from the Print Edition
Acknowledgments by Gershon Hundert, Editor in Chief
Acknowledgments by Jeffrey Edelstein, Project Director
Acknowledgments by Gershon Hundert, Editor in Chief
Credit for the original idea of the YIVO Encyclopedia belongs to Ralph Carlson, then special projects editor at Indiana University Press. In 1998, he approached Lisa Epstein, then director of research at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, with the idea of a one-volume encyclopedia of the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe. A contract between YIVO and Indiana University Press was signed in October of that year, and Dr. Epstein set about looking for an editor in chief. Several people were approached, and after some starts and stops, Dr. Epstein offered me the position in May 1999. I agreed in principle to accept the assignment provided funding could be assured. To this end the YIVO staff and I prepared an ultimately successful grant application to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (awarded in March 2001). This freed me to begin recruiting editors and key contributors. I approached the leading figures in all of the various fields of East European Jewish Studies and met with enthusiasm and a heartening willingness to participate on the part of virtually everyone I sought to recruit. At that point, in early 2001, YIVO’s Board of Directors commissioned Professor Gershon Bacon of Bar-Ilan University to report on and evaluate the revised vision of the encyclopedia I was developing, and his positive views and useful suggestions marked a crucial stage in the development of the project.
As I continued to reflect on what this encyclopedia might look like, a number of thorny issues arose and, after signing a formal contract with YIVO in October 2001, I convened a meeting of wise people to help me to think them through in December of that year. I am very grateful to Abraham Ascher, Elisheva Carlebach, Deborah Dash Moore, Jay Harris, Marshall Shulman, Robert Seltzer, Paula Hyman, and Theodore Rabb, who agreed to spend a day discussing these matters and offered many crucially important suggestions. Yosef Haim Yerushalmi could not attend the meeting but spent an hour on the telephone with me, and he too proffered wise advice. It was Robert Seltzer who suggested that I be in touch with Claude Conyers. Mr. Conyers, the outstanding figure in the field of reference publishing in the United States, patiently taught me how to make an encyclopedia. He deserves the credit for whatever is useful and effective in the basic design of the work, which is organized around principal articles that lead the reader to increasingly specialized entries.
After a preliminary meeting in March, a grand two-day meeting of editors, with the participation of Mr. Conyers, was convened at New York University in August 2002. The organizer of that meeting and the first manager of the project was Peggy Hermann. Her intelligence, initiative, and ability to relate to the most, shall we say, unusual professorial personalities, helped significantly to ensure the success of that meeting. Even more important, it was Ms. Hermann who, working at YIVO’s offices, installed the database program for the project, hired the first editorial assistant, and contributed substantially to the development of template forms for contracts, the guide for contributors, and generally the basic framework for the building of the encyclopedia. Moreover, she made important contributions, with help from Roberta Newman, to the preparation of the most important, complicated (and successful) application for support for the project. Our application to the National Endowment for the Humanities was not only funded, but the NEH put it on its Web site as a model for other applicants. Ms. Hermann deserves much credit for this.
The first meeting of editors saw a great many debates on matters of principle and questions of scholarly territory: was X a Yiddish or a Hebrew writer; did principal editorial responsibility for Y belong to the editor for Czech lands or the editor for rabbinics; in what section does Khazaria belong? The debates were extended but amicable and a certain esprit de corps arose among the group—everyone seemed to sense that we were embarking on a project of great significance.
Soon after the editorial meeting, Yale University Press took over the project (and, coincidentally, its editor Jonathan Brent [since July 2009, even more coincidentally, executive director of YIVO]also became a contributor to the encyclopedia). At about the same time, Ms. Hermann decided to return to Denver, and a new project manager had to be found. A national search was conducted and several candidates were interviewed. This was when Fortune smiled on me and on the encyclopedia and we were able to engage the services of none other than Jeffrey Edelstein, who had worked closely with Claude Conyers and had considerable experience in reference publishing. Metaphors like linchpin or keystone come to mind, but it can be said plainly that this project has been brought to completion (on time and on budget) only because of Mr. Edelstein’s skill. He not only saw more than 1,800 articles through a half dozen stages of preparation, kept contact with 450 contributors in 16 countries, and diplomatically elicited cooperation from editors and contributors and persuaded them to submit what was required, but he did it while maintaining an affable personality and with enormous determination and dedication to the success of the encyclopedia. Contributors submitted articles in 10 languages other than English and Jeff oversaw finding and reviewing the work of all the translators. Jeff also met with potential contributors and helped to prepare grant applications. This is his project as much as mine.
The Guide to Using the YIVO Encyclopedia (called Notes on Editorial Style in the online edition) includes thanks to the editorial staff and to the YIVO staff and Board of Directors, to which I would join my own name. I would, though, like to express my gratitude to Carl Rheins, the executive director of YIVO from 1999 to 2009, whose unfailing support of me and my vision of the encyclopedia throughout the years has helped in important ways to protect its integrity. Those who have contributed materially to make the encyclopedia possible are listed in a place of honor on the page facing the title page (the Sponsors page of the website) and we are all very grateful for their support and the trust they expressed in our ability to carry out our plans. I would particularly like to thank Alvin and Leanor Segal and the Alvin Segal Family Foundation because they are my patrons in the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University and were willing, based on our relationship, to support this project as well.
At the stage when we had assembled a comprehensive list of entries, we again consulted scholars, many of whom have been mentioned here already. At that point, though, we also sought the advice of Professors Samuel Heilman, Derek Penslar, Marsha Rozenblit, and Jerzy Tomaszewski. They all made important suggestions and helpful comments, in addition to enthusiastically endorsing the project as a whole. Thank you! Throughout the project, Professors Sid (Shne’ur) Leiman and Eugene Orenstein have played the role of consultant on a large number of issues and topics. I am very grateful for their help. In these few remaining lines I should like publicly to thank some people who helped the project and me specifically in a variety of ways. These include, in addition to people whom I have already mentioned, Peggy Brill, Professor Myron Echenberg, Professor Lawrence Kaplan, Professor Carlos Fraenkel, Anna Gonshor, Dana Herman, Maayan Lustigman, Jessica Cooperman, Adina Shoulson, Avi Patt, Michal Waldfogel, Nora Tennessen, and special thanks to Leah Schwebel. I also acknowledge the contribution of the late Khayim Beider. He made it possible for Mikhail Krutikov, the editor of the unit devoted to Yiddish literature, as well as several contributors, to utilize his unpublished biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers [see the biographical entry on Beider]. I thank my wife, Ruth, for her sage advice during this entire process and bless her for tolerating my frequent absences abroad during the recruiting stage and in New York during the past several years, and for enduring me talking, worrying, and obsessing almost exclusively about the encyclopedia for these many years. I also thank my children, Daniel Leib (and Dena), Rachel, and Rena, for providing much solace and much-needed distraction. And now, 10 years after it was conceived and in a much grander form, the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe has become a reality. All of us who have been involved with it are proud of our achievement.
Acknowledgments by Jeffrey Edelstein, Project Director
Not more than two weeks ago, when I had already begun to toss phrases around in my
head to express my thanks to my staff here on these pages, a colleague, in passing, gave
voice to the precise thought that I kept coming back to. "This may not be the sort of
word you would use," she said, "but you are truly blessed when it comes to your staff."
She is correct on both counts. Although I have on past projects always prided myself on
identifying and hiring talented assistants and other staff, on this project it has often seemed as if the quintessentially perfect, uniquely qualified person for each position has
practically fallen out of the sky at the exact moment I needed someone to take on that
aspect of the work. I thank them collectively for being a superb team, better than I could
have hoped for, and for their spirit and sense of mission in creating and completing this
project. The expression of appreciation that follows, however voluminous, cannot possibly
do justice to my feelings of gratitude to each of them.
But before there was a project staff, there was the idea of the project. Great credit is therefore due to those at YIVO who, early on, recognized both the potential of such a reference
work and its importance for YIVO. Chief among those who had such foresight is
YIVO Board Chair Bruce Slovin, without whose support and advocacy the project would
not have been the scholarly achievement it is. Mr. Slovin recognized that the original
plan for the project, which would have been a far more limited work directed toward a
more popular audience, was not adequate, and who urged that the project be as expansive
and comprehensive as possible. He then backed up his words with his own generous
and ongoing financial support, eventually becoming the encyclopedia's largest donor,
whether institutional or individual. I also give my thanks and appreciation to Executive
Director Carl Rheins, who has been a consistent defender of the project and who always
made it clear that YIVO's resources would be available to us to whatever extent we might
be able to make use of them. Both Bruce and Carl understood the significance of such a
project, the valuable contribution it could be, and—perhaps most important—that this
was something that YIVO should do.
As soon as she learned about the plans for the encyclopedia, Joyce Rappaport expressed
her eagerness to join the project, first to her fellow Montrealer Gershon Hundert and
then to me; she came on board as copy chief, a decision that, inexplicably to me, she
never seemed to regret. Joyce's experience in editing works on Jewish subjects, calmness
in the face of an enormous and overwhelming volume of material, and sensible approach
to resolving matters of editorial style were the perfect balance to my tendency toward
fervor and frenzy. Whenever I wanted to throw up my hands in the face of intractable
stylistic problems, Joyce was there, maintaining firm standards and assuring me
that we could come up with a solution. Whatever consistency we have managed to
achieve in spellings, dates, and translations of titles and terms is largely due to her refusal
to be beaten down by the hailstorm of diacritical marks that rained down on us
daily. Perhaps most wonderfully, Joyce is as obsessed with quotas, goals, and deadlines as
I; we could have completed neither the copyediting nor the compilation of the manuscript
for typesetting had she not been willing to double and redouble her efforts to keep
the project moving forward on schedule. It has been my real regret that except for occasional
time spent working at the project's offices in New York, Joyce was based in Montreal,
so that our nearly continual daily communication was mostly via email rather
than in person.
Reference works such as this encyclopedia require the talents and skills not only of experienced editors like Joyce, but also of those with specialized knowledge directly relevant
to the field. When our work on the manuscripts finally began, I searched for a person (or
several people) who had the language skills and familiarity with the literature to perform
the essential and difficult task of bibliographic research and styling. I made several unsuccessful early attempts to train people who had the requisite linguistic background,
but no one had the knack or compulsiveness to perform the exhaustively thorough research
that is often required or, especially, to understand the idiosyncratic rules of styling
bibliographic data to create clear and consistent presentation of information. I began
to cast my net farther afield, only to find that the ideal person to serve as the
project's bibliographer was not only a long-time associate of YIVO, but also, to his misfortune
and my delight, unexpectedly available. Yankl Salant offered a mastery of Yiddish,
familiarity with Hebrew and Russian, knowledge of the sources available in YIVO's
holdings, and a wonkish passion for bibliographic minutiae, transforming often incomplete
references to obscure sources into a librarian's delight of clarity and order. With piratical
tenacity, Yankl dug deep to unearth a smuggler's treasure of information that one
would not have expected to be available or accessible. His cheerfulness during visits to
our offices on the way to or from YIVO's Reading Room was always a source of pleasure
not only to the project staff but also to the many longtime YIVO staffers and volunteers
who were so clearly delighted to see him again.
Like Yankl, Illustrations Editor Roberta Newman had a long association with YIVO in a
variety of capacities (including participation in some of the earliest internal planning,
technical advice, and grantwriting for this work), yet had become available to work for
the encyclopedia on a consulting basis just around the time we needed to begin planning
and researching the illustrations program. Without doubt, Roby's in-depth familiarity
with YIVO's archival holdings, prior experience in photo research, and general
knowledge of Yiddish culture made her uniquely capable of serving as the project's illustrations editor. I cannot imagine anyone else having created the detailed, varied, informative, and beautiful illustrations program that she prepared. Especially impressive to
me is the often creative way Roby matched images to articles, finding links between text
and art that made it possible to illustrate even the unlikeliest of topics. We have indeed
benefited from her specialized knowledge and her tireless pursuit of material from more
than 100 outside sources along with the items we were able to use from YIVO's own collections.
Roby received advice and assistance from a number of people who I am pleased to
acknowledge and thank on her behalf. Research assistance was provided by Noa
Milikowski (Israel), Christina Manetti (Slovakia and Poland), David Graber (Czech Republic),
Anca Ciuciu (Romania), and Shoshana Olidort, Edward Portnoy, and Yakov
Sklyar (United States). William Gross and Alfred Moldovan generously granted permission
to reprint images of numerous artifacts from their renowned Judaica collections.
Many of the illustrations used in the encyclopedia were scanned by the Gruss Lipper
Digital Laboratory of the Center for Jewish History; we especially thank digitization
staff members Tony Gill, Jeff Luckey, and Stanislav Pejsa. Irv Cohen of Not Just Another
Pretty Face supplied additional digital scans. Louis Pinzon and Norman Vasquez of
the Center's IT Department provided considerable technical assistance. At YIVO, we
thank Aviva Astrinsky, Gunner Berg, Jesse Aaron Cohen, Elise Fischer, Krysia Fisher, Leo
Greenbaum, Brad Sabin Hill, Herbert Lazarus, Yeshaya Metal, Fruma Mohrer, Lyudmila
Sholokhova, and MarekWeb. (I add my own further thanks to Yeshaya and Lyudmila for
their special help regarding questions related to religion and Hebrew in Yeshaya's case
and Ukrainian in Mila's.) Among YIVO's partners at the Center for Jewish History, we
thank Frank Mecklenberg and Miriam Intrator of the Leo Baeck Institute and Bonni
Dara-Michaels of the Yeshiva University Museum.
To return to my own staff, joining the project as the result of more traditional hiring
searches were assistants Julie Draskoczy, PhilWolgin, and Nadia Kahn. Julie was the project's
first assistant, from October 2002 through February 2004. It fell largely to her to
turn the editors' planning notes and contributor nominations into a working project database,
and then in turn to use the database to generate the hundreds of sets of contributor
invitations and contracts that were issued beginning in May 2003. Julie showed particularly
laudable initiative in the early months of 2003, during which time she kept the
project moving forward despite working on her own, without a supervisor. I will always
be grateful that when I arrived, Julie was here to explain where matters stood and how to
find my way around the database and project files. Phil Wolgin served for a year, from
July 2005 until the following summer; aside from his general administrative duties, most
of which were centered around processing incoming manuscripts and urging overdue
contributors to submit their work, Phil took on the challenge of researching and preparing
sketches and spelling lists for most of the project's program of maps. Phil's commitment
to historical research and his appreciation and enjoyment of YIVO's working culture
made him a wonderful colleague for me as well as the rest of the staff. Having had a
postundergraduate taste of working life, both Julie and Phil returned to school to pursue
graduate studies, Julie in Slavic literature and Phil in U.S. immigration history; both are
bright and talented, and all of YIVO wishes them well and looks forward to hearing of
their success in academia.
Senior Editorial Assistant Nadia Kahn first arrived in the spring of 2004, succeeding Julie.
After spending the 2005–2006 academic year in Israel, she returned, it having been yet
another great stroke of fortune for me that at the precise moment I would have needed
to find a successor to Phil, Nadia was once again available. In fact, I had never completely
let go of her in the interim, having employed her as the project's occasional onsite
collection agency to dun our Israeli contributors. Nadia's intelligence and devotion
to scholarship, her thorough knowledge of Jewish law and religious literature, and her excellent command of written and spoken Hebrew have made her an essential member
of the project team, and I have come to rely on her utterly. Efficient, diligent, professional,
reliable, patient, uncomplaining, winsome—adjectives and my thesaurus fail me;
simply, she's a pleasure to work with. I take undeserved pride in Nadia's achievements,
and I am grateful for the contribution she has made and knowledge she has brought
to the work along with her sense of devotion to the project and willingness to put up
Part-time assistant Shoshana Olidort also came to us out of the blue, and much to our
benefit. Her inquiry about the possibility of some sort of position or internship on the
project arrived just as the volume and pace of work began to reach critical levels, and
we were quickly able to set her to any number of tasks, large and small, including illustrations
research and preparation of the Synoptic Outline of Contents that appears in
the encyclopedia's end matter. Shoshana's knowledge of Yiddish and Hebrew and of
yidishkayt meant that she was far more than the extra pair of hands we might have found
had she not approached us when she did.
At a particularly difficult moment in the course of our work, graphic designer extraordinaire
Joan Greenfield rescued me, creating an intelligent and elegant interior textpage
design and a stunning title page. As so often in the past, Joan's powers of good design
helped me to regain perspective, equilibrium, and a sense of proportion. She later
endured endless rounds of minor revisions and additions of unanticipated graphic elements,
and created the beautiful layouts for the color inserts. Joan has earned, in my estimation,
a minimum of two points extra space between head and halo.
Briefly, but with no less appreciation, I thank Chris Brackley and Byron Moldofsky of the
University of Toronto Cartography Laboratory. They prepared attractive, informative
maps from our rough and occasionally confused sketches; most laudable is that during
the course of their work, they raised extremely intelligent and pertinent questions that
yielded more accurate, consistent results. At Yale University Press, Director of Production
Christina Coffin's efficient, matter-of-fact style helped to move mountains of material
quickly and without delay, enabling us to make up for our initially glacial start-up of the
typesetting stage; I thank her for her professionalism and collegiality. I also thank Technologies 'N Typography, especially Ken Krugh, for the high quality of its typesetting and
page make-up, all accomplished at top speed.
If I had said a secret word and a duck had fallen on my head, I could not have been luckier
than to have as a resource my colleague Paul Glasser, associate dean of YIVO's Max
Weinreich Center. Paul uncomplainingly endured countless daily interruptions with
questions from me and my entire staff on matters large and minuscule, providing general
advice along with the nitty-gritty of correct spellings of personal names and placenames,
titles of works, and common terms (whether Yiddish romanizations, proper Polish
diacritical marks, or Ukrainian vs. Russian forms); linguistic etymologies; and help in
locating cities and towns on maps and in gazetteers. Paul often took it upon himself to
go to the Reading Room to look up an answer for us instantly, despite whatever inconvenience
it might have been to him at that particular moment. Even more valuable to me
than Paul's vast, far-ranging scholarly knowledge is his friendship. Whether we are trading
unreconstructed political rants, the stalest of old jokes, or lines from movies (his
ability to quote at will from the Marxist oeuvre is remarkable) or comedy routines, having
Paul a few doors away is a large part of what has made working on this project an always
enjoyable experience for me. He is a rare asset among YIVO's many treasures, and I
confer upon him the title uber-mentsh.
With an editorial board of more than 30 and a contributor pool that surpasses 450, it
would not be possible to give individual thanks to all those who deserve special mention.
I hope that I have properly thanked them in the course of our work together. I am
grateful to those members of the editorial board who took their duties seriously and were
diligent and tireless in their efforts to keep pace with the work and to provide detailed,
useful manuscript reviews. Several of them had especially heavy burdens, yet never let us
down or held us up. It is an unfortunate rule in encyclopedia work that because I have
more cause to communicate with them, I get to know the contributors who are overdue
or whose work presents special problems far better than the majority, those who do a
good job from the outset. So I take this opportunity to give special thanks to those who delivered their work on time, who were willing to take on additional assignments, and
who understood the sort of article we wanted them to write. Among the editors and contributors,
I single out for special thanks Alice Nakhimovsky, who wore more hats than
anyone else, serving as editor for Russian literature, contributor of many articles, translator
of all articles in her unit that were submitted in Russian, and even as an occasional
copyeditor. She also provided materials and helpful advice to Roberta Newman regarding
illustration of Russian subjects. Alice was engaged, interested, and involved to a degree
that no other editorial board member was; most important to me is that she was my
willing ear and supportive friend, especially during the Height of Insanity phase of our
I could not have pushed so forcefully, worked so hard, or made such an effort if I had not
always been doing so with the knowledge that at the top of the project, working equally
hard, was Gershon Hundert. Though he may not always have relished the role, Gershon
was a model editor in chief, among the best I have worked with. Careful, thoughtful,
and responsive, Gershon was quick to provide answers, resolve problems, and make decisions.
His thorough and detailed yet always timely review of all of the manuscripts,
which included reconciliation of comments and corrections from the several reviewers
of each article, was especially impressive. Testifying to his attention to the work is that in
trafficking back and forth more than 1,800 manuscripts, many in multiple copies from
separate reviewers, not one item was misplaced or slipped through the cracks. Knowing
that I enjoyed Gershon's full support and respect gave me the freedom to pursue the
project's goals unhesitatingly and with the firmest resolve. It has been my great honor to
support him in the creation of this work.
Finally, I have never had a formal opportunity to thank him in this way before, so I cannot
but mention Claude Conyers, mentor, friend, and (not only in my view) dean of U.S.
reference publishers. Either directly or indirectly, I learned everything I know about reference
editing and project management from him. From the insistence on the highest
quality to general editorial style decisions and administrative procedures and even down
to the phrasing of passages in standard form letters, all are based on the systems and
guidelines that he developed, and I cannot claim them as my own. More particularly, it
was Claude who first informed me of the existence of this project and suggested—knowing
full well that I would be unable to resist—that it might interest me. I owe him a tremendous
debt of thanks; my role on this or any other such project would not exist in
this form if not for him.