Cover image for Historical dictionary of Judaism
Historical dictionary of Judaism
Solomon, Norman, 1933-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
viii, 521 pages ; 22 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM50 .S65 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



The Historical Dictionary of Judaism doesn't just present "religious" beliefs in a traditional sense, but investigates the complex intermingling of religion, devotion, lifestyle and culture, as it is found in diverse Jewish populations around the world and as it has evolved over the course of recent human history. Judaism, like many other cultural institutions, has rarely remained static-instead, continually investigating and questioning itself, metamorphosing in relation to the world.

There are numerous useful, unique features that make this Dictionary user-friendly. Hebrew words are often included to further texture the entries, though each is fully explained in English. Historical charts focus on special issues such as Jewish theology, philosophy, and religious law. The bibliography includes an eclectic collection of reference, bibliographical, and primary source works, as well as many recent works accessible to the general reader. Additional, dedicated bibliographies are included for topics of particular interest such as Jewish Religious Texts, Women in Judaism, Christian-Jewish Relations, and Judaism and the Environment.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The remarkable popularity of Thomas Cahill's best-seller, The Gifts of the Jews (Talese, 1998), demonstrates the continuing interest among both non-Jews and Jews in the world's oldest monotheistic faith. Authored by a distinguished British scholar, this dictionary primarily covers the Jewish religion; it is not a history of the Jewish people nor a history of the Bible. The introductory essay clearly distinguishes this work from other dictionaries of Judaism, especially noting its usefulness to "libraries and librarians." Most of the text is made up of alphabetically arranged entries generally ranging in length from a few sentences to three pages and citing reference works, bibliographies, and primary texts as sources. Examples of entries include Buber, Martin; death and mourning; Elijah; Holocaust; kasher; sanhedrin; and seder. Borrowing from the "hypertextuality" of electronic media, the volume uses an "open file" icon as well as capitalization to indicate cross-references. Supplementary material--including a complete list of the 613 Commandments, or mitzvot--enhances the reference value of this work. Although almost six-dozen dictionaries of Judaism have been published in English alone (and many more in languages from Czech to Spanish), ranging from very brief entries in nonacademic works such as Popular Dictionary of Judaism (Curzon, 1995) to the more scholarly Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion [RBB Jl 97], Historical Dictionary of Judaism secures an important place in this vast literature by providing informative and reliable information. Recommended for academic and public libraries.

Choice Review

Solomon offers a user-friendly resource about Judaism's history that is not a dictionary of the Bible. Biblical figures (Elijah, Abraham) and other events are presented in the light of rabbinic writings. Arranged by English equivalents ("Day of Atonement" for "Yom Kippur," "Dead Sea Scrolls" for "Qumran"), this source can be used by those without knowledge of Hebrew. Solomon excels in complex moral issues (abortion, organ transplants, peace, feminism, euthanasia), events (Passover), and persons ranging from Messiah and medieval Jewish theologians to contemporary prose writers. He includes lengthy essays on Holocaust theology and Christian-Jewish relations. Particularly useful are tables of books in the Torah and other literature, given in Roman and Hebrew characters, and the Mirzvor, the 613 commandments with Biblical references. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, ed. by R.J.Z. Werblowsky and G. Wigoder (CH, Sep'97), more comprehensive with individual bibliographies, is more biblical in its approach. While most articles are carefully referenced, one cross-reference to Hanukkah is blind. Despite these minor problems, Solomon has created a useful tool for the study of Judaism's history. Recommended for academic libraries. R. Hartsock; University of North Texas