21 October 2008

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

The Jewish Book Council sends out email alerts for new books. The newest edition offers information on the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, edited by Gershon David Hundert.

The 2,400-page volume was published by Yale University Press in 2008; the price is $400, and includes entries by some 450 contributors in 16 countries. The project ran over 10 years before being published.

The review is by Michael Dobkowski, a professor of religious studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is co-editor of "Genocide and the Modern Age" and "On the Edge of Scarcity" (Syracuse University Press); author of "The Tarnished Dream: The Basis of American Anti-Semitism;" and co-editor of "The Nuclear Predicament."

This encyclopedia, which chronicles and seeks to recover and represent the rich history and culture of East European Jewry, is truly a treasure of information. It presents the life of this vanished culture, as dispassionately and as accurately as possible, without nostalgia and without undue celebrating.

The contributors are among leading scholars of various specialties of Eastern European Jewish Studies, and include: Jan Gross, massacre at Jedwabne; James Young, monuments and memorials; Antony Polonsky, Brody; J. Hoberman, cinema; Joseph Dan, Hassidic thought, Ruth Wisse, Y.L. Peretz; Elisheva Carlebach, messianism; and Paula Hyman, gender.

The reviewer writes:

The editors, in fact, were conscious of the need to redress the traditional imbalance in the coverage of women. All contributors were instructed to address gender in their entries and to use it as a category of analysis when appropriate. This resulted in some interesting and novel material, particularly in the areas devoted to daily life, economic life, and cultural and artistic expression, not usually found in reference texts of this type.

Geographically, the book generally covers contemporary Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the Baltic states and Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Chronologically, it covers the earliest presence of Jews in the region over 1,000 years ago to the end of the 20th century, focusing on Jews and events in the geographical area.

Dobkowski writes that the encyclopedia is "an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe."

The entries are accessible, written so that nonspecialists can benefit. Ten years in the making, it is the definitive work of its kind, carefully conceived and edited and a most reliable portal into the rich landscapes of Jewish life and loss in Eastern Europe.

Read more about this and other books at the link above.

For a history of the Jewish Book Council, click here.

The Council's origins date back to 1925, when Fanny Goldstein, a librarian at the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library, set up an exhibit of Judaic books as a focus of what she called Jewish Book Week. In l927, with the assistance of Rabbi S. Felix Mendelsohn of Chicago, Jewish communities around the country adopted the event.

Jewish Book Week proved so successful that in 1940 the National Committee for Jewish Book Week was founded, with Fanny Goldstein as its chairperson. Dr. Mordecai Soltes succeeded her one year later. Representatives of major American Jewish organizations served on this committee, as did groups interested in promulgating Yiddish and Hebrew literature. ...

Read more at the link noted, and also read about the quarterly "Jewish Book World" with each issue carrying many reviews. Look through the sample issues on the site. Reviews are categorized: American Jewish Studies, Contemporary Jewish Life, Cookbook, Fiction, Sephardic, Children's and others. Each issue contains author interviews and reviewer bios. There's an annual major Children's Book section. To subscribe, click here.

1 comment:

  1. my hubbys family immigrated from the Ukraine during the turn of the century,his grandmother before she passed away told him they were jewish .I am trying to trace his jewish roots and see which tribe he could be a desendant of their name is Fedorashenko or possibly chenko .If anyone can help I would be so grateful Blessings to all!!! joalban61@gmail.com