This encyclopedia, which chronicles and seeks to recover and represent the rich history and culture of East European Jewry, is truly a treasure of information. It presents the life of this vanished culture, as dispassionately and as accurately as possible, without nostalgia and without undue celebrating. The 450 contributors, from sixteen countries, represent the leading scholars of the various specialties of East European Jewish studies. To give just a few examples: Jan Gross wrote the entry on the massacre at Jedwabne, Chava Weissler on tkhines, James Young on monuments and memorials, Antony Polonsky on Brody, J. Hoberman on cinema, Joseph Dan on Hassidic thought, Ruth Wisse on Y.L. Peretz, Elisheva Carlebach on messianism, and Paula Hyman on gender. The editors, in fact, were conscious of the need to redress the traditional imbalance in the coverage of women. All contributors were instructed to address gender in their entries and to use it as a category of analysis when appropriate. This resulted in some interesting and novel material, particularly in the areas devoted to daily life, economic life, and cultural and artistic expression, not usually found in reference texts of this type. The geographical limits defined by the editors conformed roughly to today’s Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the Baltic states and Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Chronologically, the encyclopedia extends from the earliest presence of Jews in Eastern Europe over a thousand years ago, to the end of the 20th century. The focus is on Jews and events in Eastern Europe. It does not treat, for example, people who have roots in Eastern Europe but who did most of their creative work outside of the region. So, for example, there is no entry on journalist and novelist Abraham Cahan on Yiddish culture in America.
The YIVO Encyclopedia is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe. The entries are accessible, written so that nonspecialists can benefit. Ten years in the making, it is the definitive work of its kind, carefully conceived and edited and a most reliable portal into the rich landscapes of Jewish life and loss in Eastern Europe.