Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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24
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
present in many other reviews but the generalizations are backed
by data or, at the very least, they come from experts. Perhaps it
is professional and personal bias that leads me to conclude that
the most useful reviews are those of librarians: Charles Berlin
gives a comparatively full picture in a very short review, and
The
Booklist
review comprehensively combines the views of subject
specialists with the disciplined criticism of librarians who are
trained and practiced in the close examination of reference books.
In the final analysis it will be the reviews of subject specialists,
who stick to their specialties, that will yield both the detailed
criticisms that are necessary and the consensus or lack of it that
will validate or invalidate the generalizations of those bold
enough to make them.
EVALUATION OF THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA
How does one describe the comprehensiveness of such a broad
work? The backers say it is “a summing up of Jewish culture
and knowledge” or “the summation of Jewish knowledge” (l).4
Perhaps it is true that "the Holocaust, modern Israel, Zionism,
Jewish law, languages, art, science, mysticism, philosophy, Soviet
Jewry, the Bible, modem Yiddish literature, Jews and their con­
tributions to America’s history and development” are the sub­
jects to which “fresh perspectives and massive scholarship” (2)
have been brought in
EJ.
One critic (14) feels that
EJ
has failed
to perform on its promise to emphasize “U.S. Jewish Commu­
nities,” “Who is a Jew,” and “Holocaust” while oversupplying
data on “each and every Kibbutz, Moshav, and village in Israel”
and providing too many book-length expositions and not enough
first-line reference information.
There are 8,887 black and white illustrations, 238 color illus­
trations, 424 black and white maps, and many charts, diagrams,
and tables. The art dimension is a major plus for
EJ,
but it is
also true that many of the illustrations are pointless and many
small maps are not helpful. The binding is lauded by some com­
mentators (6, 11, 12), but use in a library shows that the bind­
ing is not strong enough, especially for the first (Index) volume.
*
The numbers in parentheses refer to the annotated list of reviews above.