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Weighing in on Feldman’s Paradox

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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, host of “Shalom in the Home”

After graduating from Oxford, Noah went to Yale where his observance began to wane. I heard from some of his class mates that he was now dating a non-Jewish girl. Hearing that he was quite serious about her, when his girlfriend came in turn to Oxford as a Marshall scholar, I made a point of reaching out to her and inviting her to our Shabbat dinner. My thinking was that Noah was far too precious to me and to the Jewish people to lose. If he was dating a woman whom he wished to marry, then it was our duty to try and expose her to the friendliness of the Jewish community with a view toward her exploring whether a serious commitment to our tradition was something that would suit her.

Sadly, however, others took a far different view. A mutual friend of ours who was a Rabbi in Noah’s life essentially told him that if he married outside the faith he would have to sever his relationship with him. Apparently, many of Noah’s orthodox friends made the same decision. The net result was that one of the brightest young Jews in the entire world was made to feel that the Jewish community was only his family if he made choices with which we agreed.

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Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America

Yes, there is ample reason to feel sympathy for Jews who intermarry. Transgressions performed from desire, Jewish tradition teaches, do not reach the level of those intended to be transgressive. And on a personal level, there are reasons to not cut off connections to intermarried friends or relatives. It is not unheard of for non-Jews married to Jews to actually guide their spouses back to Judaism and to themselves convert; precisely such a couple is the subject of “Migrant Soul,” a biography I was privileged to write.

At the same time, though, there is simply no way — not in the real world — to warmly welcome intermarrieds without welcoming intermarriage. No way to make the Feldmans feel accepted for who they are without making potential Feldmans view intermarriage as innocuous. No way to “devalue” the gravity of intermarriage without dulling the truth that every Jew is an invaluable link in the Jewish chain of generations.

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Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week

Poor Noah, one may think on first read. How primitive and unfair for his former yeshiva to refuse to publicly acknowledge his successes.

But as one continues to read Feldman’s essay, we see he is the one being unfair in expecting to be lauded by a community whose values he has rejected and in crafting an intellectually dishonest case for himself.

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