New 'Encyclopedia Judaica' premiers in Madrid

The new edition contains more than 21,000 signed entries, divided among original material, revisions and updates and including 2,600 (30 percent) new entries.

ency judaica feat 88 298 (photo credit: Javier Esteve/Unicolor)
ency judaica feat 88 298
(photo credit: Javier Esteve/Unicolor)
Four point seven million words make up the difference between Encyclopaedia Judaica's first and second editions. Several volumes of the brand new edition, which will go on sale in December, were presented on November 23 to the Jewish Community of Madrid. This was the world premier presentation of the encyclopedia, which was also announced at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. In honor of the event, the community hosted a panel discussion, "From the Talmud to the Encyclopedia: 3000 Years of Wisdom." The panel was composed of Jacob Israel Garzon, president of the Jewish Community of Madrid (JCM) and of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain; Prof. Jon Juaristi, professor of comparative literature at the University of Alcala de Henares, Madrid; Milagros Valderrama, director of Gale for Latin America (a branch of Thomson Gale publishers); and Uriel Massias, press officer for the Israeli Embassy in Madrid and secretary-general of the JCM, in charge of culture. Massias introduced the Encyclopaedia Judaica as "possibly the most important Jewish work of the second half of the 20th century and so far of the 21st." Looking for antecedents, he drew a parallel with the Talmud as "an accumulation of Jewish knowledge." He paraphrased the remark of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, referring to the first edition, that "every Jew should have one of these at home for the benefit of the next generation." Juaristi traced the development of the encyclopedia concept to "etymologies or dictionaries" produced in antiquity, offering the origins and meanings of words. "As for the Jewish world," he said, "it remained at the margin of the encyclopedic works of the time, because the Jewish communities were trying to keep themselves isolated from secular knowledge and therefore bore the absence of a conception of history. Until the Haskala, there is nothing like an encyclopedic impulse among the Jews." In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Juaristi said: "The Judaica is a work of reference that has helped me discover new literature and offers very good syntheses. I discovered Gershom Scholem [professor of Jewish mysticism at the Hebrew University] through the Judaica." Garzon, who in addition to the first edition of the Judaica also owns a rare copy of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, said that for him, having an Encyclopaedia Judaica in the home is having a place "where lack of knowledge can find its peace in knowledge." He added that "for an encyclopedia it is important to have a nation behind it. In order for it to be a source of knowledge, it is essential to know that strength is behind that knowledge." THE FIRST EDITION of Encyclopaedia Judaica was published more than 30 years ago as the most authoritative and comprehensive reference source for Jewish life, history and religion. In 2003, Thomson Gale acquired the rights to publish a second edition of Encyclopaedia Judaica, under Macmillan Reference USA. Together with the original publishers, Keter Publishing House, Gale has updated entire sections for the new edition, including the entries on the Holocaust, American Jewry and Israel. Israeli-Arab relations are explored in depth. Gender issues and others that have surfaced in Jewish life and history in the past 30 years are given particular attention; coverage of many Diaspora communities has been broadened; and new archeological discoveries are included. Each volume has an eight-page color insert. There are also 600 maps, charts and tables and most of the last (22nd) volume is dedicated to the exhaustive index, glossary and transliteration table and charts. The composite entry for the Holocaust contains more than 150,000 words spread over 74 pages. Sections include: "Holocaust Denial," "Remembrance Day," "In the USSR," "Rescue from," "In Germany" and "In Israel (teaching)." The editor-in-chief of the 22-volume second edition is Fred Skolnik of Jerusalem, who was a co-editor of the original edition. American Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, is executive editor and overseer of the Holocaust and Americana sections. The new edition contains more than 21,000 signed entries, divided among original material, revisions and updates and including 2,600 (30 percent) new entries. In addition, 30,000 new bibliographical items have been added. The second edition was prepared by close to 1,200 contributors from all over the world. It has been built on the decennial books and the CD-ROM published between 1972 and 1998. The first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica was published in 1971-1972 in 16 volumes - in Jerusalem by Keter Publishing House and in New York by the Macmillan Company. Its first general editor was Jewish historian Prof. Cecil Roth of Oxford (1939-1964), Bar-Ilan (1964-65) and City University of New York (1966-1969). After Roth's death in 1970, he was succeeded by historian and philosopher Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder, who passed away in Jerusalem in 1999. Between 1972 and 1994, 10 annual yearbooks were collected in two events supplements, for 1973-1982 and for 1983-1992. Together these volumes contain more than 15 million words in over 25,000 articles worked on by approximately 2,200 contributors and 250 editors. ALTHOUGH IT is the most comprehensive Jewish encyclopedia, Encyclopaedia Judaica was not the first. The original, English-language, 12-volume Jewish Encyclopedia (edited by Cyrus Adler) was published by Funk and Wagnalls between 1901-1906 and contains 8,572 pages, written by 605 contributors, and supplemented by 2,464 illustrations, a large number of them full-page, with many photogravures, 23 of them reproduced in facsimile by lithographic process in color. The Jewish Encyclopedia set out to record the "multifarious activity" of the Jewish nation, giving, says the preface, in "comprehensive, and yet succinct form," an account, both "full and accurate," "of the history and literature, the social and intellectual life, of the Jewish people - of their ethical and religious views, their customs, rites, and traditions in all ages and in all lands." The need for a work of this kind, said its editors, resulted from the fact that Jewish history is "particularly liable to be misunderstood." The Jewish Encyclopedia was the source for a 16-volume Russian-language Jewish Encyclopedia, published by Brockhaus and Efron in Saint Petersburg (1906-1913). This was followed by the five-volume German J disches Lexikon I and II (1927-28) and the Hungarian Zsid Lexikon (1929). Between 1928 and 1934, a German-language Encyclopedia Judaica was published in Berlin by Eschkol-Publikations-Gesellschaft, established by Nachum Goldmann in 1922. Only 10 volumes were to appear, however, (from Aach to Lyra) before the Nazis took power and the project was abruptly ended. From 1948 to 1951, the 10 volumes of a Jewish encyclopedia in Spanish were published in Mexico. "It was a titanic effort," said Massias, "yet it is difficult to understand why it was undertaken at that time, in Spanish, since even today there is hardly a market for a Jewish encyclopedia in that language." A few of the articles from the German Encyclopedia Judaica were included in the English-language Encyclopaedia Judaica in 1971-72. Goldmann used part of the money he received in reparations payments after the war to finance the project. In the early 1970s, an 11-volume, abridged translation of the Encyclopaedia Judaica was published in Russian. The First Secretary of the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, Edwin Yabo, also present at the event, told The Post, "The importance of the Encyclopaedia Judaica transcends the Jewish community and acquires universal importance for general use by all of society. This characteristic is what differentiates the Encyclopaedia Judaica from all the other national encyclopedias, because everything that has to do with Judaism also has to do with universal culture and is relevant to all."