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Dictionary of Jewish Words

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Dictionary of Jewish Words

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Dictionary of Jewish Words
A JPS Guide
By Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic
Jewish Publication Society, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-8276-0832-0

Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - February 25, 2010

Containing more than 1,200 entries, the Dictionary of Jewish Words includes a wide assortment of common 'Jewish' words and terms used throughout American society. These words are drawn not only from Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, Arabic, Ladino vernaculars, but also English words that have a 'Jewish' connotation such as Ark of the Covenant, Gaucher disease (a disease that primarily affects Ashkenazi Jews), synagogue, and ultra-Orthodox. Biographic and organizational entries are also included. The biographical entries describe key personalities ranging from biblical figures to political, literary, and religious figures. The organizational entries cover a broad range of modern Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and the Rabbinical Council of American (RCA). Many of the terms included in this dictionary are related to Jewish holidays, history, culture, life-cycle, religious observances, and everyday usage can be found within the pages of this entertaining and informative guide.

When applicable, each entry in this dictionary includes a notation as to what part of speech the key word belongs to, what language the word is derived from, a pronunciation guide, and a definition or description of the word or term. Entries are organized alphabetically. At the end of the book is a list of the words included in this guide, organized by categories. This guide was first published in 2001, and this new edition has been updated and expanded to include hundreds of new words and terms.

Whether you are curious about what a gonif, nudnik, or a shiksa is, or what exactly lox is, or need to look up who Solomon Schechter or Theodor Herzl was, this handy guide is likely to have just what you need. Granted, this is not a comprehensive dictionary, but Eisenberg and Scolnic have done an excellent job of including most of the common words and terms that you'll encounter in your day to day life that have a 'Jewish' connotation from Aaron to Zohar, and all those in-between from cholent and shtetl to the Balfour Declaration and the Tribes of Israel. Eclectic in nature, the Dictionary of Jewish Words is not only fun to read, but also a valuable reference guide to anyone with an interest in Jewish culture, who likes to read Jewish literature, or who simply wants to better understand the countless 'Jewish' terms that they encounter on a daily basis.

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