Here is the Jewish Week report:
…Feldman now says of the photo, “In life you can never be sure, and the truth is I never knew any of this until I saw the contact sheets, about two weeks ago. All I knew when I had the experience described in the article is that [Eisenberg] took a bunch of group shots and then, sure enough, I wasn’t in” the newsletter photo.
“I felt that sense of being reminded of something I already knew,” that his future with a non-Jewish wife would meet limited acceptance.
Asked why he didn’t rewrite the story to reflect the newly discovered photo, Feldman responded: “When I first wrote it I was doing it from memory. When [the photographer] turned up the contact sheet there was no contradiction at all, as far as I could tell. They had several photos to choose from and they chose one that I wasn’t in. There’s no question that one could offer other explanations for what happened,” other than that it was intentional. “It’s not as if [the photo] was an outlying event. It fit right in with the other things [refusing to print his lifecycle notices]. This was a memoir of my experience.”
Eisenberg, who is now based in New York, said the Times “paid my way to go back to [his Boston studio] and find the negative. They wanted to run the [reunion] picture to illustrate” Feldman’s claim of being discriminated against because of his relationship with a non-Jew. Eisenberg returned with the photo but the Times opted not to publish it, he said, when it became obvious that there was no cropping but simply an overflowing of reunion participants beyond the camera’s range.
“It’s not like they could show that the only two people not in the picture were Noah and his girlfriend,” said Eisenberg.
The photographer, also a Maimonides alumnus, said that after the 1998 reunion he ran into Feldman at a “Conservadox temple” when the conversation took place that Feldman recounts in the Times: Eisenberg told Feldman, “don’t blame me,” with Feldman assuming he was referring to the yeshiva’s cropping because of his girlfriend.
Eisenberg now says he wasn’t thinking of Feldman’s girlfriend, only the photo’s unwieldy circumstance. “I would have said the same thing” to any one of “16 other people” who didn’t appear in the final picture.…
Josh Wolff, executive director of Maimonides, told The Jewish Week… that the school’s alumni updates had indeed rejected Feldman’s subsequent submission of his life-cycle events once it became known that Feldman eventually married his girlfriend, who did not convert, making his children non-Jewish according to traditional Jewish law.
Here is what the OU claims:
On behalf of the leadership and constituency of the Orthodox Union, we write to express our outrage at the decision by the Times Magazine editors to publish Mr. Feldman's slanderous essay when... it became known to the author and to the editors - in advance of publication - that Mr. Feldman's assertion of his being deliberately cropped out of a photograph of his day school reunion - the departure point and narrative framing for his essay - was false.…
Here is what Feldman actually wrote:
A number of years ago, I went to my 10th high-school reunion, in the backyard of the one classmate whose parents had a pool. Lots of my classmates were there. Almost all were married, and many already had kids. This was not as unusual as it might seem, since I went to a yeshiva day school, and nearly everyone remained Orthodox. I brought my girlfriend. At the end, we all crowded into a big group photo, shot by the school photographer, who had taken our pictures from first grade through graduation. When the alumni newsletter came around a few months later, I happened to notice the photo. I looked, then looked again. My girlfriend and I were nowhere to be found.
I didn’t want to seem paranoid, especially in front of my girlfriend, to whom I was by that time engaged. So I called my oldest school friend, who appeared in the photo, and asked for her explanation. “You’re kidding, right?” she said. My fiancée was Korean-American. Her presence implied the prospect of something that from the standpoint of Orthodox Jewish law could not be recognized: marriage to someone who was not Jewish. That hint was reason enough to keep us out.
Not long after, I bumped into the photographer, in synagogue, on Yom Kippur. When I walked over to him, his pained expression told me what I already knew. “It wasn’t me,” he said. I believed him.…
What do we have? This:
- The OU's claim that Feldman wrote that he and his girlfriend had been "deliberately cropped out" of the photo is false. All Feldman does is express shock at not appearing in the printed photograph. He relies on a friend's assessment for what happened and, even then, no one asserts the image was cropped or photoshopped. Removing Feldman from the final picture could have been done by cropping or by relying on a photograph framed by the photographer to exclude him. (And, believe me, the photographer must have been very careful to make sure he had shots of the group that left out Feldman. Wedding and Jewish event photographers are quite skilled at getting shots that leave out the crazy uncle or the hated in-laws, all without letting the excluded realize they have been "out-framed.")
- Further, Josh Wolf's statement could be read to say that before Feldman actually married his non-Jewish bed partner, Maimonides would have had no objection to them appearing together in the alumni publication. This is clearly false. The Jewish Week should have asked Wolf directly: "Did Maimonides have any objection to Feldman and his bed partner appearing together in the alumni publication? Would it allow other inter-dating couples to appear together in a school publication?" If the answer is, as I suspect, that Maimonides would not print such a photograph or mention an out-dating relationship, then no one – not the OU, not Maimonides – have a valid complaint against the Times.
- The idea that several pictures could have been taken is not broached by Feldman. If Feldman had specifically claimed that the printed picture was cropped, this would be an issue. But Feldman did not directly claim this, although his piece could be read that way.
- In other words, to say that there were 10 photos, five with Feldman and five without, say, and the school chose one of the five without, does not weaken his claim, especially when that claim is combined with his other claim, that the school refuses to print his life cycle notices. The school admits the latter claim is true.
- The only assertion that the Times did not use the photo because "it became obvious that there was no cropping" comes from the photographer, who himself admits to saying exactly what Feldman has him saying regarding the original picture. In other words, the photographer, who is not a disinterested or impartial witness, cannot be relied on for his self-interested assessment of why the Times did not use the photo.
- More telling, the Jewish Week does not confirm the photographer's statement with the Times and does not ask the photographer how he knows the motivation of the Times' editors. Is this speculation on his part? Or did the editors tell him that, because Feldman was not cropped out, we won't run the photograph? The Jewish Week's piece does not tell us.
- Therefore, nothing in this incident warrants Feldman's firing or even an apology from the Times.
- The OU's further claims about Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir fail to note that Goldstein, even though heavily influenced by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as was Amir, gained that influence in the middle of a National Religious-Modern Orthodox community that was accepting and supportive of Kahane's views. Amir – who studied full time at Bar Illan University – was influenced by other Bar Illan students. However, I think it unfair to blaim the institution for that influence. Even so, to make the claim that Feldman made, that there are many teachings within mainstream Jewish Orthodoxy – even Modern Orthodoxy – that are profoundly anti-gentile, bigoted and hateful is not wrong. The claim is supported by ample evidence.
- In other words, the OU does not really have a leg to stand on.
- None of this alters my view that Feldman's complaints of mistreatment at the hands of his old MO day school are foolish and infantile.
- Orthodoxy, for better or for worse, publicly, privately and in every other way imaginable rejects out-marriage. This could not have been news to Feldman, and his surprise at being treated differently than his in-married peers I find not credible. Feldman clearly deceived himself long before he set out to deceive anyone else.