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All About Judaism

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All About Judaism

Containing: A CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh
From Davka Corporation

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 1, 2004

All About Judaism is a phenomenal collection of three reference books; The Encyclopedia of Judaism, The Jewish Primer, and The Dictionary of Jewish Biography. Combined, these three titles offer readers access to a wealth of information that provides a comprehensive overview of Judaism, including its traditions and history. This collection is a must for students of all ages, and as an essential reference guide that should be in every library and every home.

The Encyclopedia of Judaism

This substantial volume offers over 1,000 articles on a wide range of topics, including Jewish History, customs, traditions, and personalities. The articles in this encyclopedia are indexed alphabetically, and related topics in one article are linked to corresponding articles. In addition, when appropriate, source material is reference within the body of each article, rather than in foot or end notes.

This volume, and The Dictionary of Jewish Biography, are accompanied by a series of pictures. A list of all the pictures available can be accessed via the pictures menu button. You will also notice a smaller, grayed out version of this button on the left-hand side of the screen just above text section of the window. If the picture is grayed out, it means that there is not a picture associated with that particular article. However, if the picture is in color, simply click on it to see the picture related to the article you are currently reading.

The Jewish Primer: Questions and Answers on Jewish Faith and Culture,
by Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Himelstein

The Jewish Primer is written in a question and answer format, with the questions and answers organized into thematic chapters. There are twenty-one chapters in this book, covering topics ranging from the Holidays to Modern Day Israel. This book is not intended to answer every question that you might have about Judaism. Rather it is designed to answer commonly asked questions, while at the same time providing an authoritative overview of the basic concepts and principals inherent in Judaism. In this regard, it is admirably successful. As well, Rabbi Himelstein's writing style is friendly, accessible, and his answers are thorough without being dogmatic.

The Dictionary of Jewish Biography

Offering almost 1,000 biographies of important Jewish personalities, this dictionary is a wonderful reference guide. Not only are religious and political figures detailed here, but so are other prominent people such as famous Jewish writers, Nobel Prize Winners, and even sport's figures such as Henry Benjamin "Hank" Greenberg, the first Jewish player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When accessing the three databases of information, you are presented with a screen that looks similar to the types of screens used with conventional word processing software programs, complete with a standard tool bar with main headers such as file, text, view, tools, and the like, and familiar buttons such as edit, print, and find text. Navigating among the three programs, and within each program, is very intuitive and should be easy to do, even for computer novices. Should you need additional help, there is a detailed user manual available that can be accessed by clicking on the 'help' button in the main tool bar.

This program has a number of nice, customizable features. You can elect English or Hebrew to be your interface language. You can also change the font and text size, as well as your display colors, including the colors that linked items appear as.

There are a number of methods available to browse through the three texts. However the method I found easiest was to click on the 'books' icon. This opens a new screen that lists the three reference books that are available in this program. To select a given book, simply double click on your selection, and a table of contents will appear on the left-hand side of the screen. On the right-hand side of the screen will appear the beginning text of the topic currently selected. You can easily browse down the table of contents, clicking on interesting topics or chapter headings. Each time you click on a new heading, the beginning of the text will appear in the right-hand window. Once you find something that you'd like to read in more detail, simply double click on the heading, and the file will open in your main, larger window.

Once you have a file opened in the main window, you can treat it almost like any word processing file. For example, you can copy the text, or portions of the text to your clipboard and paste it into a regular word processing program, such as DavkaWriter, WordPerfect, Word, Hebrew Word, EditPad, or WordPad. You can also print out the text directly from the All About Judaism program. It is extremely easy to work with the All About Judaism program and another word processing program at the same time. Just open both programs, and then, to jump back and forth between them, simply use the minimize button that you will find in the upper right-hand corner of the main page of the All About Judaism program, and in most word processing programs. Simply minimize the window of the program that you want out of the way, then restore it when you want it 'back'. You can also leave both programs' windows open, and simply jump back and forth between the two programs by clicking on the programs name, which is located in your computer's taskbar - the default position for this taskbar is along the bottom of your screen.

Besides working with a word processing program, you can also add notes directly to the All About Judaism program. This is done by clicking on the Tools button in the main toolbar, and then clicking on "Add Note." Your notes will not appear in the text displayed in the All About Judaism program. Rather, it is stored in a separate file. You can also edit your notes after they have already been saved.

In Conclusion:

All About Judaism is a wonderful reference guide that is a 'must' for everyone. The texts are suitable for all age groups and educational levels. They are also great for simply browsing - you'll be amazed at all the interesting tidbits that you'll stumble across while 'surfing' these fine books. As well, these three reference guides will be indispensable to anyone engaged in the study of Judaism, whether on an academic or personal level.

This program can be purchased individually, or as part of the Treasure Chest of Jewish Knowledge.

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