Noah Feldman

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Noah Feldman
Noah 2021.jpg
Feldman in 2021
Noah R. Feldman

(1970-05-22) May 22, 1970 (age 51)
Academic background
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Christ Church, Oxford (DPhil)
Yale University (JD)
Academic work
DisciplineLegal studies, religion, politics
InstitutionsHarvard Law School

Noah R. Feldman (born May 22, 1970) is an American academic, author, columnist, public intellectual, and host of the podcast Deep Background. He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and chairman of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. His work is devoted to constitutional law, with an emphasis on free speech, law & religion, and the history of constitutional ideas.

Early life and education[edit]

Feldman grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he attended the Maimonides School.[1] Feldman was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home.

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 summa cum laude graduate) and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year. He was also the 1990 Truman Scholar from Massachusetts. He then earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, where he earned a DPhil in Islamic Thought in 1994. While at Oxford, he was a member of the Oxford University L'Chaim Society.[2]

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. After law school, he clerked for Associate Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Harvard Magazine, Feldman is a "hyperpolyglot." He is fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French, speaks conversational Korean, and reads Greek, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish and Aramaic.[3]


In 2001, Feldman joined the faculty of New York University Law School (NYU), where he became a tenured full professor in 2005 and was appointed Cecilia Goetz Professor of Law in 2006.

In 2003 he was named senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. In that capacity he advised on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law, the precursor to the Iraqi constitution.[4][5]

In 2007, Feldman joined the Harvard Law School faculty as the Bemis Professor of International Law, teaching classes on the First Amendment, the Constitution, and the international order. In 2014, he was appointed the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.[3]

Feldman was a senior adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and was previously an adjunct fellow at New America Foundation.

Feldman has published 8 non-fiction books and 2 case books. They include Scorpions, The Three Lives of James Madison, and his latest, The Arab Winter. Reviewing The Arab Winter in The New York Times, Robert F. Worth called Feldman's thesis "bold" and that Feldman "spins out its ramifications in fascinating and persuasive ways."[6]

He was a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine from 2005 to 2011.[7] Since 2012, he has been a regular columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, formerly Bloomberg View.[8] He also regularly contributes essays to The New York Review of Books about constitutional topics and the Supreme Court.[3]

In 2010, he became a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and in 2020, he was named chair of the Society of Fellows. He is the founding director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish & Israeli Law at Harvard Law School.

Harvard Magazine, in a September 2020 profile, wrote, "Feldman is increasingly prominent as a public intellectual and a voice about public affairs."[3] 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 also specializes in Islam. In Iraq, this led him to support the creation of a democracy with Islamist elements. This last position was lauded by some as a pragmatic and sensitive solution to the problems inherent in the creation of a new Iraqi government;[9] others took exception, however, characterizing Feldman's views as simplistic and shortsighted.[10][11]

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 choose to rear their own children in such a system.[12]

Feldman advised Facebook on the creation of the Facebook Oversight Board, whose members were announced in June 2020. According to Feldman, the purpose of the Oversight Board is to protect and ensure freedom of expression on the platform by creating an independent body to review Facebook's most important content moderation decisions.[13]

According to The New York Times, Feldman "specializes in constitutional law and the relationship between law and religion and free speech".[14]


Since 2019, Feldman has been the host of the podcast named Deep Background with Noah Feldman, which is produced by Pushkin Industries. He has interviewed Malcolm Gladwell, Laurie R. Santos, and Marc Lipsitch, among others.[15]

Criticism of Modern Orthodox Judaism[edit]

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.[16] 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 photograph 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 photograph due to space limitations.[17] 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 photograph. 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."[18]

His critique of Modern Orthodox Judaism has been commented on by many, including Hillel Halkin, columnist for the New York Sun;[19] Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News;[20] Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union;[21] Marc B. Shapiro[22] Rabbi Shalom Carmy, tenured professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University;[23] Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University;[24] Rabbi Shmuley Boteach;[25] Gary Rosenblatt, editor of Jewish Week,[26] the editorial board of the Jewish Press;[27][28] Rabbis Ozer Glickman and Aharon Kahn, roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva University;[29][30] Ami Eden, executive editor of The Forward; Rabbi David M. Feldman, author of Where There's Life, There's Life;[31] and Jonathan Rosenblum, columnist for the Jerusalem Post.[32] In addition, the American Thinker published responses by Ralph M. Lieberman,[33] Richard Baehr,[34] and Thomas Lifson.[35]

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 permitted.[36]

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.[8] Subsequently, the sixteen Amish men and women in the 2012 case were found guilty.[37]

Public perception[edit]

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.[38]

In 2008, he was among the names topping Esquire's list of the "most influential people of the 21st century". The magazine called him "a public intellectual of our time."[39]

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".[40]

New York Magazine named Feldman as one of "the influentials" in ideas,[41] and later, as "most beautiful brainiac" in The Most Beautiful People issue.[42]

On December 4, 2019, Feldman—alongside law professors Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley—testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.[43][44] "Some day, we will no longer be alive, and we will go wherever it is we go, the good place or the other place, and we may meet there Madison and Hamilton," Feldman suggested. "And they will ask us, 'When the president of the United States acted to corrupt the structure of the republic, what did you do?' And our answer to that question must be that we followed the guidance of the framers, and it must be that if the evidence supports that conclusion, that the House of Representatives moves to impeach him."[45]

Personal life[edit]

He is divorced from Jeannine Suk, professor of law at Harvard Law School and New Yorker contributor, with whom he has two children.[46][47]

Works and publications[edit]


Feldman has published eight non-fiction books and two casebooks.

After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (2003) contends that support of violent jihad in the Muslim world is declining in favor of popularity for both Islam and democracy.[48] Explaining shared traits of Islam and democracy, such as equality and flexibility, Feldman argues that the two are in fact compatible and that "democracy in the Arab world should be Islamic in character."[49]

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (2004) argues that "having broken the Iraqi government, Washington has an obligation to bring about a new and better one"[50] while ensuring that nation building does not become "a paternalistic, colonialist charade."[51] As a constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Feldman suggests the United States ensure security and organize elections before withdrawing.[50]

Divided By God: America's Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (2005) describes "key episodes in the history of church-state relations to show how the growing religious diversity of the American people has led to new efforts to find common ground for political and social life."[52] Addressing the divide between the competing camps of "values evangelicals" and "legal secularists," Feldman proposes a compromise "to allow religious symbols in public places but not to allow public funding for specifically religious practices or activities".[53]

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (2008) explains the increasingly loud call for implementing shari'a in Muslim countries.[54] Feldman argues that current systems of government in certain Muslim countries have unchecked executive power because the previous system – in which scholarly interpretation of shari'a served to counterbalance executive power – was undermined by failed reforms in the modern era.[54] Drawing on the success of this previous system, Feldman proposes a viable path for Islamic governance that depends on legislators to serve as the check on authoritarian executives.[55]

Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices (2010) focuses on four of Roosevelt's Supreme Court appointees: Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Robert Jackson, and William O. Douglas, and "how the backgrounds, personalities, and experiences of the four justices shaped their philosophies and how those philosophies changed the Court from a conservative one resisting America's liberal turn under FDR into the liberal one that helped remake the nation".[3] This group biography demonstrates that their competing judicial philosophies "are the ones that continue to preoccupy lawyers, law professors and judges".[56]

Cool War: The Future of Global Competition (2013) is about the relationship between the United States and China, as "the world's two biggest economies are fated to remain geopolitical frenemies, locked in a chilly embrace necessitated by economic interdependence but made tense by constant military and political rivalry in Asia and, increasingly, the rest of the world."[57] As each side vies for supremacy, Feldman warns, the Cool War has the potential to become a hot war.[58]

The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (2017) "explores Madison's reactive and improvisational thinking as it played out in the three uniquely consequential roles, or ‘lives,' he had — as constitutional architect and co-author with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of the ‘Federalist Papers,' political partisan and wartime president."[59] Feldman writes that Madison's "character emerges most vividly through the cycles of [his] extraordinarily close friendships" and that his biography is "entwined with that of the constitutional republic itself, its personalities, and its permanent struggle to reconcile unity with profound disagreement."[60]

The Arab Winter: A Tragedy (2020) seeks to "save the Arab spring from the verdict of implicit nonexistence and to propose an alternative account that highlights the exercise of collective, free political action."[61] The book "is an interdisciplinary work of history and sociology, as well as linguistics, using insights of political philosophy to explore the right ways of governing in the very different countries of Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia, as well as the Islamic State."[3]

Selected news and articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Stop Ostracizing Those Who Marry Out, Shmuley Boteach, Huffpost, July 22, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Caplan, Lincoln (September–October 2020). "Near and Distant Objectives". Harvard Magazine.
  4. ^ Harvard Law School. “Noah Feldman.” Faculty Profiles. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  5. ^ "'Jeopardy' for Jews: Who Wants To Be the World's Next Top Torah Scholar?". Tablet Magazine. May 1, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  6. ^ Worth, Robert F. (May 12, 2020). "Tragedy in the Middle East". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  7. ^ "When Judges Make Foreign Policy", September 25, 2008, example NYT Magazine article, retrieved 2014-03-01.
  8. ^ a b Feldman, Noah, "Beard-cutting is horrid. It isn’t a hate crime", Bloomberg News via, September 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  9. ^ Kagan, Robert (November 14, 2004). "We Broke It, We Bought It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  10. ^ "No review ID passed in! Can't display page" Archived June 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine a/o 2012-09-20.
  11. ^ Kramer, Martin. "Jihad is Over! (If Noah Feldman Wants It.)". Campus Watch. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  12. ^ "Theologico-Politicus". November 15, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  13. ^ Sullivan, Mark (July 8, 2019). "Exclusive: The Harvard professor behind Facebook's oversight board defends its role". Fast Company. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  14. ^ Sullivan, Eileen (December 13, 2019). "Who Is Noah Feldman? Scholar Specializes in Constitutional Law". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  15. ^ Leader, Times (September 30, 2020). "Noah Feldman: Not even FDR could pack the Supreme Court". Times Leader. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  16. ^ Feldman, Noah, "Orthodox Paradox", New York Times, 2007-07-22
  17. ^ "Snap, Crackle, But Not Cropped",
  18. ^ Wieseltier, Leon. "Theologico-Politicus", The New Republic
  19. ^ ""The Fact of Jewish Particularity" by Hillel Halkin". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  20. ^ ""The Way We Do the Things We Do" by Andrew Silow-Caroll". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  21. ^ ""Letter to the Editor" by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb". The New York Times. August 5, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  22. ^ "The Seforim Blog – All about Seforim – New and Old, and Jewish Bibliography".
  23. ^ ""Truth and Consequences" by Rabbi Shalom Carmy". July 28, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  24. ^ ""A Response to Noah Feldman" by Rabbi Norman Lamm". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  25. ^ Shmuley Boteach, "Stop Ostracizing the Intermarried" Archived March 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Jerusalem Post
  26. ^ ""Modern Orthodoxy Under Attack" by Gary Rosenblatt". November 15, 2011. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  27. ^ ""Feldman's Complaint" by Editorial Board".
  28. ^ ""Conceding a Point to Feldman?" by Editorial Board".
  29. ^ "Kol Hamevaser website". July 31, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  30. ^ "YUTorah Online - Selichos and Noah Feldman (Rabbi Aharon Kahn)". Archived from the original on December 31, 2008.
  31. ^ "The Imperative to Heal". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  32. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan (August 9, 2007). ""Feldman's Bad Faith" by Jonathan Rosenblum". Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  33. ^ ""Question of Proper Journalistic Standards" by Ralph M. Lieberman". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  34. ^ ""More Cultural Relativism From The Times" by Richard Baehr". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  35. ^ ""Bending the Truth to Slur Orthodox Jews" by Thomas Lifson". July 28, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  36. ^ 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."
  37. ^ Eckholm, Erik, "Jury Convicts Amish Group of Hate Crimes", New York Times, September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  38. ^ Fahim, Kareem (June 22, 2004). "Have a Nice Country". Village Voice.
  39. ^ "75 Most Influential People of the 21st century: Noah Feldman". Esquire. October 1, 2008.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ "The Most Influential in Ideas -- New York Magazine - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  42. ^ "Most Beautiful New Yorkers - Liv Tyler - Mos Def - Noah Feldman - Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly". Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  43. ^ Swanson, Ian (December 22, 2019). "House Judiciary announces impeachment witnesses". The Hill. Archived from the original on December 4, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  44. ^ Oprysko, Caitlin; Samuelsohn, Darren (December 2, 2019). "House Judiciary reveals witnesses for first impeachment hearing". Politico. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  45. ^ Blitzer, Ronn (December 4, 2019). "Impeachment witness tells lawmakers to consider having to answer to Hamilton and Madison in the afterlife". Fox News. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  46. ^ "WEDDINGS; Noah Feldman and Jeannie Suk". August 15, 1999 – via
  47. ^ Gibson, Lydialyle (February 9, 2021). "Due Process". Harvard Magazine.
  48. ^ "Review Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing Business News "After Jihad"". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  49. ^ Tepperman, Jonathan D. (July 6, 2003). "A Delicate Balance". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  50. ^ a b "What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building". January 28, 2009 – via
  51. ^ "What We Owe Iraq". April 2, 2006 – via
  52. ^ "Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem -- and What We Should Do About It". January 28, 2009 – via
  53. ^ Flanders, Chad (October 1, 2007). "Noah Feldman, Divided by God". Ethics. 118 (1): 147–151. doi:10.1086/521283. ISSN 0014-1704. S2CID 171251233.
  54. ^ a b "The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State". August 26, 2012 – via
  55. ^ "The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State; Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a". January 28, 2009 – via
  56. ^ Cohen, Adam (November 5, 2010). "Jousting Justices". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  57. ^ Brauchli, Marcus (June 14, 2013). "'Cool War: The Future of Global Competitionn' by Noah Feldman". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  58. ^ July 1; 2013. "Strange New Rules of a Cool War". Harvard Law Today. Retrieved August 25, 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  59. ^ Dunn, Susan (November 1, 2017). "James Madison's Zigzag Path". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  60. ^ Feldman, Noah (2017). The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780812992755.
  61. ^ Feldman, Noah (2020). The Arab Winter: A Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. ix. ISBN 978-0691194929.

External links[edit]