Feldman in 2009
|Alma mater||Harvard College (BA)|
University of Oxford (PhD)
Yale University (JD)
Jeannie Suk (m. 1999–2011)
|Children||Jaemin Feldman (14) Mina Feldman (13)|
|Fields||Legal studies, religion, politics|
|Institutions||Harvard Law School|
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 was also the 1990 Truman Scholar from Massachusetts. 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.
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 and Bloomberg View columns.
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; 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, in the lecture Islam & Democracy: Is a clash of civilizations 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.
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. 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. 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."
His critique of Modern Orthodox Judaism has been commented on by many, including Hillel Halkin, columnist for the New York Sun;Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News; Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union;Marc B. Shapiro  Rabbi Shalom Carmy, tenured professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University; Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University; Rabbi Shmuley Boteach;Gary Rosenblatt, editor of Jewish Week, the editorial board of the Jewish Press; Rabbis Ozer Glickman and Aharon Kahn, roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva University; Ami Eden, Executive Editor of The Forward; Rabbi David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life; and Jonathan Rosenblum, 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, the Tenafly Eruv Association, to erect an eruv. However, his arguments were rejected in 2003 and the eruv was, in fact, permitted.
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. The sixteen Amish men and women in the 2012 case were subsequently found guilty.
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."