The “Orthodox Paradox,” Noah Feldman’s thoughtful discussion of his intermarriage and the Modern Orthodox community’s response to it, has clearly struck a nerve among Jewish bloggers, Orthodox and non-. Joey Kurtzman, the whip-smart senior editor of Jewcy, conducted a Q&A with Feldman, which, unsurprisingly, generated a flood of comments. (There’s a broad cultural stereotype that Orthodox Jews are Luddites, but judging from their activity on blogs and discussion boards, that couldn’t be further from the truth.)
Kurtzman’s Q&A only briefly touches on intermarriage and gets more into the whole debate over Orthodoxy vs. modernity. But there is a nice line from Feldman. Kurtzman asks:
You were surprised when Maimonides—the yeshiva from which you graduated—airbrushed out you and your (non-Jewish) wife from a photo published in the alumni newsletter. Your surprise struck many readers as rather strange, since the community makes no secret of its rejection of intermarriage. It’s a bit like you’d pulled out a bag of pork rinds, devoured them with relish throughout the evening, and then expressed bewilderment when someone asked you if you’d set them aside until later. What are your critics missing here?
To which Feldman replies:
What is troubling about the view you describe—which I never sensed from my classmates—is its implication that somehow modern Orthodox people should be protected from my living my life as I choose. As if choice of life partner were as trivial as a snack… People who are comfortable with their own life choices don’t get “offended” when others choose differently.
Feldman’s response reminds me of something Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the only openly gay Orthodox rabbi in the world, once said in a speech I saw. Orthodox Jews often liken homosexuality to eating a cheeseburger–it’s obviously prohibited by the Torah, so how could gays expect Orthodox Jewry to accept them? But, said Greenberg, nobody ever cried when their cheeseburger left them–or moved across the country to be with their cheeseburger.
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