Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
duplicated names with no indication of their location. It require
four years of effort with the aid of maps, atlases, and gazetteers t
distinguish many names and differentiate between them. Despit
his zeal, the author confesses that some places cannot be precisel
located. At times the name of a town was given as an acronym o
a Hebrew phrase which was known to Jews. To decipher som
of these was often a matter of intuition and luck.
Decoding and deciphering of place names in subscribers’ list
offered no problem in books published by Jews in Germany o
Holland. Every place is clearly defined, clearly a province, a lake
and the like. The same is true of the people’s names. In Easter
Europe many names were listed simply as Reb Moshe, Reb Osher
Reb Binyamin; the rabbi of one town is called merely “head o
the local Beth Din ” The same applies to the individuals’ occu
pations. Someone is listed in a German list as “Inhaber eine
Pferdehaarzubereitungsfabrik,” and another as “Shumacher
meister.” It would never occur to a Lithuanian or Galician autho
to identify a supporter as “shoemaker.”
The subscription lists of these thousands of books present addi
tional facets for the study of Jewish cultural life in Europe. Suc
sources have been little used thus far because they have bee
diffuse and inaccessible. In recording the Holocaust this materia
has special relevance for memorial volumes being prepared abou
particular towns. Of some eight hundred such volumes only thre
have used subscribers’ lists, and these were drawn from Mr. Kagan’
manuscript. Collating all this material in book form would mak
it highly valuable for research and memorialization.
Projects of this character and scope are ordinarily embarke
upon with appropriate staff, equipment, and financial resources
It is a felicitous indication of the sophistication of Jewish cultur
that such an ambitious undertaking could have been execute
privately by a single individual. In the English vernacular Mr
Kagan’s effort can be denominated as a “labor of love”; the mor
apt Hebrew expression is meshuga Vdavar ehad, impelled b
single-minded madness to bring these vast materials into an orderl
compendium. The completed work awaits publication under th
auspices of the American Academy for Jewish Research, which i
seeking funds for this purpose. It is ardently to be hoped that man
individuals will make the publication possible through their gen
erous response, and thus have their names listed in the volum
when it appears.