Table of Contents

Online Journal

Web Site Review:

Reviewed by Lawrence D. Weinberg



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,, 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 Judaica. 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


The primary feature of 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.

The power search feature 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.

Sample Search and Page Layout

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.)

Family Trees

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, Katzenellenbogen, and 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 actual trees.


One of the main drawbacks to searching is 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 tet, is 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 test page 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 "torah" or "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.