Friday, June 08, 2007

Entdecktes (Encyclopedia des) Judenthum

Professor Shnayer Leiman has published a devastatingly brilliant (and, in typical fashion, hysterically funny) review of the New Encyclopedia Judaica, on the Seforim Blog. Since I was an associate editor of the NEJ for about six months, before I quit in frustration, I'd like to add my own comment.

There was never any doubt in my mind that the EJ needed to be updated. That's why I signed on. However, immediately I started getting hysterical (not funny) calls that re-written entries needed to be completed in a couple of months time. New entries were due even sooner. (You figure that out.) I sat there drawing up lists of potential contributers, while being bombarded with demands to just decide which articles didn't need to be updated. I tried to cooperate, but my scholarly conscience just could go along with the potential fraud that was being created before my eyes. After all, how could I agree to participate in an updated encyclopedia, when there were entries that I knew had to be redone but would not be? (Never mind that I was asking colleagues and friends to drop everything in the middle of the school year to rewrite entries that would not count for promotion and get paid something like $3.00 an article to boot, before taxes.)

Anyway, I finally told my senior editor that I couldn't stay with the project as currently conceived. I did rewrite the entry on Rabbi Joseph Colon (Maharik), upon whose life and responsa I wrote my doctorate. That much I felt I had to do.

Needless to say, this sad tale only confirms Professor Leiman's advice. DON"T THROW AWAY YOUR EJ!

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