This week’s column is dedicated to the memory of the Dr. Louis Feldman, noted author, Yeshiva University professor of classics, and renowned scholar of Jewish history specializing in Josephus and the era of the destruction of the Second Temple. I will cite several tributes to Dr. Feldman by those who worked with him and by Dr. Edward Reichman, his son-in-law.
“Louis Feldman was a devoted teacher whose students could call his home until midnight and beyond, an exemplar of exacting standards, a font of wit and wisdom, a deeply committed Jew, and a lifelong inspiration to his disciples, among whom I am privileged to be numbered,” recounted YU’s Dr. David Berger.
A graduate of Trinity College and Harvard University, Dr. Feldman joined YU as an instructor in humanities and history in 1955, and was appointed a full professor of classics in 1966. His fame centered on his work as a scholar of Hellenistic civilization and his research and writings on the works of Josephus. He strongly felt that Josephus’ writings were integral to understanding Jewish life and practice during the Greco-Roman that lead to the destruction of the Jewish state. Dr. Feldman also published many works on Philo and on the nature of Jewish life and religious practice during that period of antiquity.
In a heartfelt personal tribute to his father-in-law, Dr. Edward Reichman of Woodmere, himself a noted scholar and Jewish medical ethicist, wrote the following:
“I confess that I was not a disciple of Prof. Feldman at YU. However, I was a student of his in the classroom of life for the past 25 years, being married to his wonderful daughter, Sara.
“In many ways he treated his students as family and his family as students. But it was his ability to seamlessly weave between demanding pedagogue and paternal figure which was the key to his success and profound impact both in his professional and family life.
He was the total package, the genuine article — a scholar of the highest order, yet humble and approachable; exacting and demanding, yet forgiving and understanding; serious and intense, yet playful and witty; an icon in the halls of academia, yet firmly rooted in the world of Torah; a scholar of impeccable moral character and an exceptionally devoted husband and father. He was truly all things to all people.
“My view of Aby, as we affectionately called him, has been further crystallized by having had the luxury — and I do mean luxury — of spending the last few days ‘observing’ shiva. What I have seen is a reflection of, and no less remarkable than, his exemplary life. A shiva filled with innumerable recollections of a master teacher, a master husband and a master father.
“The true testimony to success in teaching is to produce the next generation of master teachers; the true testimony of successful parenting is to produce devoted and loving parents. If this is the measure of success then he has met and exceeded it. I have observed the next generation of Feldmans, all of whom are accomplished and respected in their fields, yet engender the love and profound respect of their families, their friends, and their peers. I am truly humbled and honored to consider myself a true disciple of Prof. Louis Feldman, now of blessed memory.”
Dr. Reichman himself enjoys an enviable reputation as an ordained rabbi, a medical doctor and a medical ethicist. He is a Prof. of Clinical Emergency Medicine and Prof. of Education and Bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he teaches both medicine and Jewish medical ethics. His research is devoted to the interface of medical history and practice and Jewish law. His most recent work was as an editor of an anthology of essays entitled, “In The Pathways of Maimonides: A tribute to Dr. Fred Rosner,” published by the Maimonides Research Institute in Haifa and New York. For a complete list of the literary legacy of Dr. Feldman, may I refer you to Dr. Jonathan Sarna’s listings as found in “The Passing of Prof. Feldman” by Katherine Aron-Beller.
Two other very heartfelt and most informative tributes can be found in “Remembering Prof. Louis Feldman, z’l,” by Ari Lamm, adviser for research and strategy at Yeshiva University, and in “Lessons Learned from the Professor: A tribute to Prof. Louis Feldman,” by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
Both of these essays, taken together with Dr. Reichman’s tribute, will give you a complete picture of a truly legendary person, for all of us to learn from in the years to come.