Julius Eisenstein

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Julius (Judah David) Eisenstein (November 12, 1854 – May 17, 1956) (Hebrew: יהודה דוד אייזענשטיין‎) was a Polish-Jewish-American writer born in Międzyrzec Podlaski (known in Yiddish as Mezri'tsh), a city in Biała Podlaska County, Lublin Voivodeship, Congress Poland.

On his mother's side he was a great-grandson of Tsvi Hirsch Fischbein, who left Międzyrzec Podlaski in 1863 to make aliyah to Jerusalem, where he helped finance the construction of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva.[1] As a child, Eisenstein was educated in Talmud by his paternal grandfather, Azriel Zelig. He emigrated in 1872 to the United States at the age of 17, settled in New York, and married the following year. Eisenstein became a successful businessman, but lost much of his fortune in a failed effort to establish an agricultural colony for Jewish immigrants in New Jersey.

Eisenstein was a lover of Hebrew, and established America's first society for the Hebrew language, called Shocharei Sfat Ever. He was also the first to translate the Constitution of the United States into Hebrew and Yiddish (New York, 1891). Other early writings of his are Ma'amare Bamasoret, ib. 1897, and The Classified Psalter (Pesuke de-Zimrah), Hebrew text with a new translation (1899). He also made an attempt to translate and explain a modified text of the Shulhan Arukh.

Eisenstein took a prominent part in the controversy concerning the Kolel America, a society for the collection of funds for the poor Jews of Palestine, and was one of the leaders in the movement to arrange that the money contributed in the United States should go primarily to former residents of America.

In Ha-Modia' la-Hadashim (New York) for 1901 he published, under the title Le-Dorot Gole Russiya be-America, a sketch of the history of Russo-Jewish emigration to America. His History of the First Russo-American Jewish Congregation appeared in No. 9 of the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1901.

Eisenstein's grandson, Ira Eisenstein, was ordained a Conservative rabbi and was one of the founders of Reconstructionist Judaism.

Primary Works[edit]

Julius Eisenstein contributed more than 150 entries to the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, from which the above biography was taken, and he authored thousands of articles in newspapers, journals, encyclopedias, and anthologies.

His memoirs are contained in a 1929 volume called Otzar Zikhronotai (אוצר זיכרונותי).

Others works, most of which can be downloaded at HebrewBooks.org are as follows:

  • Otzar Perushim we-Ziyurim (1920) (אוצר פירושים וציורים להגדה של פסח), an illustrated Passover haggadah
  • Otzar Dinim u-Minhagim (1917) (אוצר דינים ומנהגים), a digest of Jewish laws (halachah) and customs (minhaggim)
  • Otzar D'rushim Nibharim (1918) (אוצר דרושים נבחרים), an anthology of midrashic literature
  • Otzar Maamare Hazal (1922) (אוצר מאמרי חז"ל), a concordance of rabbinical quotations, sayings, and phrases
  • Otzar Ma'amare Tanakh (1925) (אוצר מאמרי התנ"ך), a concordance of words, phrases, and idioms in the Tanakh
  • Otzar Masa'oth (1927) (אוצר מסעות), an anthology of itineraries by Jewish travelers to Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and other countries
  • Otzar Midrashim (1915) (אוצר מדרשים), "Anthology of Midrashim", a library of 200 minor midrashim
  • Otzar Vikukhim (1922) (אוצר ויכוחים), "Anthology of Debates", a collection of polemics and disputations against Christianity
  • Otzar Yisrael (principal editor, 1906–1913, 10 volumes) (אנציקלופדיה אוצר ישראל), an encyclopedia concerning all matters of Jews and Judaism. It has the distinction of being the first comprehensive (not exclusively on Jewish topics) encyclopedia in the Hebrew language. According to Levy (2002) Eisenstein undertook this work in response to perceived limitations of the English-language Jewish Encyclopedia.

For obvious reasons, he was known by many colleagues as "Ba'al ha-Otzarot" ("Master of the Anthologies"). Eisenstein was a scholar of extraordinarily broad learning. His political views were marked by hostility toward Reform and Conservative Judaism (Sherman, 1996).

References[edit]

  • Sherman, Moshe D. (1996). Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 58–59. 
  • Levy, David B. (2002). "The making of the Encyclopaedia Judaica and the Jewish Encyclopedia" (PDF). Proceedings of the 37th Annual Convention of the Association of Jewish Libraries. Denver, CO. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.