Noah Feldman’s highly personal essay raises many issues with which the American modern Orthodox Jewish community grapples as we seek to be faithful to our ancient tradition while engaging with the modern world (July 22). But it is the difficulty of this challenge that makes a person’s choices so critical, and it is with many of Feldman’s choices that we disagree.
It was Feldman’s choice to send as clear a signal as he could, through his marriage, that he was rejecting fundamental principles of the community. His expression of surprise at the reaction of the community’s institutions, including his alma mater, where he was taught these principles, strains credulity....
Feldman’s own life seems to be a testament to what can happen when one loses the balance between engaging with modern culture and a core commitment to Orthodox tradition and continuity, which so many others continue to maintain with dignity and much fulfillment.
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Executive Vice President
Today's NYT Sunday Magazine contains an interesting selection of letters responding to the Feldman article. There is no doubt that intermarriage (without conversion by the non-Jewish partner) is an exceptionally painful topic for many within the Jewish community, perhaps particularly so within Orthodoxy. There can be little doubt that a person with Feldman's education would be well aware that his "out-marriage" would be ill-received, at least on an "official" level, by his (former?) modern Orthodox community. That recognized, Rabbi Dr. Weinreb's assertion that "It was Feldman’s choice to send as clear a signal as he could, through his marriage, that he was rejecting fundamental principles of the community" instrumentalizes a fundamental life choice in a fashion reminiscent of the ghetto (in this case, a voluntary rather than externally -imposed one), and strangely innocent of the ways of the heart in contemporary, open American society. The invocation by one letter-writer of Fiddler on the Roof (based on Shalom Aleichem's tales of Jewish life in the 19th century Pale) further reinforces this spatial and temporal displacement from our contemporary circumstances.
Might it be just possible that Feldman married for love, and not "to send ...a signal"?