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

Merriam-Webster's unabridged dictionary devotes less than 50 words to seder, a word associated with the Jewish Passover. For those needing more data, more background, and especially more history, there is the new edition of Historical Dictionary of Judaism. The author's background includes more than two decades as a rabbi, a PhD from the University of Manchester, and an extensive career as a university lecturer. The origin and earliest segments of Jewish history are documented in the Old Testament portion of the Christian Bible. Not surprisingly, then, there are biblical references on seemingly every other page of this A-Z work. It should not be viewed as a biblical reference tool, however. Solomon cites just as many extrabiblical works as he does anything else, including many rabbinic sources from the second to the sixteenth centuries. Entries on people (e.g., Josephus), writings ( Midrash), practices ( Circumcision), and ideas ( Immortality) provide users with enough information without overwhelming them. The uninitiated will appreciate the concise definitions of technical terms associated with Judaism, consisting largely of transliterated Hebrew terms. Noticeably absent from the dictionary, however, are entries for significant places in the Jewish past (and present), like Jerusalem. The volume's concluding 120 pages include features that distinguish it from other recent Jewish dictionaries and companions: namely, tables, appendixes, and a bibliography. Librarians serving in a collection-development capacity will appreciate the lengthy but not exhaustive bibliography, which spans one-tenth of the volume, includes numerous subdivisions, and caters primarily to library professionals or serious researchers. Many libraries, both public and academic, may prefer The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (1997), which, although it has no tables or all-purpose bibliography, provides signed articles with a brief bibliography attached to almost every entry, seemingly with the average user in mind. Still, Solomon's dictionary is well done and reflects his background both as a rabbi and a very knowledgeable Jewish scholar. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic collections. --Wade Osburn Copyright 2006 Booklist

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