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Steinberg Charitable Trust Awards $300,000 Challenge Grant
For Online YIVO Encyclopedia Project
Matching Fund Effort Underway : Cahnman Foundation Pledges $25,000

PRESS NEWS : For immediate release
Contact : Jeffrey Edelstein
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street - New York - NY - 10011
tel. 917-606-8297
e-mail :
[New York City - September 2008]  The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has announced that it has received a three-year, $300,000 challenge grant from the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust to create an online edition of The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Under the terms of the grant, YIVO will raise an equal amount in matching funds over the same period, for which The Cahnman Foundation, Inc., of New York has made the first pledge, in the amount of $25,000.

With its major donation, the Steinberg Charitable Trust becomes the Principal Sponsor of the online edition, which is scheduled to be launched in May 2010. Encyclopedia Project Director and YIVO Director of Publications Jeffrey Edelstein notes that this grant “provides the seed money that will enable us to begin work on the project and will assuredly help attract other grants and donations required to complete the online edition.”

Established in 1992, the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust is known for its support of charter schools and Jewish day schools, educational and film projects of both Jewish and non-Jewish interest, and cultural organizations, principally in Brooklyn. Joseph Steinberg was one of the founders of the Center for Jewish History in New York City and has been a longtime supporter of YIVO. He has been a member of its Board of Directors for more than ten years. He is the President of Leucadia National, a diversified holding company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Cahnman Foundation, established by Werner J. and Gisella Levi Cahnman, is devoted to the preservation and study of Jewish history, culture, and monuments. A refugee from Munich, Werner Cahnman came to the United States after his release from Dachau in late 1938. An eminent sociologist at Rutgers University, Professor Cahnman was especially interested in intergroup relations. His wife, Gisella Levi Cahnman, was a biophysicist and medical researcher originally from Turin. The Preservation Laboratory at the Center for Jewish History is named in their memory.

The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, published in May 2008 by Yale University Press, is a two-volume, 2,500-page reference on all aspects of Jewish life in Eastern Europe —including religious belief and practice; literature, newspapers, and periodicals in Yiddish, Hebrew, and local languages (Polish, Russian, Hungarian, etc.); politics and social movements; the arts, music, and theater; and everyday life—from its origins through the end of the twentieth century.

Early reviews have called the encyclopedia “essential,” “fiendishly comprehensive,” and, for the 95 percent of American Jews whose family origins are from this region, “as close as you will ever come to truly possessing your past.” McGill University Professor Gershon David Hundert, a leading world scholar in East European Jewish Studies, served as editor in chief; he will continue his participation in the project as scholarly adviser to the online version.

The YIVO Encyclopedia Online will be a Web-based, fully searchable electronic version of the project. As such, it will include the complete contents of the print edition with enhanced multimedia content from the YIVO Archives (images of original documents, literary manuscripts, sound recordings; film clips, flash-based maps). Proposals from potential Web developers are due before the end of September; after a multi-tiered review process, a vendor will be selected by mid-December.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is dedicated to the history and culture of Ashkenazi Jewry and to its influence in the Americas. It is the world’s preeminent resource center for East European Jewish Studies; Yiddish language, literature, and folklore; the Holocaust; and the American Jewish immigrant experience.

To order a set of The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, visit the Yale University Press Web site at or call 1-800-405-1619.