Noah R. Feldman (born May 22, 1970) is a Harvard law professor, public intellectual, ethical philosopher & advisor, religious scholar, historian and author.
He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and chairman of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He is the author of 10 books, host of the podcast Deep Background, and a public affairs columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He was formerly a contributing writer for the New York Times.
In 1992, Feldman received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard, 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.
According to Harvard Magazine, Feldman is a "hyperpolyglot." He is fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French. He also claims to speak conversational Korean, and to read Greek, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish and Aramaic.
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.
Feldman has published 9 non-fiction books and 2 case books.
They includeThe Broken Constitution, Divided By God,What We Owe Iraq, Cool War, Scorpions, The Three Lives of James Madison and 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."
Since 2019, Feldman has been the host of the podcast named Deep Background with Noah Feldman, which is produced by Pushkin Industries. Deep Background focuses on the historical, scientific, legal, and cultural context underlying the news, with a focus on power & ethics. He has interviewed Malcolm Gladwell, Laurie R. Santos, and Marc Lipsitch, among others.
In 2010, he became a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and in 2020, he was named chair. A Harvard Magazine profile describes the Society as such: "The values it represents to [Feldman] have shaped his career: 'convivial intellectual community with people from many very different backgrounds; interdisciplinary creativity and collaboration; openness to new, unorthodox ideas; pursuing solutions to long-term questions that really matter for the world; generosity to colleagues and across generations; nurturing originality to encourage risk-taking; and belief in sustained, in-person conversation as a central element of the good intellectual life.'"
He is the founding director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish & Israeli Law at Harvard Law School.
Facebook Oversight Board
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.
A 2020 profile in Harvard magazine describes the genesis of the board: "On a bike ride one day, [Feldman] thought: Facebook and other social media are under a lot of pressure to avoid outcomes that are morally repugnant. What if they addressed the problem as governments do, giving independent bodies functioning like courts the authority to decide what content is acceptable and what is not? Social media themselves, he decided, should find ways to protect free expression—and he made a proposal to Facebook, the world’s largest social-media platform, with more than 2.6 billion users who send out an average of 115 billion messages a day: 'To put it simply: we need a Supreme Court of Facebook.'"
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. "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."
In 2020, Harvard Magazine wrote "Feldman is increasingly prominent as a public intellectual and a voice about public affairs ... His work displays the mix of synthesis and substantive mastery that serious journalists aspire to, and the combination of clarity and eloquence that few scholars display. He writes with the conviction that the most important public position in American life is that of citizen, which makes his fellow citizens the most important audience for his writing about American public affairs."
In 2019, the New York Times published in "Who Is Noah Feldman?" that Feldman was "part of a vanishing breed, a public intellectual equally at ease with writing law review articles, books aimed at both popular and scholarly audiences and regular opinion columns, all leaning left but with a distinct contrarian streak." According to The New York Times, Feldman "specializes in constitutional law and the relationship between law and religion and free speech".
In 2008, Feldman was named in Esquire's list of the "75 most influential people of the 21st century." The magazine called him "one of the country's most sought after authorities," "an acclaimed author" and "a public intellectual of our time."
In 2006, New York Magazine named Feldman "the next big public intellectual," and later, as "most beautiful brainiac" in The Most Beautiful People issue.
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".
Criticism of Modern Orthodox Judaism
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 HillelOrthodoxminyan. 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. 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.
Feldman has published nine non-fiction books and two casebooks.
The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery & the Refounding of America (2021) “seeks to retell the story of the meaning of the Constitution in the Civil War and of Lincoln’s decisive action not as the story of successful salvation but as something more dramatic, and more extreme: the frank breaking and frank remaking of the entire union of order, rights, constitution, and liberty.” The book is a history of “an extraordinary transformation” in Lincoln's “beliefs about the meaning of the Constitution.”
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." 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."
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." 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."
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." As each side vies for supremacy, Feldman warns, the Cool War has the potential to become a hot war.
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". This group biography demonstrates that their competing judicial philosophies "are the ones that continue to preoccupy lawyers, law professors and judges".
The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (2008) explains the increasingly loud call for implementing shari'a in Muslim countries. 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. 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.
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." 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".
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" while ensuring that nation building does not become "a paternalistic, colonialist charade." As a constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Feldman suggests the United States ensure security and organize elections before withdrawing.
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. 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."
——— (2003). After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374177690. LCCN2002192524. OCLC 1024173388.
——— (2004). What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691121796. LCCN2004016041. OCLC 355628322.
——— (2005). Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem – and What We Should Do About It. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374281311. LCCN2005007064. OCLC 1033658906.
——— (2008). The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691120454. LCCN2007047918. OCLC 437427441.
——— (2010). Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices. New York: Twelve Books. ISBN 9780446580571. LCCN2010007788. OCLC 528665984.
——— (2013). Cool War: The Future of Global Competition. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780812992748. LCCN2013007907. OCLC 846844628.
——— (2017) The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. Description & arrow/scrollable preview. Random House, New York. ISBN 9780812992755. LCCN 2017-125 OCLC 1008877503.
——— (2020). The Arab Winter: A Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691194929. LCCN2019030393. OCLC 9421051640.
Feldman, Noah R.; Sullivan, Kathleen M. (2019). Constitutional Law (Twentieth ed.). St. Paul, MN: Foundation Press. ISBN 9781683287872. OCLC 1086016864. – various editions/supplements prior to this version
Feldman, Noah R.; Sullivan, Kathleen M. (2019). First Amendment Law (Seventh ed.). St. Paul, MN: Foundation Press. ISBN 978-1684673308. LCCN2019296312. OCLC 1111925275.
Feldman, Noah R. (November 2015). "Chapter 39: Mormonism in the American Political Domain". In Givens, Terryl L.; Barlow, Philip L. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism. Vol. Part VIII Mormonism in the World Community. New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199778362.013.36. ISBN 9780199778362. OCLC 5932525069.
Weisberg, Jacob; Feldman, Noah (September 28, 2017). "What Are Impeachable Offenses?". The New York Review of Books.
Feldman, Noah (October 28, 2017). "Opinion: James Madison's Lessons in Racism". The New York Times.
Feldman, Noah (2018). "On "It can't happen here"". In Sunstein, Cass R. (ed.). Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America. New York: Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow. ISBN 9780062696199. OCLC 1027963797.
Feldman, Noah (May 24, 2018). "Crooked Trump?". The New York Review of Books.
Feldman, Noah (June 5, 2018). "Opinion: Are You Sure You Want a Right to Trump's Twitter Account?". The New York Times.
Feldman, Noah (July 19, 2018). "Tipping the Scales". The New York Review of Books.
Feldman, Noah (December 6, 2018). "Justifying Diversity". The New York Review of Books.
^"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."
^Stop Ostracizing Those Who Marry Out, Shmuley Boteach, Huffpost, July 22, 2007.
^ abcdefCaplan, Lincoln (September–October 2020). "Near and Distant Objectives". Harvard Magazine.
^Worth, Robert F. (May 12, 2020). "Tragedy in the Middle East". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
^"When Judges Make Foreign Policy", September 25, 2008, example NYT Magazine article, retrieved 2014-03-01.
^Feldman, Noah, "Beard-cutting is horrid. It isn’t a hate crime", Bloomberg News via Ohio.com, September 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
^"Noah Feldman: Not even FDR could pack the Supreme Court". Times Leader. September 30, 2020. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
^Harvard Law School. “Noah Feldman.” Faculty Profiles. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
^"'Jeopardy' for Jews: Who Wants To Be the World's Next Top Torah Scholar?". Tablet Magazine. May 1, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
^ abCaplan, Lincoln (August 6, 2020). "Near and Distant Objectives". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
^Sullivan, Mark (July 8, 2019). "Exclusive: The Harvard professor behind Facebook's oversight board defends its role". Fast Company. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
^Swanson, Ian (December 22, 2019). "House Judiciary announces impeachment witnesses". The Hill. Archived from the original on December 4, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
^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.
^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.
^Sullivan, Eileen (December 4, 2019). "Who Is Noah Feldman? Scholar Specializes in Constitutional Law". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
^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.
^"75 Most Influential People of the 21st century: Noah Feldman". Esquire. October 1, 2008.
^"The Most Influential in Ideas -- New York Magazine - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
^"Most Beautiful New Yorkers - Liv Tyler - Mos Def - Noah Feldman - Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly". nymag.com. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
^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.