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Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman

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Noah Feldman is an American author and professor of law at Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...


Education and career

Feldman grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where he attended the Maimonides School
Maimonides School
Maimonides School is a coeducational, Modern Orthodox, Jewish day school located in Brookline, Massachusetts. The school was founded in 1937 by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and his wife Tonya Soloveitchik...


He graduated from Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 in 1992, ranked first in the College, and earned a Rhodes Scholarship
Rhodes Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford. It was the first large-scale programme of international scholarships, and is widely considered the "world's most prestigious scholarship" by many public sources such as...

 to Oxford University, where he earned a D.Phil in Islamic Thought in 1994. Upon his return from Oxford, he received his J.D.
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

, in 1997, from Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

, where he was the book review editor of the Yale Law Journal
Yale Law Journal
The Yale Law Journal is a student-run law review affiliated with the Yale Law School. Published continuously since 1891, it is the most widely known of the eight law reviews published by students at Yale Law School...

. He later served as a law clerk for Associate Justice David Souter
David Souter
David Hackett Souter is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1990 until his retirement on June 29, 2009. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by William J...

 on the U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. In 2001, he joined the faculty of New York University Law School (NYU), leaving for Harvard in 2007. In 2008, he was appointed the Bemis Professor of International Law.

He worked as an advisor in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority
Coalition Provisional Authority
The Coalition Provisional Authority was established as a transitional government following the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, members of the Multi-National Force – Iraq which was formed to oust the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003...

 in Iraq following the 2003 invasion of the country
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. While his initial work, under Jay Garner
Jay Garner
Jay Montgomery Garner is a retired United States Army lieutenant general who was appointed in 2003 as Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq following the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was soon replaced by Ambassador Paul Bremer and the ambassador's successor...

, was unfocused, he was authorized, under Paul Bremer's transitional team to help formulate the country's new constitution. However, what role if any he played in formulating the country's new constitution has not been established. It is not clear that he played any significant part in this constitutional work because his advisory role ended shortly after it began; whether he quit or was fired has never been made clear. He regularly contributes features and opinion pieces to The New York Times Magazine
The New York Times Magazine
The New York Times Magazine is a Sunday magazine supplement included with the Sunday edition of The New York Times. It is host to feature articles longer than those typically in the newspaper and has attracted many notable contributors...

and is a senior adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...


A polyglot, he is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, and French, in addition to English.

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
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 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
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 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; others have taken exception to the same idea, however, characterizing Feldman's views as simplistic and shortsighted.

Feldman was a featured speaker, alongside noted Islamic authority Hamza Yusuf
Hamza Yusuf
Hamza Yusuf Hanson is an Islamic scholar of the Sunni tradition, and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, United States. He is an American convert to Islam, and is one of the signatories of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders,...

, 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
Leon Wieseltier
Leon Wieseltier is an American writer, critic, and magazine editor. Since 1983 he has been the literary editor of The New Republic.Wieseltier was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Columbia University, Oxford University, and Harvard University, and was a member of...

 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.

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
Modern Orthodox Judaism
Modern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world....

 community in which he was raised, specifically at his high school alma mater, the Maimonides School
Maimonides School
Maimonides School is a coeducational, Modern Orthodox, Jewish day school located in Brookline, Massachusetts. The school was founded in 1937 by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and his wife Tonya Soloveitchik...

. 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 religious law, although he and his family had been active members of the Harvard Hillel
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally...

Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

A minyan in Judaism refers to the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. According to many non-Orthodox streams of Judaism adult females count in the minyan....

. Some accused 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. 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
Leon Wieseltier
Leon Wieseltier is an American writer, critic, and magazine editor. Since 1983 he has been the literary editor of The New Republic.Wieseltier was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Columbia University, Oxford University, and Harvard University, and was a member of...

 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".

His critique of Modern Orthodox Judaism has been commented on by many, including Hillel Halkin
Hillel Halkin
Hillel Halkin is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestselling Letters to an American-Jewish Friend: A Zionist Polemic and Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel. He is a prominent translator of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature into English, including...

, columnist for the New York Sun
New York Sun
The New York Sun was a weekday daily newspaper published in New York City from 2002 to 2008. When it debuted on April 16, 2002, adopting the name, motto, and masthead of an otherwise unrelated earlier New York paper, The Sun , it became the first general-interest broadsheet newspaper to be started...

; Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News
New Jersey Jewish News
The New Jersey Jewish News is a weekly newspaper published by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey.All newspaper editorial content is independent of UJC, and the views it expresses are not necessarily those of UJC....

; Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is an ordained rabbi, a qualified psychotherapist and the Executive Vice President Emeritus of the Orthodox Union, the largest Orthodox Jewish organisation in North America; a position he has held since 2002....

, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union
Orthodox Union
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America , more popularly known as the Orthodox Union , is one of the oldest Orthodox Jewish organizations in the United States. It is best known for its kosher food preparation supervision service...

; Rabbi Shalom Carmy
Shalom Carmy
Shalom Carmy is an Orthodox rabbi teaching Jewish Studies and philosophy at Yeshiva University, where he is currently Chair of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva College. He is an affiliated scholar at Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University...

, tenured professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University is a private university in New York City, with six campuses in New York and one in Israel. Founded in 1886, it is a research university ranked as 45th in the US among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2012...

; Rabbi Norman Lamm
Norman Lamm
Norman Lamm is a major American Modern Orthodox rabbi, scholar, author and Jewish communal leader. He is presently the Chancellor of Yeshiva University....

, chancellor of Yeshiva University;, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Shmuley Boteach
Shmuel "Shmuley" Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, author, TV host and public speaker.Among other books, Boteach wrote Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, published in 1999, which openly discusses intimacy and sexual intercourse...

; Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt is the editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York, a position he has held since 1993. Previously he was the editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times for 19 years.-Early career:...

, editor of Jewish Week, the editorial board of the Jewish Press; Rabbis Ozer Glickman and Aharon Kahn, roshei yeshiva
Rosh yeshiva
Rosh yeshiva, , , is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy . It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education...

 at Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University is a private university in New York City, with six campuses in New York and one in Israel. Founded in 1886, it is a research university ranked as 45th in the US among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2012...

; Ami Eden, Executive Editor of The Forward
The Forward
The Forward , commonly known as The Jewish Daily Forward, is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York City. The publication began in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily issued by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party of Daniel DeLeon...

; Rabbi David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life; and Jonathan Rosenblum
Jonathan Rosenblum
Jonathan Rosenblum is the director, spokesperson, and founder of Jewish Media Resources, an organization which attempts to clarify journalists' understanding of Haredi Jewish society.- Career :...

, columnist for the Jerusalem Post. In addition, the American Thinker published responses by Ralph M. Lieberman, Richard Baehr, and Thomas Lifson.

Feldman also argued pro bono in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals against the efforts of a Jewish group in Tenafly, New Jersey
Tenafly, New Jersey
Tenafly is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 census, the borough population was 14,488. Tenafly is an affluent suburb of New York City....

, the Tenafly Eruv Association, to erect an eruv
An Eruv is a ritual enclosure around most Orthodox Jewish and Conservative Jewish homes or communities. In such communities, an Eruv is seen to enable the carrying of objects out of doors on the Jewish Sabbath that would otherwise be forbidden by Torah law...

. In Jewish Law, there is an idea that if even a single Jew objects to the eruv, then the eruv is not valid. Thus, Feldman's public denouncement of the eruv made the construction of the eruv a bit more problematic according to Jewish Law. However, his arguments were rejected in 2003 and the eruv was, in fact, permitted.

Public perception and image

Feldman's work on the Iraqi constitution was controversial at the time, and some, including Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

, felt he was not experienced enough with the country to undertake such a task.

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."

Feldman was given the Most Beautiful Brainiac award from New York Magazine, and the magazine also named him as one of "the influentials" in ideas, alongside Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey David Sachs is an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments in the...

, Saul Kripke
Saul Kripke
Saul Aaron Kripke is an American philosopher and logician. He is a professor emeritus at Princeton and teaches as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center...

, Richard Neuhaus, and Brian Greene
Brian Greene
Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. He has been a professor at Columbia University since 1996. Greene has worked on mirror symmetry, relating two different Calabi-Yau manifolds...


In 2008, he was among the names topping Esquire
Esquire (magazine)
Esquire is a men's magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation. Founded in 1932, it flourished during the Great Depression under the guidance of founder and editor Arnold Gingrich.-History:...

magazine's list of the "most influential people of the 21st century". The magazine called him "a public intellectual of our time."

Family and personal life

Born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, the son of Dr. Roy E. Feldman and Dr. Penny Hollander Feldman, Noah Feldman has two children.

Feldman lives in Cambridge. He has two brothers: Simon Feldman, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College
Connecticut College
Connecticut College is a private liberal arts college located in New London, Connecticut.The college was founded in 1911, as Connecticut College for Women, in response to Wesleyan University closing its doors to women...

, and Ezra Feldman, a poet and a cook.

External links