4 Responses to The Orthodox Paradox

  1. Chaim Amalek says:

    Perhaps his wife converted to Judaism before their marriage or before she began having children.

    Also, it is simply not true that we can no longer tell who is Amalek and who is not. I know that I can.

    Finally, how do you feel about environmentalist Laurie David making a cuckold out of her husband Larry?

  2. harold says:

    what a sanctimonious prick. Look, I grew up like this guy, I went to a day school, i dated a shiksa here or there in college. But he is a fool to think he is welcome in orthodoxy with a goy wife. there was a famous story about some yeshiva bochur who was serious with a shiksa and his parents were really worried about him leaving the faith, so they took him to their rabbi.

    their rabbi sat down with him and heard his story and got up, took the torah out of the ark and threw it on the floor and commanded the bochur to step on the opened torah. the bochur refused, and the rabbi said, well, then you are not honest with yourself because if you marry this girl, that is what you are doing, trampling on the torah. the bochur dumped the shiksa.

    Noah feldman did not. and i know his legalese will say, hey, we do not excommunicate people who break the shabbat or not eat kosher, but you know what, you can do all those things and still remain jewish. However, you marry out of the faith and boink shiksas, you are not jewish for all intents and purposes. you will prolly be divorce, and your children will not be jewish, and their only contribution to the faith will be the money you have to pay to a therapist when your kids are all f-ed up.

  3. rlebowitz says:

    You and your previous commenters, I think, misunderstand what Noah Feldman was saying.

    Feldman was arguing that what he is today is a product of the modern Orthodox community in which he was rasied; the modern orthodox community–especially the one he comes from–puts such emphasis on academic achievement in the wider world that when someone like Noah accomplishes so much, it seems as if they should see him as one of their own. Feldman’s essay challenges the values of the modern Orthodox community, which he rightly portrays as deeply dichotomous. What do its members value more: Is it getting into an Ivy League school or is it learning Torah in a yeshiva? Is it becoming a professional or is it getting a less pressured job and learning Torah? Who is more respected, the businessman or the Torah scholar?

    I have a cousin who was raised in a modern Orthodox suburb of New York. My uncle and aunt sent him to a Jewish prep school like Maimonedes, expecting him to remain Orthodox but pursue law, medicine or academia. When he became ultra-Orthodox in his Ivy League college, they felt he had thrown away his life. But from his perspective, he was really fulfilling the core of what he had been taught. My cousin felt that it is disingenous to live in two worlds, so you need to choose one. In fact, my cousin said to his parents, “How could you be so upset with my lifestyle? This is what you taught me! You sent me to yeshiva day school for 12 years!” Although Noah Feldman went the other way (i.e., stopping religious observance and intermarrying) this is what he was saying as well: “You taught me to be both inside and outside of Judaism, to love both Jewish and non-Jewish wisdom, and to feel at home in both. I spend my career now devoted to constitutional issues as applied to faith communities. And yet you exclude me?!”

    Whether or not he intermarried, I think this is a valid challenge.

  4. harold says:

    No, we do not misunderstand noah feldman. he is probably writing this to get some exposure in the times so he can get some kind of money for a book on something to raise his goyish kids in a house he cannot currently afford.

    Here is what modern orthodoxy says – we realize that as jews acculturate, they are going to have to do things other than deal diamonds. They can learn shakespeare, they can study islamic thought, they can spend time on secular pursuits. However, they still must observe the torah and if it becomes too difficult to do both, then you know what, do as much as you can to stay orthodox, but under no circumstances are you to put your penis into a shiksa vagina and marry said shiksa. that is all M.O. aks, really. You do not want to wear a yarmulke to work, OK. You want to maybe shake hands with females at a business meeting, OK. You want to work at a job and get home painfully close to shabbos, ok. You want to boink some asian gal and have kids with her, get the hell out.

    I get it, and I am no “legal superstar” like feldman. The guy is just a putz with a weak impulse control.

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