(New York City – June 10, 2010) What is the history of the shtetl? How far was Minsk from Pinsk? Who wrote the first Yiddish novel? What did the Misnagdim believe? Why were so many Polish Jews tavern keepers in the 19th century?
Answers to these questions and thousands more will be easy to access with The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research’s launch of the Online Edition of the YIVO Encyclopedia for Jews in Eastern Europe (www.yivoencyclopedia.org). This unprecedented website will make accurate, reliable, scholarly information about Eastern European Jewish life universally available online free of charge. Since 2008, The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, published by Yale University Press, has been the only resource of its kind; providing the most complete picture of the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe from the beginning of their settlement in the region to the present. The online edition includes the contents of the 2008 edition, plus interactive maps, more color photographs, and rare letters and documents as well as newly added video and audio clips. To date, this is the first full-fledged online encyclopedia dedicated to the history and culture of Eastern European Jewry.
Visually striking and easy to navigate, the online edition is a treasure chest of information. Explore a Topic directs general readers from the home page to pages on Arts, Daily Life & Places, Language & Literature, History & Politics, and Religion. Each page includes an essay, slideshow, or other visual element, a short teaser article, and links to complementary articles. Educators will find helpful pages with:
• lesson plans with PowerPoint presentations,
• links to survey articles,
• listings of further resources.
The Media Galleries have almost 1,600 items, each one linked to one or more related articles. These include:
• 50 audio recordings ranging from cantorial, klezmer, and theatrical performances to children’s choral music and early ethnographic recordings.
• 70 video clips including street scenes, horses and cattle, brass bands, public gatherings, political events, and children at school and summer camp.
• 192 new documents from the YIVO archives that have never before been presented to the pubic in this fashion. These include such finds as: letters from Leon Trotsky, manuscript notes by Sholem Aleichem, an invitation to a service at the Great Synagogue in Warsaw in honor of a 1930 visit from the president of Poland, a ration card from the Warsaw ghetto, and more.
Editor in Chief Gershon Hundert, Professor of History and Leanor Segal Professor of Jewish Studies at McGill University, says, “Our obligation to our ancestors is expressed in our determination to present East European Jewish civilization without bias and without nostalgia but as comprehensively and as objectively as possible.”
The website project was sponsored by the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust in Memory of Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg. Additional support was provided by the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Blavatnik Foundation, the Cahnman Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Lucius Littauer Foundation, and Mr. Harvey Krueger.