The Unedited Full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

The opinions expressed on this webpage represent those of the individual authors and, unless clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of TBS

The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

This website contains the complete contents of the 12-volume Jewish Encyclopedia, which was originally published between 1901-1906. The Jewish Encyclopedia, which recently became part of the public domain, contains over 15,000 fully indexed articles and illustrations.

This online version contains the unedited contents of the original encyclopedia. Since the original work was completed over 100 years ago, it does not cover a significant portion of modern Jewish History (e.g., the creation of Israel, the Holocaust, etc.). However, it does contain an incredible amount of information that is remarkably relevant today.

From the Preface.

The broad subject of theology, including the Jewish religious philosophy of the Middle Ages, has never yet received systematic treatment at the hands of Jews. Thus far very little has been done either in the way of expounding from a philosophical point of view the various subjects pertaining to Jewish belief and doctrine, or of presenting them historically in their successive phases as they developed from their origins in Scripture and tradition, and as they were influenced by other creeds and beliefs. Only a few sporadic attempts have been made in our age to bring the religious ideas and moral teachings of Rabbinical Judaism into anything like systematic form. We may instance Zacharias Frankel, Solomon Munk, Leopold Loew, J. Hamburger, S. Schechter, David Kaufmann, M. Lazarus, and S. Bernfeld as having made valuable contributions in this direction. It was only the practical side of religion—the Law in all its ramifications, the rites and observances—which was systematically codified and summarized by the medieval authorities. The doctrinal side of Judaism, with its theological and ethical problems, was never treated with that clearness and thoroughness or with that many-sidedness and objectivity which historical research in our modern sense of the word demands. Even the great philosophers of the Middle Ages who molded Jewish thought for centuries approached their themes only with the view of proving or supporting their own specific doctrines, and omitted all questions that did not come within the scope of their argument. Consequently, many topics had to be formulated for treatment in The Jewish Encyclopedia, and many of them were suggested by the theological works of non-Jewish writers. Desiring to present both the doctrines and the practises of Judaism in that scientific spirit which seeks nothing but the truth, and this in the light of historical development, The Jewish Encyclopedia, in its theological department, takes full cognizance of the pre-Talmudic sources, the Hellenistic and New Testament literature, and, in addition to the copious Rabbinical literature, treats of the successive stages of Jewish philosophy and Cabala. The various sects (including the Samaritans and Karaites), rationalism and mysticism, conservative and progressive Judaism, are discussed fully and impartially. The mutual relations of Jewish and non-Jewish creeds and philosophical systems and the attitude of Judaism to the social and ethical problems of the day receive due consideration.


Sample Page of the Steinschneider and Cassel Encyclopedia.

Among the services which The Jewish Encyclopedia has undertaken to render to the general reader is that of enlightening him with regard to characteristic terms (familiar enough perhaps to the Jew) pertaining to Jewish folk-lore and to ancient and modern customs and superstitions, and (what will be a distinctive feature) of acquainting him with the important parts of the Jewish liturgy, its general history and its music. It is hoped that nothing of interest, concerning the character and life of the Jew has been omitted.

There remains a class of topics relating to the Jews, such as their claims to purity of race, their special aptitudes, their liability to disease, etc., which may be included under the general term of anthropology. Very little research has hitherto been devoted to this subject, and it is in this Encyclopedia that, for the first time, the attempt is made to systematize the existing information regarding the anthropometry and vital statistics of the Jews, and to present a view of their social and economic condition.


It has been one of the special aims of the Encyclopedia to bring together as full a body of illustrative material as possible. Many topics of a historical or archeological character lend themselves to illustration through the reproduction of the remains of antiquity or of ecclesiastical art. Objects connected with the Jewish synagogue service and Jewish modes of worship will be found fully illustrated. Prominent Jewish personages are portrayed, the chief monuments of Jewish architecture are represented by pictures of such synagogues as are remarkable architecturally or historically, and the department of literature is enriched with illustrations of the externals of book-lore. This feature of the work which was placed in charge of Mr. Joseph Jacobs, will, it is believed, prove of great educational value in every Jewish household.

Former Attempts.

In determining the plan and proportions of the present undertaking, the Editorial Board has labored under the special difficulties that attach to pioneer work. No successful attempt has heretofore been made to gather under one alphabetical arrangement all the innumerable topics of interest to Jews as Jews. Apart from the Bible, the only department which has as yet been put, in encyclopedic form is that of Rabbinic Literature, for which there exist encyclopedias, one—the Vfpxix001 (Paḥad Yiẓḥaḥ)—compiled by Isaac Lampronti in the seventeenth century in Hebrew, and one prepared in modern times by J. Hamburger, the “Realencyklopädie für Bibel und Talmud,” in German. Each of these productions labors under the disadvantage of being the work of one man. Of the more comprehensive encyclopedia planned by Rapoport, Vfpxix002 (‘Erek Millin), only the first letter appeared in 1852. The plan of a publication somewhat on the same lines as the present was drawn up by Steinschneider in conjunction with Cassel as far back as 1844, in the “Liveraturblatt des Orients,” but the project did not proceed beyond the prospectus (a specimen page from which is shown on the opposite page) and a preliminary list of subjects. Dr. L. Philippson in 1869 and Professor Graetz in 1887 also threw out suggestions for a Jewish encyclopedia, but nothing came of them.

The Present Work.

The present undertaking is the realization of an ideal to which Dr. Isidore Singer has devoted his energies for the last ten years. After several years spent in enlisting the interest of European scholars in the enterprise, he found that it was only in America that he could obtain both that material aid and practical scholarly cooperation necessary to carry out the scheme on the large scale which he had planned. Thanks to the enterprise and liberality of the Funk & Wagnalls Company, which generously seconded the energetic initiative of Dr. Singer, the cooperation of the undersigned staff of editors, together with that of the consulting boards, both American and foreign, was rendered possible. The preliminary work was done in the winter of 1898-99, by Dr. Singer, Professor Gottheil, and Dr. Kohler. These were soon joined by Dr. Cyrus Adler, of Washington, D. C. ; Dr. G. Deutsch, of Cincinnati; Dr. Marcus Jastrow and Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr., of Philadelphia; and Prof. George F. Moore, of Andover. Organization of the work was effected by these gentlemen at meetings held in New York, March 1 and 6, and July 12, 1899, Dr. I. K. Funk, of the Funk & Wagnalls Company, presiding, and the plan of operation submitted by the firm was adopted by them. To these was added later Mr. Joseph Jacobs, of London, as well as Dr. Louis Ginzberg and Dr. F. de Sola Mendes, both of New York city. Professor Moore, having assumed additional duties as president of the Andover Theological Seminary, found himself obliged to withdraw, and Prof. C. H. Toy was elected in his place in January, 1900.


The carrying out of the project on so large a scale presented peculiar difficulties. To reduce the work of nearly 400 contributors, writing in various tongues, to anything like uniformity was itself a task of great magnitude, and necessitated the establishment of a complete bureau of translation and revision. The selection of the topics suitable for insertion in such an encyclopedia involved labor extending over twelve months, and resulted in a trial index of over 25,000 captions. The determination of the appropriate space to which each of these subjects was entitled was no easy task in the absence of any previous attempt in the same direction. The problem of the transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic words has been very perplexing for the members of the Editorial Board. While they would have preferred to adhere strictly to the somewhat elaborate method current among most Semitic scholars, the repellent effect of strange characters, accentual marks, and superscript letters deterred them from using it in a work intended as much for the general public as for scholarly use. There were also typographic difficulties in the way of using the more elaborate scheme. The board trusts that the system pursued here, which is, in the main, that proposed by the Geneva Congress of Orientalists, and adopted by the Royal Asiatic Society of England, the Société Asiatique of Paris, and the American Oriental Society, will suffice to recall to the Jewish scholar the original Hebrew, while indicating to the layman as close an approximation to the proper pronunciation as possible. Even here, however, having to deal with contributions emanating from scholars using different schemes of transliteration, they can not hope to have succeeded altogether in avoiding lack of uniformity. It may perhaps be well to emphasize the fact that names occurring in the Bible have been throughout kept in the form familiar from the King James Version of 1611.

While acknowledging the possibility—nay, the certainty—of errors and omissions in a work so comprehensive and so full of minute details as the present work is, the editors consider themselves justified in asserting that no pains have been spared to secure accuracy and thoroughness. Each article has been subjected to a most elaborate system of revision and verification, extending in each case to no less than twelve different processes. Prof. Wilhelm Bacher, of the Budapest Seminary; Rev. Dr. F. De Sola Mendes, Mr. Louis Heilprin, and other scholars, in addition to the departmental editors, have read through all the proof-sheets with this special end in view.