The Jewish Encyclopedia[n 1] is an English encyclopedia containing
over 15,000 articles on the history, culture, and state of
Jews up to the early 20th century. It was originally published
in 12 volumes by
Funk and Wagnalls
Funk and Wagnalls of
New York City
New York City between 1901 and
1906 and reprinted in the 1960s by KTAV Publishing House. The work's
scholarship is still highly regarded: the
American Jewish Archives
American Jewish Archives has
called it "the most monumental Jewish scientific work of modern
Rabbi Joshua L. Segal said that, "For events prior to
1900, it is considered to offer a level of scholarship superior to
either of the more recent Jewish Encyclopedias written in English."
It is now in the public domain[n 2] and hosted at various sites around
The encyclopedia's managing editor was Isidore Singer. The editorial
board was chaired by
Isaac K. Funk
Isaac K. Funk and Frank H. Vizetelly. The other
editors participating in all twelve volumes were Cyrus Adler, Gotthard
Deutsch, Richard Gottheil, Joseph Jacobs, Kaufmann Kohler, Herman
Rosenthal, and Crawford Howell Toy.
Morris Jastrow, Jr.
Morris Jastrow, Jr. and Frederick
de Sola Mendes assisted with volumes I & II;
Marcus Jastrow with
volumes I, II, & III;
Louis Ginzberg with the first four volumes;
Solomon Schechter with volumes IV through VII;
Emil G. Hirsch
Emil G. Hirsch with
volumes IV through XII; and
Wilhelm Bacher with volumes VIII through
XII. William Popper served as the assistant revision editor and chief
of translation for Vols. IV through XII.
1.1 Singer’s idea
1.2 Editorial board
2.1 Relation to German scholarship
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Singer conceived of a Jewish encyclopedia in Europe and proposed
creating an “Allgemeine Encyklopädia für Geschichte und
Wissenschaft des Judenthums” in 1891. He envisioned twelve volumes,
published over ten or fifteen years, and costing fifty dollars as a
set. They would contain scientific and unbiased articles on ancient
and modern Jewish culture. This proposal received good press coverage
and interest from the Brockhaus publishing company. However, after the
House of Rothschild in Paris, consulted by Zadoc Kahn, offered to back
the project with only 8% of the minimum funds requested by Brockaus,
the project was abandoned. Following the
Dreyfus affair and associated
unpleasantness Singer emigrated to New York City.
Initially believing that American
Jews could do little more than
provide funding for his project, Singer was impressed by the level of
scholarship in the United States. He wrote a new prospectus, changing
the title of his planned encyclopedia to “Encyclopedia of the
History and Mental Evolution of the Jewish Race”. His radical
ecumenism and opposition to orthodoxy upset many of his Jewish
readers; nevertheless he attracted the interest of publisher Isaac K.
Funk, a Lutheran minister who also believed in integrating
Christianity. Funk agreed to publish the encyclopedia on the condition
that it remain unbiased on issues which might seem unfavorable for
Jews. Singer accepted and was established in an office at Funk &
Wagnalls on 2 May 1898.
Publication of the prospectus in 1898 created a severe backlash,
including accusations of poor scholarship and of subservience to
Kaufmann Kohler and Gotthard Deutsch, writing in American
Hebrew, highlighted Singer’s factual errors, and accused him of
commercialism and irreligiosity. Now considering that the project
could not succeed with Singer at the helm, Funk & Wagnalls
appointed an editorial board to oversee creation of the
Funk & Wagnalls assembled an editorial board between October 1898
and March 1899. Singer toned down his ideological rhetoric, indicated
his desire to collaborate, and changed the work’s proposed title to
“Jewish Encyclopedia”. Despite their reservations about Singer,
Gustav Gottheil and
Cyrus Adler agreed to join the board,
followed by Morris Jastrow, then
Frederick de Sola Mendes
Frederick de Sola Mendes and two
published critics of the project: Kauffmann Kohler and Gotthard
Deutsch. Theologian and Presbyterian minister
George Foot Moore was
added to the board for balance. (Soon after work started, Moore
withdrew and was replaced by Baptist minister Crawford Toy.) Last was
added the elderly Marcus Jastrow, mostly for his symbolic imprimatur
as America's leading Talmudist. In March 1899 the Central Conference
of American Rabbis, which had been contemplating a competing project,
agreed to discuss collaborating with Funk & Wagnalls—thus
securing the position of the
Jewish Encyclopedia as the only major
project of its kind.[n 3]
The editors plunged into their enormous task and soon identified and
solved some inefficiencies with the project. Article assignments were
shuffled around and communication practices were streamlined. Joseph
Jacobs was hired as a coordinator. (He also wrote four hundred
articles and procured many of the encyclopedia's illustrations.)
Herman Rosenthal, an authority on Russia, was added as an editor.
Louis Ginzberg joined the project and later became head of the
rabbinical literature department.
The board naturally faced many difficult editorial questions and
disagreements. Singer wanted specific entries for every Jewish
community in the world, with detailed information about, for example,
the name and dates of the first Jewish settler in Prague. Conflict
also arose over what types of bible interpretation should be included,
with some editors fearing that Morris Jastrow's involvement in "higher
criticism" would lead to unfavorable treatment of scripture.
Relation to German scholarship
Jewish Encyclopedia Illustration, most are black and white ink.
Illustration of Jewish grave in France with menorah used for the h in
Hebrew characters at the bottom right.
The scholarly style of the
Jewish Encyclopedia is very much in the
mode of the
Wissenschaft des Judentums
Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Jewish studies"), an approach
to Jewish scholarship and religion that flourished in 19th-century
Germany; indeed, the Encyclopedia may be regarded as the culmination
of this movement, which sought to modernize scholarly methods in
Jewish research. In the 20th century, the movement's members dispersed
Jewish Studies departments in the United States and Israel. The
scholarly authorities cited in the Encyclopedia—besides the
classical and medieval exegetes—are almost uniformly Wissenschaft
figures, such as Leopold Zunz, Moritz Steinschneider, Solomon
Schechter, Wilhelm Bacher, J.L. Rapoport, David Zvi Hoffman, Heinrich
Graetz, etc. This particular scholarly style can be seen in the Jewish
Encyclopedia's almost obsessive attention to manuscript discovery,
manuscript editing and publication, manuscript comparison, manuscript
dating, and so on; these endeavors were among the foremost interests
of Wissenschaft scholarship.
Jewish Encyclopedia is an English-language work, but the vast
majority of the encyclopedia's contemporary sources are
German-language sources, since this was the mother tongue of the
Wissenschaft scholars and the lingua franca of Biblical scholarship in
general in that period. Of the works cited which are not
German—usually the more classical works—the large part are either
Hebrew or Arabic. The only heavily cited English-language source of
contemporary scholarship is Solomon Schechter's publications in the
Jewish Quarterly Review. The significance of the work's publication in
English rather than German or
Hebrew is captured by Harry Wolfson
writing in 1926 (Schwarz 1965):
About twenty-five years ago, there was no greater desert, as far as
Jewish life and learning, than the English-speaking countries, and
English of all languages was the least serviceable for such a Jewish
work of reference. To contemporary European reviewers of the Jewish
Encyclopedia, the undertaking seemed then like an effort wasted on
South Africa and Jewish tailors in New York. Those
who were then really in need of such a work and could benefit thereby
would have been better served if it were put out in Hebrew, German or
— Harry Wolfson
The editors and authors of the
Jewish Encyclopedia proved prescient in
their choice of language, since within that same span of 25 years,
English rose to become the dominant language of academic Jewish
scholarship and among
Jews worldwide. Wolfson continues that "if a
Jewish Encyclopedia in a modern language were planned for the first
time [i.e., in 1926], the choice would undoubtedly have fallen upon
Jewish Encyclopedia was heavily used as a source by the 16-volume
Jewish Encyclopedia in Russian, published by Brockhaus and Efron
Saint Petersburg between 1906 and 1913.
The unedited text of the original can be found at the Jewish
Encyclopedia website. The site offers both
JPEG facsimiles of the
original articles and
Unicode transcriptions of all texts.
The search capability is somewhat handicapped by the fact that the
search mechanism fails to take into account the decision to maintain
all diacritical marks in the transliterated
Hebrew and Aramaic from
the 1901–1906 text, which used a large number of diacriticals not in
common use today. Thus, for example, to successfully search for
"Halizah" (the ceremony by which the widow of a brother who has died
childless released her brother-in-law from the obligation of marrying
her), one would have to know that they have transliterated this as
"Ḥaliẓah". The alphabetic index ignores diacriticals so it can be
more useful when searching for an article whose title is known.
The scholarly apparatus of citation is thorough, but can be a bit
daunting to contemporary users. Books that might have been widely
known among scholars of
Judaism at the time the encyclopedia was
written (but which are quite obscure to a lay reader today) are
referred to by author and title, but with no publication information
and often without indication of the language in which they were
written. A list of abbreviations used in the encyclopedia is provided
Jewish Encyclopedia website.
The Encyclopædia Biblica, from which the Jewish Encyclopedia
sometimes quotes verbatim[n 4]
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible (1898–1904)
The Shorter Jewish Encyclopedia
The Encyclopedia Judaica
Catholic Encyclopedia and
Encyclopaedia of Islam
Encyclopaedia of Islam & Islamica
The New Jewish Encyclopedia
Lists of encyclopedias
Topics from the
Jewish Encyclopedia on
^ Full name: The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the
History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from
the Earliest Times to the Present Day.
^ Note, however, that some websites hosting the text claim copyright
over the digitized images.
Public domain scans are available
elsewhere, as at the Internet Archive.
^ Schwartz 1991 (p. 48) describes the payment scheme arranged at this
time as follows:
Members of the local executive committee, exclusive of Singer and, of
course, Funk, would receive one thousand dollars per annum, while the
rest of the department editors would receive five hundred. All
collaborators, editors included, would be paid five dollars per
printed page of about one thousand English words. If the article was
written in a foreign language, payment would be only $3.50 per page.
Singer's compensation was forty dollars a week (thirty-five plus five
for a life insurance premium). His salary was considered an advance,
since Singer alone was to share with the company in the profits.
^ For example, in its article concerning marriage.
^ "The Jewish Encyclopedia". New York Times. 16 August 1902. Retrieved
17 March 2014.
^ "The Larger Task" (PDF). American Jewish Archives. Retrieved 17
October 2013. .
^ Segal, Joshua L. (November 2003), "Rabbi's Message: Nov. 2003 -
Cheshvan 5764: A Jewish Reference Library at Betenu", Betenu,
Vol. 21, No. 4 .
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 25–27.
^ Schwartz 1991, p. 28–31.
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 33–36.
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 37–51.
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 51–56.
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 57–59.
^ Schwartz 1991, pp. 2–4.
^ The Jewish Encyclopedia .
^ "Abbreviations Listings". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved
^ JE, Vol. VIII 1904, "Marriage".
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. I, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1901, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. II, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1902, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. III, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1902, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1903, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. V, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1903, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vols. VI & VII, New York: Funk &
Wagnalls Co., 1904, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1904, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vols. IX, X, & XI, New York: Funk
& Wagnalls Co., 1905, LCCN 16014703 .
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vols. XII, New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Co., 1906, LCCN 16014703 .
Schwartz, Shuly Rubin. The Emergence of Jewish Scholarship in America:
The Publication of the Jewish Encyclopedia. Monographs of the Hebrew
Union College, Number 13. Cincinnati:
Hebrew Union College Press,
1991. ISBN 0-87820-412-1
Schwarz, Leo W. (1965), "A bibliographical essay", in Lieberman, Saul,
Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of His
Seventy-Fifth Birthday, Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish
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