Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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e w i s h
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the pioneer and all-important
Thesaurus of the Yiddish Lan-
published by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in
1950. Initiated in 1952 under the auspices of the YIVO, the
Dictionary project has weathered many storms, financial and
editorial, before the appearance of the present volume at the
end of 1961. Differences of opinion ensued between YIVO and
the Dictionary Committee when the latter sanctioned the orthog-
raphy of the dictionary which in some instances deviated from
the rules approved by YIVO in 1936. These deviations were
adopted after due consultation with authoritative linguists, writ-
ers and educators throughout the world. Objections, similar to
those raised in the current debate on Webster’s New Interna-
tional Dictionary of the English Language, were voiced against
the indiscriminate all-inclusiveness in assembling uncommon
foreign adoptions, personal neologisms, or highly specialized
technical terminology—a procedure which appeared justified at
the outset but was subsequently modified. In the matter of
finances, allocations from the Conference on Jewish Material
Claims Against Germany became available on an annual basis
in 1958 for engaging research and technical assistants among
the surviving victims of Nazi persecutions. The project is also
being supported by the newly organized National Foundation
for Jewish Culture.
The entire undertaking is a labor of love which has captured
the imagination and inspired the dedication of numerous indivi-
duals the world over. The vision and idealism of two dynamic
personalities, Israel Steinbaum, volunteer Executive Secretary of
the Dictionary Committee, and Chief Editor Yudel Mark, sue-
ceeded in recruiting financial support from Yiddish enthusiasts
and English-speaking rabbis. The editors and their aides have
devoted years of service without monetary compensation. The
number of participants runs into the thousands. More than 200
correspondents in all the continents functioned as voluntary
collectors, searching their memories and records for uncommon
Yiddish words and idioms and periodically forwarding them to
the New York office. Fifteen hundred individuals from various
walks of life manifested their faith in the project by contributing
over $140,000.00 prior to publication. A permanent staff of seven
researchers and a number of part-time specialists have been
occupied in the tedious perusal of all extant Yiddish books and
periodicals published anywhere and everywhere.
The enormity of the task derives not only from its com-
prehensiveness, but also from the undeveloped state of Yiddish
lexicography which requires preliminary effort unparalleled in
other languages. There has been no other Yiddish-Yiddish die-
tionary in existence. Preceding collections were bilingual and
trilingual and are generally outmoded, although they served