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, a city in Biała Podlaska County, Lublin Voivodeship, Congress Poland.

As a child in Poland, he was educated in Talmud by his grandfather, Azriel Zelig. Eisenstein emigrated in 1872 to the United States at the age of 17, settled in New York, and married the following year. He 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 the Hebrew language, and established America's first society for the Hebrew language, called Shocharei Sfat Ever. He was also the first to translate into Hebrew and Yiddish the Constitution of the United States (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.

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]