The Dictionary of Jewish Biography

Daniel C. Cohn-Sherbok, Author
Daniel C. Cohn-Sherbok, Author Oxford University Press $69.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-19-522391-0
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Paperback - 382 pages - 978-0-8264-8040-8
Open Ebook - 382 pages - 978-1-282-71065-8
Ebook - 383 pages - 978-1-4411-9784-9
Hardcover - 308 pages - 978-0-8264-6250-3
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This valuable new Judaica reference offers almost 4,000 brief biographies of people who have significantly contributed to Jewish life. Cohn-Sherbock, a rabbi and professor of Jewish theology at the University of Wales in Lampeter, spotlights biblical figures like the patriarch Abraham, modern figures like composer George Dreyfus and everything in between. On a single page, readers can learn about novelist E. L. Doctorow, Israeli soldier Ya'akov Dori, Babylonian philosopher and Talmudic commentator Dosa ben Saadyah, and first-century pseudo-messiah Dositheus. Those who made decidedly negative contributions to Jewish life have a place, too: there's the 13th-century Franciscan monk Nichols Donin, for example, who was responsible for burning countless copies of the Talmud. Maps and a short essay that traces Jewish history from antiquity to the present contextualize the entries. The only disappointment is the relatively short length of the biographical sketches. Most entries are only one paragraph, and some-such as the one telling us that the American National Cartoonist Society's Reuben award is named after cartoonist Rube Goldberg-are only a sentence. This dictionary is a great starting place, but serious students of Jewish life and history will need to go elsewhere for textured, detailed portraits of Jewish greats.
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