Feldman’s Summer Vacation

BM_feldman_large.jpgNoah Feldman, Harvard Law’s new professor, has started some trouble on his way to Cambridge. Feldman wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine describing the rift between modern Orthodox Jews and secular life, framing his argument with his own experiences. The reaction from the Jewish community has been mixed, and Feldman is also contending with charges that he lied in the article.

Feldman’s piece opens with a description of his ten-year high school reunion, and his disappointment when he saw that he and his then-girlfriend (and now-wife) Jeannie Suk wasn’t included in the photograph in the alumni newsletter.

A number of years ago, I went to my 10th high-school reunion. . . I brought my girlfriend. At the end, we all crowded into a big group photo, shot by the school photographer, who had taken our pictures from first grade through graduation. When the alumni newsletter came around a few months later, I happened to notice the photo. I looked, then looked again. My girlfriend and I were nowhere to be found. . . .

This is only one way Feldman establishes the ways modern Orthodox Jews exclude members who break the tenants of their faith, but it serves as a framework for the rest of his story. However, since the publication of “Orthodox Paradox,” it’s been revealed that Feldman knew he and Suk were not edited out of the photograph as the article’s accompanying artwork implies, but that the photographer simply couldn’t fit all the alumni into the frame and the Maimonides School chose a picture that did not include the Feldmans.

The Orthodox Union, a Jewish group, called Feldman “the Jewish Jayson Blair” in a press release, and asked The New York Times Magazine to fire Feldman for the lie. The editors replied that Feldman never claimed to be removed from the image, but that he and his girlfriend simply weren’t included and Feldman was correct on the merits.
Feldman tells The Jewish Week, which found this photograph from the reunion that included Feldman and Suk, why he didn’t change the beginning of his piece:feldman_reunion.jpg

“It’s not as if [the photo] was an outlying event. It fit right in with the other things [refusing to print his lifecycle notices]. This was a memoir of my experience.”

The bickering continues, with the Orthodox Union replying to the NYTM’s reply. Feldman hasn’t said anything else about the article since his comments to The Jewish Week, and it’s a good bet that the Maimonides School won’t be running news of Feldman’s move to Harvard in the alumni notes anytime soon.