Noah R. Feldman (born May 22, 1970) is an American author and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Much of his work is devoted to analysis of law and religion.

Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman.jpg
Feldman in 2009
Born (1970-05-20) May 20, 1970 (age 49)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materHarvard College (BA)
University of Oxford (PhD)
Yale University (JD)
Jeannie Suk (m. 1999–2011)
Scientific career
FieldsLegal studies, religion, politics
InstitutionsHarvard Law School


Education and careerEdit

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

In 1992, Feldman received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard College, where he was awarded the Sophia Freund Prize (awarded to the highest-ranked graduate) and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he earned a PhD in Islamic Thought in 1994. Upon his return from Oxford, he received his J.D., in 1997, from Yale Law School, where he was the book review editor of the Yale Law Journal. He later served as a law clerk for Associate Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2001, he joined the faculty of New York University Law School (NYU), leaving for Harvard Law School in 2007. In 2008, he was appointed the Bemis Professor of International Law.[2]

Feldman 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]

After twelve years of marriage, Feldman divorced from fellow Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk, with whom he has two children. He is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, and French, besides English.[5]

Work and viewsEdit

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 JudaismEdit

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 removed from 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] Marc B. Shapiro [15] Rabbi Shalom Carmy, tenured professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University;[16] Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University;[17] Rabbi Shmuley Boteach;[18] Gary Rosenblatt, editor of Jewish Week,[19] the editorial board of the Jewish Press;[20][21] Rabbis Ozer Glickman and Aharon Kahn, roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva University;[22][23] Ami Eden, Executive Editor of The Forward; Rabbi David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life;[24] and Jonathan Rosenblum, columnist for the Jerusalem Post.[25] In addition, the American Thinker published responses by Ralph M. Lieberman,[26] Richard Baehr,[27] and Thomas Lifson.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

Public perception and imageEdit

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.[31]

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."[32]

New York Magazine named Feldman as one of "the influentials" in ideas, alongside Jeffrey Sachs, Saul Kripke, Richard Neuhaus, and Brian Greene.[33]

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."[34]

In 2011, Noah Feldman appeared in all three episodes in the Ken Burns PBS series Prohibition as a legal commentator.[35]


  • ——— (2003), After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-17769-4
  • ——— (2004), What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-12179-6
  • ——— (2005), Divided By God: America's Church-State Problem – and What We Should Do About It, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-28131-9
  • ——— (2008), The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-12045-4
  • ——— (2010), Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices, Twelve
  • ——— (2013), The Cool War: The Future of Global Competition, Random House, ISBN 978-0812992748
  • ——— (2017), The Three Lives of James Madison, Random House, ISBN 9780812992755

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Biography of Noah Feldman". The Globalist. Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  6. ^ "No review ID passed in! Can't display page" Archived June 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine a/o 2012-09-20.
  7. ^ "Jihad is Over! (If Noah Feldman Wants It.)". Campus Watch. May 19, 2003. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  8. ^ "Theologico-Politicus". November 15, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  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. ^ ""The Fact of Jewish Particularity" by Hillel Halkin". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  13. ^ ""The Way We Do the Things We Do" by Andrew Silow-Caroll". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  14. ^ ""Letter to the Editor" by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb". The New York Times. August 5, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  15. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ ""Truth and Consequences" by Rabbi Shalom Carmy". July 28, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  17. ^ ""A Response to Noah Feldman" by Rabbi Norman Lamm". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  18. ^ Shmuley Boteach, "Stop Ostracizing the Intermarried" Archived March 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Jerusalem Post
  19. ^ ""Modern Orthodoxy Under Attack" by Gary Rosenblatt". November 15, 2011. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  20. ^ "Feldman's Complaint" by Editorial Board[dead link]
  21. ^ "Conceding a Point to Feldman?" by Editorial Board[dead link]
  22. ^ "Kol Hamevaser website". July 31, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  23. ^ Rabbi Aharon Kahn: Selichos and Noah Feldman Archived December 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "The Imperative to Heal". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  25. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan (August 9, 2007). ""Feldman's Bad Faith" by Jonathan Rosenblum". Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  26. ^ ""Question of Proper Journalistic Standards" by Ralph M. Lieberman". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  27. ^ ""More Cultural Relativism From The Times" by Richard Baehr". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  28. ^ ""Bending the Truth to Slur Orthodox Jews" by Thomas Lifson". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  29. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan. "Think Again: Feldman's bad faith" Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, 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."
  30. ^ Eckholm, Erik, "Jury Convicts Amish Group of Hate Crimes", New York Times, September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  31. ^ Fahim, Kareem (June 22, 2004). "Have a Nice Country". Village Voice.
  32. ^ Schneider-Mayerson, Anna (November 3, 2005). "The Little Supremes". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  33. ^ "The Most Influential in Ideas". New York Magazine. May 8, 2006.
  34. ^ "75 Most Influential People of the 21st century: Noah Feldman". Esquire. October 1, 2008.
  35. ^ Burns, Ken; Novick, Lynn (October 2, 2011). Prohibition (Miniseries). PBS.

External linksEdit