Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Prof. Shnayer Leiman judges* the new Encyclopedia Judaica

at Seforim.

Abstract: NEJ's omission of most of the original 8000 photographs is a fatal flaw. NEJ includes some good new articles, but fails to update many articles even though there were many important studies on those topics in the past 35 years. Includes errors such as having two entries for the same person with different and contradictory information in each one). NEJ omits entries for figures that--arguably--are more than "borderline" in deserving inclusion,** including many women, rabbinic figures and Judaic scholars. NEJ claims it has to exclude Jewish communities of under 4500, but not only includes one such community but excludes several Jewish communities that almost certainly are greater than 4500. NEJ includes entries for what most would reasonably agree are "borderline" figures.

Bottom line:

"...hold on to your 1972 edition of EJ for dear life! It is not at all clear that NEJ has superseded, or that it will ever supersede, EJ. All public libraries and private collectors will do well to retain their 1972 editions of EJ and keep them precisely on the same shelves they have now occupied for some 35 years."

* Or as he politely calls it "preliminary observations."
** Indeed, I wondered why Rabbi JJ Schachter deserved an entry (he does) but not Rabbi Hershel Schachter of RIETS (although R. JJ S's father R. Hershel Schachter has an entry). see also.

edit: Prof. Jeffrey Woolf reminisces about his experience working for NEJ for six months and advises "DON"T THROW AWAY YOUR EJ!."

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