December 21, 2006
30 Kislev, 5767


 

New Encyclopedia Judaica has more Canadian entries

By SHELDON KIRSHNER
Staff Reporter

The revised and updated second edition of the 16-volume Encyclopedia Judaica, scheduled to be published on Dec. 8, contains more information than ever before on Canada, says the executive editor.

“We have added a vast amount of material on Canada, Canadian Jewish figures, major Canadian cities and many prominent rabbis, thinkers, writers, artists, musicians and philosophers,” said Michael Berenbaum in an interview last week.

“We have also taken pains to treat the Canadian part of the careers of major figures who spent some time in Canada.”

Canadians who rate entries in the encyclopedia – a collaborative effort between Keter Publishing House and MacMillan Reference USA – run the gamut from Rosalie Silberman Abella, a Supreme Court justice, to Larry Zolf, a CBC broadcaster.

In addition, there are entries on such individuals as David Arnold Croll, the politician; David Cronenberg, the filmmaker; Jack Diamond, the architect; Benjamin Dunkelman, the war hero; Philip Givens, the former mayor of Toronto; Murray Koffler, the entrepreneur; Henry Kreisel, the novelist; Robert Lantos, the filmmaker; Michael Marrus, the historian; John Weinzweig, the composer; Heather Reisman, the bookstore chain owner; Joseph Salsberg, the trade unionist and politician; Reuben Slonim, the rabbi; and Wayne and Shuster, the comedians.

The second edition, with 22,000 signed entries on Jewish life, culture, history and religion and more than 150 new pages of colour inserts, is the encyclopedia’s first makeover in some three decades.

The English edition, initially published in the early 1970s after 45 years of effort, was widely hailed as a reference work of great value.

Ten volumes of the original German edition, the brainchild of Zionist luminary Nahum Goldman, were published in Berlin in 1928. But due to the rise of the Nazis in 1933, the project was never completed.

Goldman revived the encyclopedia using German reparation funds. Work began in 1966 and was finally completed in 1972.

The second edition contains 2,664 fresh entries, said Berenbaum, a writer, lecturer, teacher and consultant who specializes in the development of museums and historical films.

There are new entries on subjects ranging from Chabad and the Camp David accords to Jewish law and Jewish women.

The newest entries also cover topics like medicine, Israeli prime ministers and presidents since Golda Meir and Zalman Shazar, the Yom Kippur War, Holocaust memorialization and Holocaust education.

More than 12,000 entries have been reworked, and they include subjects from the Bible and the Talmud to dietary laws and the Kabbalah.

As well, there is a new entry on the changing demography of New York, the city with the world’s biggest Jewish population.

Each volume, with the exception of the index volume, features eight pages of colour inserts.

The hardcover set costs $1,995 (US), but an online edition is available to institutions.

In compiling the second edition, Berenbaum faced two major challenges.

“The most important was how to preserve the pristine authority of what is now a classic work of scholarship, while adding 40 years of history and intensive scholarship that has revamped our understanding of the past and our appreciation of its importance.”

Fifty editors and 1,200 contributors laboured on the second edition.

“The core editorial staff of the Keter Publishing House in Jerusalem was small, but they borrowed liberally from the larger staff of MacMillan,” said Berenbaum. “I used research assistants, my administrative assistant and consultants to keep track of and to supplement my work.

“We asked our writers to compose articles that would be both timely and timeless so they could be read in a decade or two and still be useful.”

Apart from his chores at the encyclopedia, Berenbaum is currently the director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at the University of Judaism, where he is also an adjunct professor of theology.

As well, he was director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute and the president and chief executive officer of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

Prior to that, he served as opinion page editor of the Washington Jewish Week.

Berenbaum’s broad mandate was to work with the encyclopedia’s editor-in-chief, Fred Skolnik, to recruit sectional editors and to oversee the North American sections.

The encyclopedia is not competing with the Internet, he said.

“Rather, we plan to use web technology to distribute the eBook version. The web only amplifies our ability to distribute this unique, highly valuable resource.”