Web Site Review:
Many genealogists and other Jewish-researchers have known for
years that the Jewish Encyclopedia (not to be confused with the
Encyclopaedia Judaica) is an invaluable research aid. The Jewish
Encyclopedia was originally published between 1901 and 1906. Although
there are later editions, it is the unedited original edition that is
online. The web site, JewishEncyclopedia.com,
features the unedited contents of the original Jewish
Encyclopedia: 15,000 articles and illustrations on a
variety of Jewish topics. The Jewish Encyclopedia covers many towns
and historical personalities not covered by the Encyclopaedia
Its articles are often deeper and more accurate. The primary obstacle
to using the Jewish Encyclopedia was finding a copy. Although nearly
every Jewish school, library, and synagogue has a copy of the
Encyclopaedia Judaica, the Jewish Encyclopedia is, or rather was, much
harder to find. Thus genealogists and Jewish researchers alike
welcome the creation of JewishEncyclopedia.com.
The primary feature of JewishEncyclopedia.com
is one's ability to
search its entire contents. The simple search feature, available on
every page, allows one to search article text, titles, or image
captions. The search feature is extremely useful as many rabbis were
known by many names. For example, a search for Rabbi Israel Salanter
finds the entry for Israel Lipkin, by which he was also known. A
simple search looks for any word listed unless the words are in
quotations and then ranks them by relevancy.
enables the user to tailor a search in many useful ways. Using the power
search one can search by author; it also allows one to search using multiple keywords (including the ability to search using "and,"
"and not," or "or"). One can limit power searches to articles with
images, music, or family trees. Power search also enables the user to
control word order, word proximity, and frequency in the search.
Another advantage of power search is that simple searches are limited
to 50 retrieved items, while the number of retrieved items in a power
search is controlled by the user, up to 100.
The articles are reprinted in two ways. First, the text is available
as online searchable text. Additionally, all articles include jpeg
images of the original pages in the Jewish Encyclopedia. The jpeg
images are of each entire page. Clickable article subheadings appear
at the beginning of articles. Every article includes a "print this"
feature which allows one to print the article without unnecessary
page layout (see below).
does not merely contain the plain text. Many
topics in articles are linked to other articles allowing one easily
to move from article to article. Lastly, another useful feature is
the list of abbreviations. This can often
be helpful when looking through bibliographical material.
Every article links to a page briefly describing the author and other
encyclopedia articles he has written. Every article links to a jpeg
of the original page and to any images associated with the article.
One can also join or start a discussion forum, run a Google search,
or add a link related to the topic. Because of the image and search
features, the "print this" feature is particularly useful.
Unfortunately the image feature is not always tied to the topic of
the article, but rather to its page. For example, a search for Spira
will include the image for a Holograph Letter of Baruch Spinoza,
dated 1665, from page 521. The article about Spinoza ends on page
520, where the Spira article begins. The image does not appear with
the Spinoza article. However, a search for Spinoza will include the
image as one of fifty listings. Limiting the search to image captions
lists only the six images associated with the Spinoza article and the
letter from page 521. This illustrates the importance of multiple
tailored searches on a single topic. (Note: the webmasters were
notified of this particular error so it may have been corrected by
the time of publication.)
Genealogists know that one of the very useful features of the
Jewish Encyclopedia is the inclusion of several family trees of
prominent (mainly rabbinic) families. Trees are included in
discussions of the Jaffe, Lipkin, Margolioth,
several other prominent families. However, many entries that do not
include trees contain genealogical information, including parents,
children or other notable ancestors or descendants. Searches only
include the names in the article text, not names included in the
One of the main drawbacks to searching JewishEncyclopedia.com
that unlike many of the searches available at JewishGen one cannot
make a Soundex search. Although one can search for multiple
spellings, one must hit the exact spelling. For example, Pressburg,
Austria-Hungary (now Bratislava, Slovakia) is spelled Presburg in
every entry but one.
One of the consistent spelling conventions is the use of the letter
"B" for a bet (bais) or vet (vais) in Hebrew words. Thus a search for
"yeshivah" turns up no items, while a search for "yeshibah" turns up
50 items. The same problem occurs in a search for scholars such as
Yom Tob Lipman-Heller. A search for Yom Tob Lipman-Heller, however,
has two other problems. First, the encyclopedia is not consistent in
the spelling of Lipman, also spelling it Lipmann in some entries. A
more serious problem is the tet (tes) in Tob. The letter
represented by a "T" with a dot underneath it. Similarly, the letter
chet (ches) is represented by an "H" with a dot underneath it and the
letter tzdi is represented by a "Z" with a dot underneath it. It is
therefore difficult to search for words containing these letters.
Moreover, if one does not have the right fonts installed, these
letters appear as question marks. The web site has a Unicode
to resolve font problems and has links to
patches and advice available for Windows and Macintosh (System 9.0 and higher). Although this resolves most display problems, it
doesn't solve the search problem.
Another problem is that the search feature looks for entire words.
Thus searching for "tora" or "yeshiba" will not find
"yeshibah". Particularly problematic is that a search for plurals and
singular words are not equivalent. For example, searching for "rabbi"
or "rabbis" will produce entirely different entries.
The Jewish Encyclopedia has entries on countless individual rabbis
and many individual rabbis from Mishnaic times to its publication in
the early twentieth century. It also has entries on nearly all of the
major centers of Jewish communal life. Several smaller Jewish
communities are unfortunately not discussed. Some smaller communities
are discussed in the entries of larger communities. For example,
Gnesen, Krotoschin and Kempen are included in the discussion of the
province of Posen. One very nice feature is that the entry on many of
these communities includes a list of prominent rabbis and the dates
they lived or flourished. Thus where an entry exists, it contains
quite useful information. Lastly, there are also entries on a myriad
of Jewish topics, including holidays, rituals, and culture.
Lawrence D. Weinberg resides in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and has been actively
engaged in genealogy since 1998, having amassed a database of over
12,000 individuals. This research has extended to the 16th century
through connections to the Spira, Bondi, Kalisch, Sachs, and Shtendal
rabbinic lines. He is currently pondering writing an article about
Simon Michael Pressburg of Pressburg and Vienna.