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Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman
Feldman in 2009
Born 1970 (age 45–46)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality United States
Fields Legal studies, religion, politics
Institutions Harvard Law School
Alma mater Harvard College
University of Oxford
Yale Law School

Noah Feldman (born 1970) is an American author and professor of law at Harvard Law School.


  • Education and career 1
  • Work and views 2
    • Criticism of Modern Orthodox Judaism 2.1
  • Public perception and image 3
  • Books 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Education and career

Feldman grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where he attended the Maimonides School.[1]

He graduated from Bemis Professor of International Law.[2]

He is a senior adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a previous fellow at New America Foundation, and regularly contributes features and opinion pieces to The New York Times Magazine[3] and Bloomberg View columns.[4]

He is occasionally mentioned as a potential nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

He is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, and French, besides English.[5]

Work and views

As an academic and public intellectual, Feldman is concerned with issues at the intersection of religion and politics. In the United States, this has a bearing on First Amendment questions of church and state and the role of religion both in government and in private life. Feldman's other area of specialty is Islam. In Iraq, the same reasoning leads him to support the creation of a democracy with Islamist elements. This last position has been lauded by some as a pragmatic and sensitive solution to the problems inherent in the creation of a new Iraqi government;[6] others have taken exception to the same idea, however, characterizing Feldman's views as simplistic and shortsighted.[7]

Feldman was a featured speaker, alongside noted Islamic authority Hamza Yusuf, in the lecture Islam & Democracy: Is a clash of civilisations inevitable?, which was subsequently released on DVD. An excerpt from Feldman's 2008 book, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and was attacked by Leon Wieseltier for "promoting" Islamic law as a "swell basis" for a political order. This, according to Wieseltier, amounts to "shilling for soft theocracy" and is hypocritical since Wieseltier presumes that neither he nor Feldman would actually choose to rear their own children in such a system.[8]

Criticism of Modern Orthodox Judaism

In a New York Times Magazine article, "Orthodox Paradox", Feldman recounted his experiences of the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion of the Modern Orthodox Jewish community in which he was raised, specifically at his high school alma mater, the Maimonides School.[9] He contended that his choice to marry a non-Jew led to ostracism by the school, in which he and his then girlfriend were allegedly air-brushed out of the 1998 photograph of his class reunion published in the school newsletter. His marriage to a non-Jew is contrary to orthodox Jewish law, although he and his family had been active members of the Harvard Hillel Orthodox minyan. The photographer's account of an over-crowded photo was used to accuse Feldman of misrepresenting a fundamental fact in the story, namely whether he was purposefully cropped out of the picture, as many other class members were also cropped from the newsletter photo due to space limitations.[10] His supporters noted that Feldman's claim in the article was that he and his girlfriend were "nowhere to be found" and not that they were cropped or deleted out of the photo. Yet others view this claim by Feldman's supporters as disingenuous, noting that elsewhere Feldman had publicly encouraged the suggestion of air-brushing. Leon Wieseltier attacked Feldman for the dishonesty of "exposing the depredations" of Orthodox Jewish law while praising sharia as "bold and noble," and called Feldman's essay a "pathetic whine".[11]

His critique of Modern Orthodox Judaism has been commented on by many, including Hillel Halkin, columnist for the New York Sun;[12] Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News;[13] Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union;[14] Rabbi Shalom Carmy, tenured professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University;[15] Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University;[16] Rabbi Shmuley Boteach;[17] Gary Rosenblatt, editor of Jewish Week,[18] the editorial board of the Jewish Press;[19][20] Rabbis Ozer Glickman and Aharon Kahn, roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva University;[21][22] Ami Eden, Executive Editor of The Forward; Rabbi David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life;[23] and Jonathan Rosenblum, columnist for the Jerusalem Post.[24] In addition, the American Thinker published responses by Ralph M. Lieberman,[25] Richard Baehr,[26] and Thomas Lifson.[27]

Feldman also argued pro bono in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals against the efforts of a Jewish group in Tenafly, New Jersey, the Tenafly Eruv Association, to erect an eruv. However, his arguments were rejected in 2003 and the eruv was, in fact, permitted.[28]

During the Amish "beard-cutting" attacks trial of 2012, Feldman argued against applying the Federal hate-crimes law in the case. He argued in a Bloomberg View column that strife amongst co-religionists, including for example "two gangs of ultra-Orthodox Hasidic teenagers from competing sects", could be brought under the law. "Any dispute that takes place in the context of a church, mosque or synagogue would be ripe for federal intervention. Over time, a hate-crimes law designed as a shield to protect religious groups against bias could easily become a sword with which to prosecute them", he then concluded.[4] The sixteen Amish men and women in the 2012 case were subsequently found guilty.[29]

Public perception and image

Feldman's work on the Iraqi constitution was controversial at the time, and some, including Edward Said, felt he was not experienced enough with the country to undertake such a task.[30]

In 2005, The New York Observer called Feldman "one of a handful of earnest, platinum-résumé’d law geeks whose prospects for the Big Bench are the source of constant speculation among friends and colleagues."[31]

New York Magazine named Feldman as one of "the influentials" in ideas, alongside Jeffrey Sachs, Saul Kripke, Richard Neuhaus, and Brian Greene.[32]

In 2008, he was among the names topping Esquire magazine's list of the "most influential people of the 21st century". The magazine called him "a public intellectual of our time."[33]

In 2011, Noah Feldman appeared in all three episodes in the Ken Burns PBS series Prohibition as a legal commentator.[34]



  1. ^ "AFTEREFFECTS: THE LAW; American Will Advise Iraqis On Writing New Constitution", The New York Times, May 11, 2003. Accessed April 21, 2008. "Professor Feldman grew up in Boston an Orthodox Jew. As a child, he learned Hebrew and Aramaic to read the ancient and medieval religious texts taught at the Maimonides School, a private Jewish school in Brookline, Mass."
  2. ^ Faculty page,
  3. ^ "When Judges Make Foreign Policy", September 25, 2008, example NYT Magazine article, retrieved 2014-03-01.
  4. ^ a b Feldman, Noah, "Beard-cutting is horrid. It isn’t a hate crime", Bloomberg News via, September 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "No review ID passed in! Can't display page" a/o 2012-09-20.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Feldman, Noah, "Orthodox Paradox", New York Times, 2007-07-22
  10. ^ "Snap, Crackle, But Not Cropped",
  11. ^ Wieseltier, Leon. "Theologico-Politicus", The New Republic
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Shmuley Boteach, "Stop Ostracizing the Intermarried", Jerusalem Post
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Feldman's Complaint" by Editorial Board
  20. ^ "Conceding a Point to Feldman?" by Editorial Board
  21. ^
  22. ^ Rabbi Aharon Kahn: Selichos and Noah Feldman
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan. "Think Again: Feldman's bad faith", The Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2007. Accessed April 21, 2008. "But the clearest evidence of Feldman's animus for modern Orthodoxy is absent from his piece: his pro bono representation of the city of Tenafly, New Jersey in its efforts to prevent the construction of an eruv. Feldman knew full well that the absence of an eruv allowing the wheeling of baby carriages on Shabbat would prevent modern Orthodox Jews, like his former classmates, from being able to move to the suburbs, and that the Tenafly litigation would serve as a precedent in many similar battles raging around the country."
  29. ^ Eckholm, Erik, "Jury Convicts Amish Group of Hate Crimes", New York Times, September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^

External links

  • Harvard Law faculty page
  • Noah Feldman at TED
    • "Politics and religion are technologies" (TED2003)
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Biography at The Globalist
  • Noah Feldman's CV on CFR Website
  • Feldman's Harvard Law chair lecture as reported in the Harvard Law Record
  • Noah Feldman speaks about Mormonism and the Mitt Romney Campaign
  • Noah Feldman debates Duncan Kennedy in March 2008 at Harvard Law School, as part of a series on "Confronting Empire"
  • Asserting Identity and Reconciling Difference; Feldman Wants to Move Dialogue Beyond the Defensive [1]
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