Monday, August 6, 2007
Drawing a line...
Two weeks ago, Noah Feldman wrote an essay for the New York Times' Sunday Magazine. The essay, entitled Orthodox Paradox is his own personal complaint against the system that he feels contributed to his developement, his worldview, and where he is holding today. You see, Feldman went to a Modern Orthodox yeshiva, where the message he recieved was that it was possible to be both a jew and a professional in the non jewish world. However, after embracing the secular world - ultimately marrying a non jewish woman - Feldman now turns to his Alma Mater - which has proceeded to omit the mere mention of him in their alumni newsletters - and cries foul.
My brief summarization can't possibly do the article any justice. Here's the link; I hope it works, and although it's a very long article, it's worth reading.
The reactions varied; many lambasted Feldman, and as an interesting note, it appears that Feldman didn't just piss off folks in the religious community. Allan Nadler of The Forward seriously questions Feldman's sincerity in his choices to remain outside the parameters of Orthodoxy.
Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week was by far the best response.
That was the background.
When I first read the article, I struggled. As one who aspires to work in the Kiruv field professionally - specifically speaking, with jewish teens who reject religious life - I know the importance of not writing off people right away. A lot of times there are misunderstandings, etc. On the other hand, this Feldman fellow blatantly violates numerous Halachic rulings, is aware of it, discusses it in an open, public forum, and has the cajones to blame the system that he came out of, all the while justifying himself with the pithy excuse of "trying his best, in his own, flawed way."
My question - and this wasn't addressed by any articles I have seen - is this. What is the line? What do we consider the point of "no return"? When do we indeed pull up the stakes and pack it in, because there's no more we can do to help this person who is so intent on rejecting the faith? In Kiruv, we deal with kids who are at all sorts of levels of rebellion. Aside from the dangers of desensitizing ourselves to this behaviour, at what point do we move on?
When is it more than an option, but an obligation?
How do we face that moment, and how do we live with that rejection?
Any suggestions? I'm open...
Note: I just found this article, which lends a significant twist on the whole story.
An added point that I forgot to mention was that I was irked at how much attention the Matisyahu "debacle" got from bloggers in light of the fact that the Feldman story happened at basically the same time. I haven't seen any bloggers responding or discussing this very important ( in my opinion ) issue...