Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

Basic HTML Version

26
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
is not well covered (12). Agus (12) also criticizes the very nar­
row Israeli conception of Zionism which
E J
favors, almost exclud­
ing other views, especially those of the affirmers of the Diaspora,
the Reconstructionists, Dubnow, and others.
And so with all the subject divisions of
EJ:
variation in quality,
from excellent to poor, with criticism of space allotment (14),
bias (7, etc.) and errors (7, 9, etc.) abounding. In librarians’
terminology, the “authority” of the work is not up to par. Too
many less than qualified people did too much of the writing and
editing. Several critics specifically call attention to the writing
by “anonymous members of the editorial staff” (13) or the re­
writing “by unseen hands” (6) sometimes without a chance by
the original author to see the rewritings before printing took
place (5, Levine). To which one might add that the competence
of at least 20% of the people listed among the contributors can­
not be guessed from the data provided in the encyclopedia; they
are almost anonymous “researchers,” rabbis, journalists, “his­
torians.”
The bias towards Israel—call it “emphasis on” or “concern
for”—is all-pervasive by design.5 Kellner (5) finds a sociological
bias which results in a “non-intellectual tone” and accounts for
the scantiness of the entries on basic Jewish concepts. He also
recognizes Jewry’s admiration of the wealthy (and the reflection
of this in the
EJ)
and the dominance of the Holocaust. Others (6,
12) see a “moderate traditionalism” as a norm that shuts off ade­
quate treatment of Conservative and Reform Judaism.
What constitutes a tolerable level of errors in an encyclopedia?
If an encyclopedia is a reference tool to which one turns for fac­
tual information, then one should expect impeccable factual
accuracy.
E J
has acknowledged errors of substance by printing a
16-page Corrigenda section that is obviously and admittedly in­
complete and by promising to publish a complete list of errata
and corrigenda “at a later date.” While it has been said that
E J
is honest and courageous in acknowledging this mass of errors, it
is also disturbing, to say the least. And all the critics recognize
that there are countless errors of judgment, of half-truth, of in-
5
Encyclopaedia Judaica Newsletter
[for editors and contributors] 1 (Aug.,
1967): 5 notes: “ . . . there is a general instruction to all revelant con­
tributors to keep the State of Israel constantly in mind when preparing
their articles.”