Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIAS AND OTHER REFERENCE
BOOKS IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS
A
b r a h am
B
e r g e r
a n d R
ena te
K
a u f m an n
T
EWISH encyclopedias have a somewhat different history than
J encyclopedias in general. The
Jewish Encyclopedia
, mother
of Jewish reference books, published by Funk and Wagnalls half
a century ago, was a pioneer work at a time when there were
hardly any monographs in English in many, if not most, fields
of Jewish knowledge. It is no accident that it originated in the
United States.
Today we are more fortunate in that we have whole libraries in
English, Hebrew and Yiddish. There is still a great need, how-
ever, to turn to encyclopedias for many individual questions of
reference, whether in a home, in a synagogue or center, or in a
library. Even when books are available, it is often preferable to
consult an encyclopedia for quick orientation and bibliography,
and for concise definitions of terms and expressions in the Jewish
world. The purpose of this article is to review some of the more
important Jewish encyclopedias and other reference works that
have appeared since the end of the 1930’s.
A major event in the field of Jewish reference works in the
last two decades is the publication of the
Universal Jewish Ency-
clopedia}
under the editorship of Rabbi Isaac Landman, with the
collaboration of a distinguished board of editors that included
scholars such as Julian Morgenstern, Abraham A. Neuman,
Joshua Bloch, Louis Finkelstein, William F. Albright and Solomon
B. Freehof. In ten attractively designed volumes, the ency­
clopedia covers every phase of Jewish life and of Jewish participa­
tion in the life of all countries and all periods. It gives relatively
greater weight, however, to the present century and to America
(both general and local history). In this emphasis lies its special
value, since no other encyclopedia treats these subjects nearly
so fully. Like most Jewish encyclopedias, the
Universal Jewish
Encyclopedia
is strong in biographies (including portraits),
many of living persons. It also includes present-day political and
fraternal organizations and other items of current interest, and
1
New York, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co., c l9 39 -1944 . 10 v. and
Reading
Guide.
41