Feldman’s Folly (Part One)

If the Orthodox were going to leave him out, then Noah Feldman was going to out the Orthodox. He might just have done us a favor.

His thesis was that there was nothing surprising in his decision to marry out, and he should not have been shunned. His tactic was a tell-all expose of the primitiveness and backwardness of Orthodoxy. He pointed to practices and attitudes towards the non-Jewish world that make us uncomfortable. We prefer to keep them under wraps, not always quite sure how to explain them to others, or even ourselves, but quite sure that others will hate us for them.

In making us face up to them, in the context of the changed times we live in, Noah Feldman did us a favor. We have dealt with “problematic” texts for roughly the same way for the better part of a millennium. The old way will not work any longer, and the sooner we realize and accommodate, the better.

The medieval church did a good job – often aided and abetted by Jewish apostates – in ferreting out what they saw as anti-gentile and anti-Christian nastiness in the Gemara. Modern antisemitic groups have revived the practice, and there are no shortage of websites that will gladly direct you to the exact places in the Talmud that prove that we detest all non-Jews, and actively promote their demise. [N.B. Please do not read an incorrect comparison into this paragraph. I may disagree strongly with what Noah Feldman writes, but I do not imply that he is an anti-Semite, or anything but a likely good and pleasant human being, immensely talented, who has unfortunately taken his gifts outside of the line of Jews that will survive into the next generations.] One of the prosecution witnesses in the Beilis blood libel was Fr. Justinas Pranaitis, possibly hired because of his 1892 work Talmud Unmasked, still used by Jew-haters today. Most Jews are unaware of the literally thousands of hate sites because we simply don’t run into the untermenschen who hang out on such sites. The New York Times Magazine is harder to run from.

Our first line of defense was part of the shah-shtill mentality: we tried to hide these passages. If that failed, we reacted with surgically applied apologetics. Someone was always prepared to offer an explanation of the passage that seemed somewhat reasonable, and if presented by someone who looked sage and rabbinic enough, the non-Jews could be placated. This approach will no longer work, because the nature of communications today insures that there are no longer any secrets, period. Almost anything you have ever said or written to anyone can come back to haunt you. An apologetic interpretation of a Talmudic passage – even if entirely correct and authoritative – is often not the only one on the Jewish street. For every PC explanation, there is a very non-PC one which can be dredged up in moments through the right search engine There will be many people, perhaps entire communities, who take a different approach. Their little secret will surface to haunt the rest of the Orthodox world.

There is no longer any option than to own up to difficult sources, and to deal openly with them. If we don’t, others will do the talking for us, which we can ill afford. We must learn where these passages are, acknowledge them, and learn to deal with them without hesitation.

The first step is to weed out the misquotes and the misunderstood sources. Nine times out of ten, the proof-texts cited by critics are goofy errors.

That leaves ten percent that can still do much damage. They don’t have to – and won’t for most decent people (and there are lots of them in this great country) – for several reasons.

First of all, many are a product of their times. The Yeshu passages – are a case in point. Assume the worst – that some of the passages that seem to be talking about Yeshu do in fact refer to the founder of Christianity, and say some pretty awful things about him. (There are arguments in both directions advanced by Rishonim. None of us are going to decide the issue. Let’s assume the worst.) Can you discuss these passages with a believing Catholic without upping your life-insurance? Of course you can! The person who taught me how to do it was a Catholic priest and scholar with whom I once shared a platform at Loyola Law School. A question arose about John Chrysostom, the fourth century Church Father who put the charge of deicide on the map, and whose vitriol against Jews was surpassed by none, and embraced for centuries thereafter, including by the Nazis. Chrysostom remains a Saint in the Church, and many Jews get unhinged by the mention of his name. The priest, however, was completely unfazed by the question, and calmly related that in the fourth century the Church was fighing for survival, and felt very pressured by Judaism, and therefore used language and methods that contemporary Christians completely reject. Essentially, he said, “that’s the way we once behaved, regrettably. We’ve moved on since then.” What’s good for the goose is good for the gandz. Mutatis mutandis, the disparaging remarks – if in fact directed against Yeshu – must be understood in the context of struggle between mainstream Judaism and early Jewish-Christians. Although we are no closer to accepting Yeshu today than we were when those passages were written (just as the priest is no closer to embracing Judaism than Chrysostom was), but for a variety of reasons if we were writing material on Yeshu anew, we would not use the same words today.

Within this group are many of the passages that are extremely dismissive of categories of non-Jews. Many of them, in fact, were aimed not at all non-Jews but at the idolatrous near-savages known to Chazal. To be sure, there are disputes going back to the Rishonim as to which passages refer to which groups. But many Jews are unaware as to how many mainstream decisors restricted the application of certain Gemaros to idolators, explicitly excluding the civilized folks among whom we live today. It is also more than probable that part of the reason that this distinction is not embraced more widely is connected to the horrific experience Eastern European Jews in particular had with their non-Jewish neighbors for hundreds of years. It is frustrating that some people have not sufficiently appreciated the difference between the NKVD and the IRS. Even in this regard, my experience is that non-Jews of good will (and there are huge numbers of them in this great country) understand that habits born of eight hundred years of experience can take a while to extinguish, and are far less demanding and hostile than we might think.

There are other passages that are not products of special conditions, and still spell out favorable treatment of Jews relative to non-Jews. These, too, are a cause for consternation for many Jews. They should not be. Almost every religious group we know makes some claim to specialness, usually both theoretically and practically. They celebrate difference, and readily accept that other communities are entitled to extend privileges to the inner group as well.

Resorting to cheap innuendo, Feldman creates images and identities aimed at conveying to his reader the notion that Orthodox Jews do not, in fact, fit into the modern world. Tefillin he pairs with the painful cilice of the priest-zealot of the Da Vinci Codes; the silly little “fringed prayer shawl” that Jews wear under their shirts he pairs with the holy undergarment of Mormons, asking aloud why it is that Joe Lieberman was not perceived the way some see the Mormonism of Mitt Romney – as something “weird.”

Feldman, I believe, is blind here as well to the truth. Whether he wins the Presidency or not, the vast majority of Americans will not reject Mitt Romney because they see Mormon belief and practice as beyond the pale. I will put it simply. Why don’t I worry about the strangeness of Mormon belief? Mostly because I have never met a Mormon I didn’t like. (I’m sure that I could be introduced to a few, and there is also the irritating issue of posthumous baptism of Jews that many – especially Holocaust survivors – are upset about the glacial progress to a definitive solution.) My point is that for most Americans, actions are far more important than theology. They really don’t care what other people believe, as long as they act appropriately. If they are good, caring citizens, their beliefs – and claims of specialness in the eyes of the Lord, are just not so important. Jews should listen up. Be a good neighbor, and you can sing a three part harmonic ode to R. Yehuda Halevi’s special Jewish soul, and most non-Jews will not hold it against you. Parts of certain Chassidic communities are hardly the leaders of the pack in pushing for intergroup connection and acceptance. But tens of thousands of New Yorkers will remember them as the group that set up tables on 9/11 to provide drinks for the dazed and thirsty who fled across the bridge to Brooklyn.

There is one final argument. Part of what goes through our heads every time we encounter a Gemara that emphasizes some Jewish-Gentile difference is that non-Jews will sense a slippery slope, at the base of which wait crusading Jews ready to behead all of them and impale their remains on sharpened Mogen Davids. We must confidently know ourselves – and then convey to others – an overarching reality about traditional Jews. We are a legal community. Hostile attitudes can go only so far without hitting a firm halachic roadblock. No matter what animus some Jews might have for outsiders, they don’t murder, rape or maim. They cannot steal, lie or deceive without running afoul of clear-cut halacha.

Putting it all together, we have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. Ignoring those who have it in for us no matter what we do, the good folks will not find our life-style off-putting. I have been challenged several times by Jews who have rejected tradition. “Aren’t you ashamed to be part of system that says X, Y and Z about non-Jews? What if they find out? They react with incredulity when I tell them that I discuss X,Y and Z openly with non-Jewish friends without embarrassment and without ill-effect. But it is the truth.

Noah Feldman makes the mistake of so many others, who believe that it is dangerous and unacceptable for Jews act or believe differently than their fellow citizens. He is part of that large group of Jews who have felicitously been described as “proud to be ashamed Jews.” It is a malady common to people who have little confidence in their own belief system. It has little to do with vast swaths of America, inhabited by people who are proud of their own beliefs, and sympathetic to the strongly-held beliefs of others. If we remember that, we needn’t be silenced or embarrassed by the charges of the Noah Feldmans.

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96 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Was the CC really familiar with the Meiri? It was only published from MS in the 20th century, probably after the CC was no longer around. Check out the dates. The Chazon Ish opposed figuring the Meiri into psak for the very reason that there was no masoret limud over the generations. If the CC had had it to take into account, it might have made a difference.

  2. michoel halberstam says:

    Regarding the question of healing non jews on Shabbos. It is well known among Poskim in our generation that both The Chasam Sofer and the Divrei Chaim were Matir this. In fact many poskim are amazed at how little credence these psakim received from the Mishna Berura. The Divrei Hayim says that this practice derives from the Heter of the Vaad Arba Hoarotzos. I have hear it repeated by a prominent rav in Eretz Yisroel that R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbcah stated that given the nature of communication in our world, it borders on pikuach nefeh were a Jewish doctor to refuse to treat a non-Jew. The list of Gedolai Yisraoel who are matir this practice is very long. Unfortunately the halacha does not proceed uniformly in its development. Nevertheless one does not address an issue like this by simply citing the Mishna Berura

  3. Y.E. Skaist says:

    Menachem Daum,
    Isn’t it clear from the Mishna Berurah that you quoted-
    “The Chafetz Chaim, who was undoubtedly familiar with the Meiri, nonetheless castigates Jewish doctors who violate Biblical prohibitions in saving the lives of gentiles on Shabbos: “Know that the doctors in our time, even the most observant, are not careful about this at all, for every Sabbath they travel beyond the borders of the Sabbath domain to heal those who worship the stars, and they write [prescriptions], and grind substances [to prepare medicines]”
    — that it was the widespread practice of Jewish doctors in Poland to transgress Shabbos for gentiles?

  4. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    As for the literary hardball of the NYT, it is part and parcel of the nature of the power elite which latches on to every Henry Kissinger or Noah Feldman that they can get their hands on. Prof. Feldman is not only a professor at Harvard, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which generates US bipartisan foreign policy. Every US Sec. of State since 1919 has been a member. The renegade Jew is approached with favors and playing up to his ego. He knows where his bread is being buttered. The Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations place their money where it will be detrimental to Israel and the Jewish people. But we have Hashem on our side. Our job is first to recognize the enemy.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    How many such embarrassments will the NY Times, The New Republic and other such publications have to create for themselves before they try doing responsible journalism?

    The Times’ declining circulation has already led its brain trust to shrink the paper, but that’s not quite all they need to do.

    I have little expectation that they will ever catch on.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    If you have read the exchange of letters between the OU and the N Y Times, the Times is playing editorial and literary hardball with respect to the utter lack of evidence of photocropping. I would not lose sleep waiting for a Public Editor’s note on this article.

  7. Shawn Landres says:

    I apologize for reading too quickly and missing the fact that Menachem Daum was taking part in the conversation! My fault for starting to skim after the 50th or so comment. But my point, and my respect for the film, of course remains the same.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Now that the dust has settled after the intellectual tornado caused by this article, IMO, we should think about some long term means of addressing the issues raised by the article. While I certainly advocate a halacha by halacha and mitzvah by mitzvah response, the same belongs in MO schools, shuls and camps begining with the article, the responses and then proceeding to each of the mitzvos and halachos raised in the article. The same does not belong in the secular media.

  9. Upset says:

    I am quite disturbed by RAK’s post regarding the denial of a certain so called Rabbi regarding the statements that were attrubuted to him. Although I never heard him directly speak about any of these issues, I heard from at least ten different people that he said the comments that were attributed to him regarding tax evasion and I know of at least one person of impeccable integrity that this rabbi made the statement that was attruibuted to him regarding gezel akum. A number of people (including myself) have urged this person to go public to prevent this rabbi from continuing to espouse his heretical and very dangerous views but he has resisted this because of a concern of further spreading the exisitng chillul hashem that this rabbi has created. Someone should tell this rabbi that his words of sheker in denying what he said (some of it publicly) might lead some of us to be forced to go public to expose his lies.

  10. Anon says:

    Rak, the rabbi in question absolutely said what was attributed to him and there is more than one source that can confirm it. I am sure that the rabbi in question is upset that his statements are known as he knows that people will not react kindly to his views. In fact at a public lecture he said that he will lie about his views in respect of these issues if he is asked about it.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    Having read and reread the article and the responses, including the letters in today’s NY Times Magazine as well as the absence of any corrective or Public Editor’s notes therein, IMO, I think that a stronger response is necessary. I think that a mitzvah by miztvah, halacha by halacha response , without any apologetics on any of the mitzvos and halachos, is important and can be written by any committed MO person who is a Yodea Sefer-regardless of whether he or she attended YU or an Ivy League school.

  12. Shawn Landres says:

    I’ve been thinking about where to post this – here seems as good as any. With respect to Jewish attitudes toward non-Jews, far more powerful than anything Professor Feldman has written in the NYT is a documentary by Menachem Daum (himself Orthodox) called “Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust” (2004). Essentially the film tells the story of Daum’s realization that his sons and grandchildren (also Orthodox) were beginning to have and express uncomfortable opinions about the essential human worth of non-Jews. In response, Daum took his sons to Poland to introduce them to the Catholic family which had saved the Daum family’s life during the Shoah. It’s a powerful film which does not shy away from revealing multiple perspectives on the issue.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    For those following the aftermath of Feldman’s admission that he was not photocropped, the OU has just sent a statement to the Times requesting and demanding that the NY Times terminate the services of Feldman as a contributing editor to the NY Times Magazine.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    Menachem Daum-We all know that Chasidei Umos HaOlam Yesh Lahem Chelek BaOlam Habaah. However, one can argue from an objective reading of history, as opposed to even relyong in a secondary nature on drush, etc. , that Chazal emphasized “Chasidei Umos HaOlam” as opposed to stating that “Kol Umos HaOlam” because the Chasidei Umos HaOlam represented exceptional individuals of high moral character and courage who went against the tide to help Jews in times of persecution or who served as political allies of the Jewish people. Given the rather unrelenting presence of anti Semitism in pre WW2 Poland and all of Europe, IMO, the claim that if we had revised our opinions about non-Jews in chederim strikes me as both unrealistic and not borne out by the historical evidence and facts available to any student of history of that period.

  15. rak says:

    regarding anon’s comments it was difficult for me to believe the stories regarding this rabbi, as he would be paskening against the gemara. In fact, on mail-jewish, the attribution of this position to the rabbi in question was challenged, and he denies that this is his position and is reported to be upset that this is being repeated in his name.

  16. Robert Lebovits says:

    Re: Charedi Insularity vs. MO Interactivity

    Does anyone recognize how different the Jewish experience is for those of us living “out of town” as opposed to the NYC/NJ area? Regardless of level of observance and presentation, engagement with non-Orthodox and with the Gentile community is a way of life. The concept of Kiruv is not reserved for professionals but is the province of every observant family. In the work place there is a keen awarenes that one’s actions are representative of what Torah is about.
    So be careful when making generalizations about who does and who does not “mix”. Out here we ALL do.

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, R D N Lamm has a wonderful column in this week’s Forward. As many know or should know by now, Professor Feldman admitted that there is no evidence whatsoever supporting his claim that he was photocropped out of the picture at issue. Once again, the credibility of an author in the NY Times and the lack of fact checking by the NY Times rears its head. Paging Jason Blair anyone?

  18. Anon says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I agree with you that Noah Feldman may have done us a favor in forcing us to deal with some of our texts in an honest way and to remember to teach our children that not every Talmudic statement regarding gentiles is meant to be taken literally or is meant to apply to contemporary gentiles. The problem that I am struggling with is how we should deal with Rabbis who go the opposite extreme. Specifically, I am familiar with a very prominent charedi Rabbi who tells people that tax evasion and outright gezel akum are both permissible as long as there is no realistic possibility that you will get caught and cause a chillul hashem. This Rabbi has told people that the fact that the Shulchan Aruch (as well as all of the other major sifrei halacha) paskens that gezel akum and tax evasion are forbidden should not be taken seriously as they had to worry about anti-semitism so they sometimes said things were forbidden in respect of gentiles that are truly permitted. In other words, he goes to the other extreme — he says that we have to reinterpret sources in our tradition that say that it is forbidden to steal from gentiles. How should I deal with such a Rabbi? I (as well as others) have heard him say this on a number of occassions. He is obviously a lone opnion in this regard but some people have told me that “elu velu” should apply to him as he is a big talmid chochom so he has a right to his opinion. Others have told me that he is no different than a Reform rabbi (and perhaps worse because he presents himself as an Orthodox Rabbi) because he is willing to simply disregard the accepted halachik mesorah on this matter by simply saying that the rishonim and acaharonim did not mean what they said. I would be grateful to hear from others as to what our attitude towards this Rabbi should be and how we should respond to his statements.

  19. dr. william gewirtz says:

    “Or perhaps if we had saved a few more Poles, or at least if our chayders in Poland taught that Polish people are fellow human beings created in G-d’s image who are worthy of being saved, then more Poles would have been inclined to reciprocate and save Jews during the Nazi occupation.”

    Comment by Menachem Daum — August 1, 2007 @ 1:57 am

    I do not know if there is any evidence that Jewish doctors in Poland ever did anything other than save gentiles on the Sabbath.

    I also assume they taught Pikei Avot in cheydar and they learned “Chaviv Adom … ” that includes Gentiles. How they explained the differences with “Chavivin Yisroel …” and what they taught about the reasons for saving gentiles on the sabbath was and is the real issue. However, what we taught/teach pales in significance, given the centuries of persecution and hatred. Think twice about blaming the victim, to any degree, regardless of what we ought be teaching.

    Before I read “the” article that shabbos, a young man, who had also not read the article, but was teaching the perek that afternoon, asked for pshat in the mishnah above (which is why I remember it in this context). I told him, i am not sure, but I think that the singular versus plural should give him enough to darshan.

    Despite what I would like the accepted MO position to be, given that anti-semitism is hardly a solved problem, coupled with the nature of the halachic process, it would be difficult to expect much beyond utilitarian heterim from the majority.

  20. mycroft says:

    Furthermore, in the United States, any physician who treated non-Jews differently from Jews for any reason would lose his or her medical license. mycroft: Should be irrelevant to an Orthodox Jew
    Perhaps not. Acting to evade severe consequences MAY turn the action into a derabbanan

    One can’t put oneself into a position where one would be required to violate halacha.

    Ori: Wouldn’t doctors be a special case? A medical license isn’t just a way to make more money. It’s a tool that lets you practice medicine, saving lives as part of your daily job. Preserving the ability to perform this Mitzva is not the same as having a higher standard of living.

    Lets assume air traffic controllers work on Shabbos, utility workers also work on Shabbosthey clearly save lives-Ori would you say a Jew can become an air traffic controller, utility worker-or other positions.

  21. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    It might be appropriate to mention that more Righteous Gentiles – non-Jew who saved Jews during the Shoah – came from Poland than any other country. To be sure, there was no shortage of vicious antisemites in Poland, but that should not negate our recognition of the opposite as well.

    Life is complex. People are complex.

    Furthermore, in the United States, any physician who treated non-Jews differently from Jews for any reason would lose his or her medical license. mycroft: Should be irrelevant to an Orthodox Jew
    Perhaps not. Acting to evade severe consequences MAY turn the action into a derabbanan. Some have compared the situation (I don’t recall who, and whether they are people who really figure in the overall halachic conversation) to that of the Maharik #137

  22. Menachem Daum says:

    Menachem Daum-welcome aboard! I enjoyed both of your documentaries immensely.

    [Co-Editor’s Note: Me too!
    Yitzchok Adlerstein]

    Comment by Steve Brizel — July 31, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

    Thank you for your kind words.

  23. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Charles B. Hall: Furthermore, in the United States, any physician who treated non-Jews differently from Jews for any reason would lose his or her medical license.

    mycroft: Should be irrelevant to an Orthodox Jew-IF we were following the Chafetz Chaim. Too often, one hears explanations from certain professionals-otherwise I couldn’t make a living. The Torah answer of course-is do something else-even if not earning what Brahmins earn. Torah should take precedence.

    Ori: Wouldn’t doctors be a special case? A medical license isn’t just a way to make more money. It’s a tool that lets you practice medicine, saving lives as part of your daily job. Preserving the ability to perform this Mitzva is not the same as having a higher standard of living.

  24. Menachem Daum says:

    Perhaps if we saved fewer Poles, a few more Jews would have survived the Shoah. Dr. William Gewirtz

    Or perhaps if we had saved a few more Poles, or at least if our chayders in Poland taught that Polish people are fellow human beings created in G-d’s image who are worthy of being saved, then more Poles would have been inclined to reciprocate and save Jews during the Nazi occupation.

  25. mycroft says:

    Furthermore, in the United States, any physician who treated non-Jews differently from Jews for any reason would lose his or her medical license.

    Should be irrelevant to an Orthodox Jew-IF we were following the Chafetz Chaim. Too often, one hears explanations from certain professionals-otherwise I couldn’t make a living. The Torah answer of course-is do something else-even if not earning what Brahmins earn. Torah should take precedence. I am not saying that we are following the Mishna Brurah-but the reason cited by Charlie Hall is not a legitimate reason. I suspect a lot of paskening for professionals may be simply that they go to who paskens the right way for them.

    including some members of the Ivy League athletic conference, have very strong and vibrant Orthodox communities today. Ironically, much of this is due to the efforts of YU President Richard Joel, whose efforts of Hillel before he came to YU have ironically have his biggest competition

    Hillels serve all Jews-a Hillel Director ike a chaplain can’t let his personal beliefs influencd how he serves his clienteld. Of course, Hillels were big decades before Joel at Hillel. I used the services of some of them during my post YU time decades ago.

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Mark-IMO, the Feldman article, the well known leaflet about religious observance and college campuses and “Off The Derech” have all helped launch this very important issue. However, as in all issues, the key is how the message is presented to a potential audience. I am not arguing with your point, but in terms of how to present the issue in a cogent, non-judgmental and intelligent manner. Simply stated, a mussar shmuess that the Ivy League is filled with dangers is IMO both ineffective and an approach that will alienate the individuals who would benefit from or considering attending lectures, etc on what I call exercising “due diligence.”

  27. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Menachem Daum asks: “Are Modern Orthodox Jews prepared to dismiss the Mishna Berurah as outside current normative Orthodox Judaism?”

    Categorically, in a word: YES; because you add the term normative but pls read on.

    Us MO’s (see the Rav ZTL – shnei minai Mesoret) as far as I can tell, do not normally dismiss any Posek as being outside of the realm of Torah relative to the question: is what they wrote a part of our scope for Limmud Torah – i.e. do we fulfill the mitzvah of talmud Torah for studying it. But in terms of Psak, in this case where the psak is overwhelmingly in the minority and, parenthetically, others where the Mishnah Brurah gave insufficient weight to Minhag Yisroel Saba, or suggests a chumrah to be Yotzai Lechol Hadeyot, the Mishnah Brurah is not dismissed but also not always followed.

    I will however add this to my list of examples where Chachmei HaMesorah had an uncanny ability to get it right, even when they were not. Perhaps if we saved fewer Poles, a few more Jews would have survived the Shoah. Or perhaps the Mishnah Brurah had better insight into his Polish neighbors.

  28. Baruch Horowitz says:

    As far as online resources on the subject of Orthodox Jewish students attending secular college campuses, I remember listening to a radio interview on OU Radio titled “The Power of One”(# 29, about a year ago in the archives), regarding OU’s JLIC program on the University of Maryland, and campus life in an Indianapolis college; there was a good discussion there on the pros and(I imagine, mostly) cons of attending a university not under Orthodox auspices. See also this link:

    http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5763/5763summer/KEEPINGT.PDF

  29. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “He was very unhappy and was afraid to be honest about his innermost feelings with most of his Orthodox colleagues and correspondents except for his good friend, Professor Samuel Atlas, a Reform Rabbi”

    The Sredie Aish’s keen sensitivity in these matters was also evident, to a lesser extent, in his public writings, as R. D. JJ Shachter wrote in a subsequent Torah Umaddah article.

    To comment on a topic which I know Menachem Daum shares an interest in, there was a discussion on the Zev Brenner Radio Show(NYC, around 2004), in response to publicity caused by two separate factors, about the relative success that insular segments of the Orthodox community have in balancing particularism versus universalism in education. The question then came up whether the radio forum, itself, was the proper venue for discussion(I would add, that when talking of a communal issue or concern, there is always a concern of not sufficiently emphasizing the degree that is indeed proper and correct).

    As I recall, the Right-wing panelist felt that a open radio forum was the wrong forum for an issue that should rightfully be dealt with internally, while the Centrist representative was not sure if sufficient internal dialogue had taken place as of that time(while I am unfamiliar with the private educational sphere, I did notice that the March, 2004 Jewish Observer, has since published “With Kindness and Respect”, apparently to address this issue). Although the occasion of the radio forum was indeed born out of necessity, I would add parenthetically that, halevai, there should be additional opportunities for amicable discussion in the higher levels of the Centrist-Charedi divide!

    Returning to the topic, I feet that both panelists were correct. There is a concept of “internal dialogue”, which every society needs to have, and both Modern Orthodoxy and Right-Wing Orthodoxy are no exceptions. On the other hand, the Centrist representative also had a point, in that there needs to be more internal dialogue on this particular issue, and what’s more, communication to the public regarding ongoing efforts(it’s obviously not a one-time issue), so that wrong impressions are not formed (for example, Rabbi Adlerstein touched on this positive aspects that may be found in insular communities, such as the 9/11 hospitality). I think re-addressing the topic, would cushion any fall-out from the Feldman article, both the concept that thoughtful people will have of Jews and Torah Judaism, and perhaps as well concerns of anti-Semitism, to the extent that the latter was affected.

    Beyond this specific issue, there is the larger point which was elsewhere raised in 2004 in this connection, “if there were a forum for the open discussion of ideas in the haredi world, that’s the right place for [discussing] this idea. But there’s no place for it”. That was three years ago, and indeed, the lack of a medium for an open, safe, exchange of ideas has clearly been shown to be an unhealthy situation. On the other hand, a forum such as this one, could serve as one way towards ameliorating this latter, more general aspect that is part of the problem.

  30. mycroft says:

    who wrote the Seridei Eish, was a scion and gadol of Modern Orthodoxy. He studied in Mir and Slabodka before WWI, became the Rosh Yeshiva of the Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Germany set up by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch,

    I may be wrong but I believe the Berlin Yeshiva/Seminary was HIldesheimer’s not Hirsch.-Big difference

  31. Charles B. Hall says:

    “The Chafetz Chaim, who was undoubtedly familiar with the Meiri, nonetheless castigates Jewish doctors who violate Biblical prohibitions in saving the lives of gentiles on Shabbos….Are Modern Orthodox Jews prepared to dismiss the Mishna Berurah as outside current normative Orthodox Judaism?”

    The answer to your question is yes. Charedi Jews, too. I am unaware of any rabbi would paskens according the the Chafetz Chaim today regarding this issue. My wife is a physician and from time to time must treat seriously ill patients on Shabat; she treats non Jews the same as Jews. All this is with the approval of her posek, a well-regarded talmid chacham. Furthermore, in the United States, any physician who treated non-Jews differently from Jews for any reason would lose his or her medical license.

    Dr. Feldman knows all this. His presentation reminds me of the parts of the New Testament where Jesus gets into trouble for healing Jews on Shabat. Dr. Feldman knew exactly what he was doing and I can not escape the conclusion that it was a deliberate attempt to make Judaism look bad to the general public.

    “the personal incilnation to go to Ivy Leagues”

    While I am on the faculty of Yeshiva University and of course would like to promote it (!) it is only fair to point out that many secular colleges, including some members of the Ivy League athletic conference, have very strong and vibrant Orthodox communities today. Ironically, much of this is due to the efforts of YU President Richard Joel, whose efforts of Hillel before he came to YU have ironically have his biggest competition.

    Regarding the Yale 5, I always thought that Yale was unreasonable but totally within their rights. There is no constitutional right to force a private organization to change its ways. A victory by the Yale 5 might well have triggered similar efforts to force YU to change ITS policies!

  32. Mark says:

    Steve,

    “Comments about attire certain perceived religious standards within MO are IMO extraordinarily counterproductive and not the way that one can begin or advocate for a discussion about due diligence.”

    I’m not sure if you’re addressing me here or not. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned anything about attire in this discussion.

    My point was that if MO feels that a college degree is a necessity, they must prepare the students adequately for that and emphasize to parents constantly that not all universities are equal. In fact, the dangers are immense and it’s risky and every precaution must be taken to ensure the success. The OU should speak about this often, the rabbanim should not let up on the issue, the YI should pay strong attention to it.

    To my dismay, the greater MO world does not do this and not only do their children suffer as a result, but they also lose alot of credibility because it’s hard to see how dedication to Halachah is placed on an eqaul footing with secular education, when oftentimes, more emphasis is placed on the quality of the education than on ensuring the spiritual well-being of the student.

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    Menachem Daum-welcome aboard! I enjoyed both of your documentaries immensely.

    [Co-Editor’s Note: Me too!
    Yitzchok Adlerstein]

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Mark & Moshe-I think that the key should be “due diligence.” The key is which college provides suits a student’s religious and educational needs BUT only after thorough research of the issue. I would agree that proactive discussion, research and on campus visists are necessary for due diligence on this issue and that one should remember that some students may find their religious niche on an Ivy campus as opposed to YU or vice versa. However, if we learn anything from this article, we need more frank discussion and due diligence than assuming blindly that one type of environment is inherently better. I would also hesitate to using stereotypes about MO in addressing this issue. Comments about attire certain perceived religious standards within MO are IMO extraordinarily counterproductive and not the way that one can begin or advocate for a discussion about due diligence.

  35. joel rich says:

    I think this statement is very reflective of where you go wrong – you’re getting your facts from books, not personal experience. No matter how many places you read about the “ever-growing numbers of Chareidi youth leaving the fold” the facts on the ground make it clear that their numbers are nowhere close to approaching those of the MO community. This is an undeniable fact and one that gives me no pleasure at all. It is a tragedy of the highest proportions and the MO community is engaging in suicidal behavior by pretending that the problem is “equally great among the Chareidim” and therefore unworthy of further attention.

    WADR a generalized “undeniable fact” based on personal experience is a non-sequitur. We all have a problem to work on.

    Generally, on this issue of whether feelings trump standards (which is the crux of virtually every debate over the past decade, [due to the constant infiltration of Western liberal values which surely hold that feelings win] (gays defining marriage, gals defining gender roles, laymen defining who gets to have an opinion re Torah guidance, et al, ), the answer is:

    Charedi: of course standards trump personal feelings.
    LWMO: au contraire.
    RWMO: confused. Primarily, because Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Jeremy Wieder, and Norman Lamm speak in very different voices, and the gap is very wide if not impossible to bridge.

    WADR I think you are way off-base. I have attended shiurim by R’ Schachter for years and R’ Weider gave a weekly gemara shiur that I attended. While their approaches are different, imho neither in their wildest dreams would say personal feelings trump standards. Do personal feelings have a role in halacha – of course (are all are women chashuvot?) – do we still have to sit and cry (but offer no solution)with a giyoret who brings an off-the -derech Jew back to yiddishkeit only for both of them to find out right before their marriage that he’s a kohen? Of course.

    KT

  36. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Tal is right, Robby is right. Even I am right – albeit about a different issue.

    Tal and Robby are correct about the reasons for the hesitation about organ donation. I simply didn’t want to get into the reasons for the difference between saving a life on Shabbos and donating organs, and just wanted to make the point that they are different. The chief hesitation of opponents to donation applies to donating to Jews as well, that the harvesting of organs is an act of murder in many cases if one does not subscribe to so-called brain death as a valid criterion. (There may be other hesitations as well, owing to issues of whether a meis has a proprietary interest in his own body, and also issues of whether the criterion of meis lifenecha applies in all cases that organs are routinely harvested.) For that matter, chilul Shabbos is also not a Jewish v. Non-Jewish issue, since midinah deGemara, one cannot violate Shabbos for a Jew who flagrantly violates Shabbos.

    I was right, I believe, in my insistence about what R’ Shlomo Zalman ruled regarding the bottom line – that we treat non-Jews on Shabbos without making any disinctions, or any determination of whethr aivah is a factor in the individual case. See Nishmas Avraham vol. 4 pg 49

    Menachem – You too are right about the Chofetz Chaim. But he can be read both ways. Clearly, he disagreed with the practice. And he does not cite the part of the Chasam Sofer that has become SOP today. But it is also clear that all Jewish doctors he knew were routinely treating non-Jews! For the purpose of fending off the damaging and antisemitic fallout from the Feldman piece, widespread practice of Jewish doctors is going to be more important than the theoretical objections of the Mishnah Berurah.

  37. Moshe says:

    The real key quote from the NYT article was where Feldman said that he hoped that his O friends would place personal friendships ahead of the need to define boundaries (or something to that effect). That is precisely the message of LWMO when it comes to Yiddishkeit (the personal incilnation to go to Ivy Leagues, wear shorts to shul, etc. trumps religious standards.)

    Generally, on this issue of whether feelings trump standards (which is the crux of virtually every debate over the past decade, [due to the constant infiltration of Western liberal values which surely hold that feelings win] (gays defining marriage, gals defining gender roles, laymen defining who gets to have an opinion re Torah guidance, et al, ), the answer is:

    Charedi: of course standards trump personal feelings.
    LWMO: au contraire.
    RWMO: confused. Primarily, because Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Jeremy Wieder, and Norman Lamm speak in very different voices, and the gap is very wide if not impossible to bridge.

  38. Robby Berman says:

    Comment by Yitzchok Adlerstein: “I can’t be mistaken about something I didn’t say. My words clearly refer to medical treatment on Shabbos, not organ donation. The differences between them are numerous.”

    Rabbi Adlerstein, the point you were making both in your original article and in your reference to Orthodox Jewish doctors who violate the Shabbat to save non-Jewish lives, was that in practice Orthodox Jews are directed not to make a distinction between the life of Jew and non-Jew and you brought Rabbi Dr. Avraham Avraham and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as supporters of this position.

    My response to you was you might be mistaken on the issue of organ donation (typically a life saving procedure – thus the comparison) where those Rabbis mentioned feel a brain dead donor might actually be halachicly alive and thus they feel that it is better to leave Israel and go abroad to receive a critical organ transplant because then the brain dead donor that is being “murdered” will most likely be non-Jewish thus demonstrating on a practical level that they view the life of a non-Jew to be worth less than a Jew.

    As far as your comment about YU Rabbis not registering for the HOD Society organ donor card; while many have done so publicly appearing in our advertisements and on our website (such as Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Rabbi Moshe Tendler, etc) others have registered for our card asking us not publicize their names. These you are not privy to.

    Of the remaining who don’t register for an organ donor card it is because they reject brain death, as Tal Benschar pointed out, and, even though they could register for the HOD Society organ donor card and choose the option to express their desire to donate organs at cessation of heart beat, they feel uncomfortable associating with an organization that recognizes brain death as a valid halachic option which in their mind would be tantamount to murder.

    Comment by Tal Benschar — July 30, 2007 @ 9:05 pm
    I very much doubt that there is any real risk of eivah in the context of organ donation, since the vast majority of people in our countries do not donate organs, and there are also other religious objections (see the discussion of brain death above) which have nothing to do with differences between Jew and Gentile.

    I respectfully disagree with Tal Benschar in that the combination of Jews not donating organs combined with that of Jews taking organs causes a great amount of animosity in the medical establishment by healthcare workers who are treating Jewish patients. I have heard these feelings expressed by physicians in Belgium, New York and Pittsburg.

    One US transplant physician told me, and I remember his comment word for word because I will never forget them, “I hate treating Jews and Israelis because on the issue of organ donation you are a people of takers and not givers.” I imagine that any Jew or Israeli, including Tal Benschar, would not want to be treated by this physician for fear of eivah.

  39. Menachem Daum says:

    The Chafetz Chaim, who was undoubtedly familiar with the Meiri, nonetheless castigates Jewish doctors who violate Biblical prohibitions in saving the lives of gentiles on Shabbos: “Know that the doctors in our time, even the most observant, are not careful about this at all, for every Sabbath they travel beyond the borders of the Sabbath domain to heal those who worship the stars, and they write [prescriptions], and grind substances [to prepare medicines] — and they violate the Sabbath willfully and completely, G-d save us.” (Mishnah Berurah, 330, subsection 8.) Being that this was written only a century ago it is clear that the reference to “those who worship the stars” is not referring to ancient pagans. It clearly refers to contemporary Christians in Poland. Are Modern Orthodox Jews prepared to dismiss the Mishna Berurah as outside current normative Orthodox Judaism?

    Rabbi Y.Y. Weinberg (1885-1966), who wrote the Seridei Eish, was a scion and gadol of Modern Orthodoxy. He studied in Mir and Slabodka before WWI, became the Rosh Yeshiva of the Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Germany set up by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, survived the concentration camps and spent the remainder of his very unhappy life in Switzerland from where he wrote his highly regarded responsa to questions from all over the world. He was very unhappy and was afraid to be honest about his innermost feelings with most of his Orthodox colleagues and correspondents except for his good friend, Professor Samuel Atlas, a Reform Rabbi. An article containing this correspondence was published a few years in a YU journal and caused a considerable ruckus. You can see the article here: http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/TU7_Shapiro.pdf. See especially the 8th page (pg 112) and the 14th page (pg 118). He painfully concludes that that our halachos and attitudes toward gentiles have contributed to the anti-Semitism we have suffered from throughout the ages. He painfully says, “God knows I have written this with the blood of my heart, the blood of my soul”. Rabbi Weinberg agonizes over the issue but seems unable to resolve it.

  40. Tal Benschar says:

    R. Adlerstein: your rejoinder to Robby Berman misses the point somewhat. The Roshei Yeshiva who would not encourage organ donation (or maybe discourage it) has to do with the definition of death, not with any difference between Jews and non-Jews. Those (like R. Aharon Soloveichik z”l) who hold that the current definition of “brain death” does not fit the halakhic definition of death would hold that organ donation is impermissible to help anyone, either Jew or Gentile, because the donor is halakhically still alive. (And by the time he or she is halakhically dead, the organs are no longer viable, except perhaps for the cornea.)

    Robby Berman — the halakhic justification for what these teenagers were asking you is right here on this blog. Organ donation clearly involves nivul ha met, a Torah prohibition. Assuming you can get around the objection based on definition of death, then you need a hetter for that issur.

    Pikuach nefesh is the most obvious hetter. However, as should be clear by now, that is a hetter only for Jews, not non-Jews. AFAIK, every halakhic authority agrees with this point — the hetter of pikuach nefesh applies only to save the life of a Jew.

    The hetter discussed here is mishum eiva — that the gentile world should not hate us for failing to save their life on Shabbos, for example. That is a solid hetter in halakha, and far be it from me to question someone like RSZA as to its applicability. (I heard the same thing in the name of R. Moshe Feinstein from a reliable source.)

    However, and this applies to many of the apologists here, it is still a different hetter with different parameters.

    I very much doubt that there is any real risk of eivah in the context of organ donation, since the vast majority of people in our countries do not donate organs, and there are also other religious objections (see the discussion of brain death above) which have nothing to do with differences between Jew and Gentile.

    This highlights the limits of apologetics, however. The mere fact that the practical halakha of saving the life of a Jew and of a Gentile on Shabbos is the same does not mean that there is no difference between them. How you get to the practical halakhic conclusion has both theoretical and practical ramifications.

    Whether or not it makes some here uncomfortable, the bottom line is that the Torah does treat the life of a Jew and of a non-Jew differently. Any discussion which does not recognize this is either apologetics or wishful thinking.

    (BTW, the difference is not always to the non-Jews’ detriment. As the gemara in Sanhedrin holds, while a Jew is obligated to sacrifice his life instead of worshipping idols, this does not apply to non-Jews. Presumably, a non-Jew could also benefit from items devoted to idolatry, whereas a Jew is forbidden to be healed from the “trees of the Asheira,” many holding that is yehareg v’al yaavor for a Jew.)

  41. Mark says:

    Steve,

    “Mark-Please don’t argue that since less Charedim leave observance than MO Jews, that MO is a failure.”

    I’ve never said any such thing. I’ve taken issue with Garnel who insists that Chareidim are ill-prepared to face the world and therefore suffer more casualties. They don’t, and it’s not even close.
    As far as my opinion on the MO situation – I have no problem whatsoever with someone saying that we cannot produce a generation of Kollel-niks and we need to educate our youth to enter the professional world etc. That’s all fine and good. What’s inexcusable IMHO is when that becomes the whole story and not enough thought is put into ensuring that the medium used to educate the youth is conducive to Torah values. Unfortunately far too many MO parents send their kids to universities that pose Hashkafic problems and serious temptations to kids who are very ill-prepared to deal with them [frankly – I don’t believe there’s a method available to inoculate ones child from the many irresistible temptations of CERTAIN colleges]. The parents and the MO leadership must take a much greater interest in promoting attendance at universities that don’t pose the same problems [YU etc…] It is in this area that they have failed their youth so far and IMHO this is the single greatest danger facing the MO community today. They owe it to their kids to create venues where their children can get a kosher secular education. To preen about how MO education better prepares the kids to enter the world, is to dance on the deck of the Titanic.

  42. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Like it or not,the “off the derech” phenomenon knows no hashkafic boundaries”.

    Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried in the recent Hakirah Journal(“Are Our Children Too Worldly?”) in fact writes that “off the derech” exists equally everywhere, but in different degrees:

    “To different degrees the problem of “children at risk” or “children alienated from, or just cold and indifferent to, Yiddishkeit” exists about equally in every segment of the frum community, from the very chassidic, through the yeshivish, to the Modern Orthodox. I don’t really see any fundamental differences between the fences built by Torah Vodaath, Chaim Berlin, and the Mir and the fences built by Satmar, Skver, Bobov, and Gur, certainly not in the past 10-15 years. My experience is that even the more “Modern Orthodox” have similar, though lower, fences, accompanied by similar problems and conflicts. Thus each group at its level ought to look at what it is doing”

    Also, while I agree that one needs to demonstrate the point(just as one needs to show statistics that MO has a higher drop-out rate), it is not only the “Modern Orthodox” who have argued that TIDE, when exercised correctly, has the ability to blunt the force of the Haskalah, but Hirschians as well. See this Avodah post:

    http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol16/v16n027.shtml#08

  43. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Robby Berman –
    Concerning Rabbi Adlerstein assertion that Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Dr. Abraham Abraham make no distinction between Jew and non-Jew concerning life saving measures, I think he might be mistaken concerning organ donation.

    I can’t be mistaken about something I didn’t say. My words clearly refer to medical treatment on Shabbos, not organ donation. The differences between them are numerous. This is clearly evidenced by the Roshei Yeshiva in the top tier of halacha resources at YU who will tell their talmidim to save the life of a non-Jew on Shabbos without hesitation, but do not subscribe to your organ donation program.

  44. Bob Miller says:

    “However, I would still posit that putting a class from Maimonides up against a class from a chasidic yeshivah where the kids have had minimal to no interaction with the outside world would be an interesting experiment…
    Comment by Garnel Ironheart — July 30, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    Let’s stop positing here and offer some demonstrated facts.

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Mark-Please don’t argue that since less Charedim leave observance than MO Jews, that MO is a failure. Like it or not,the “off the derech” phenomenon knows no hashkafic boundaries. If anything is true, family, community and schools are the critical factors in an analysis of that issue-not the type of school, hashkafa or community.

  46. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “I hope Hashem helped Plaintiff A…”

    So do I(I have no idea how the story ended).

    As I implied, I think Plaintiff A was inarticulate by saying that “you can listen and write notes and it doesn’t make an impression on you”, but is nevertheless overall correct that a distinction should be made between the added, and possible greater risk inherent in staying in a co-ed dorm, versus the mere risk of being exposed to secular material(while the latter risk may be minimized in a college under Orthodox auspices, there are elements of such risks in certain courses at YU/Touro as well).

    You can take the position that the Yale 5 were mistaken in their attempt to force their right’s to obtain an Ivy League education ,davka, at Yale with the dorm requirement(there were conflicting views within the OU organization), but the mere fact that a person exposes him or herself to secular material, shouldn’t mean that they lose the right to avoid the possible greater risk to Yiddishkeit inherent in living a co-ed dorm.