Notes on Editorial Style

by Jeffrey P. Edelstein

The structure and editorial apparatuses of this encyclopedia are not especially different from most standard encyclopedias, but the specialized nature of the subject matter and the many decisions regarding spelling and editorial style that were required warrant a somewhat more detailed explanation than is typically deemed necessary. The notes that follow aim to clarify the rationale for the decisions that we made during five years of planning and editorial work.


Entries in the encyclopedia are arranged in alphabetical order. Within this overall alphabetical order, there are three types of entry. Independent entries (sometimes called main entries) are articles placed under their own titles, or headwords—for example, “Agriculture,” “Bergelson, Dovid,” “Chełm.” Independent entries form the vast majority of the encyclopedia’s contents.

Composite entries group together two or more articles on related topics under a single headword. Each article is separately commissioned and written, has its own bibliography, and—like all articles in the encyclopedia—is signed by its contributor. Composite entries allow individual scholars to contribute their specialized expertise to ensure that all aspects of a larger topic are fully addressed. Such expertise may be based on chronological, geographical, or thematic grounds. For example, the entry “Poland” is divided into three chronological articles, the first on early history through the three partitions of the late eighteenth century, the second on Poland from 1795 to 1939, and the last on Poland during and since the Holocaust; the entry “Theater” is divided largely along geographical/linguistic grounds: following an introductory overview are articles on Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Romanian, and Hungarian theater, respectively, ending with a survey of criticism and scholarship; a thematically divided entry is “Hasidism,” which begins with a general historical overview and is followed by articles on teachings and literature, everyday life, music, and dance. Each composite entry begins with an editorial headnote explaining its organization (in the online edition, these are the introductions called "About this Article.")

Finally, blind entries are essentially cross-references that occur within the alphabetical
range of headwords. Blind entries are used for alternate spellings, synonyms, related
terms, and topics that are covered within larger, more general entries. Examples include
“Bread. See Food and Drink”; “Greeting Cards. See Postcards and Greeting Cards”; “Lemberg. See L’viv”; and “Mendele Moykher-Sforim. See Abramovitsh, Sholem Yankev.” In addition to these blind entries, cross-references (generally transformed into links online) may be found throughout the text to guide readers to related discussion elsewhere in the encyclopedia. These cross-references are placed within headnotes to composite entries, at appropriate locations within articles, and at the end of articles, just before the suggested readings.


For languages using the Latin alphabet (Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, German) we employ the full range of diacritical marks and special characters eachone includes. For other languages (Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian), we have followed theromanization systems of the Library of Congress, though in slightly simplified form (e.g., using k to represent both kaf and kuf [qof], s for both sin and samekh, and t for both tet and tav in Hebrew; omitting the ligatures in Russian). For Yiddish we naturally followed the long-established and widely used YIVO romanization system. Although somemembers of our editorial board and others raised the possibility, particularly for Russian,of using “common” spellings, in fact there is no single system of commonly accepted spellings, and the result would have been a mass of inconsistency or seeming inconsistency,with individual contributors using their personal preferences, whether Dmitri, Dmitrii, or Dmitry, for example.

Coupled with this relatively easy initial decision was our strong preference for representing
personal names in local, rather than anglicized forms. It has been a frequent practice
to render all Jewish personal names the same, regardless of the figure’s own use or country
of origin. All Isaacs are Isaac, all Jacobs are Jacob, and so forth. Somehow scholars
do not tend to do this in other fields, where all Pierres and Pedros are not Peter and
all Pablos and Paolos are not Paul. In our encyclopedia, then, we have people named
Ya‘akov (Heb.), Yankev (Yid.), Iakov (Rus.), Jakub (Pol.), Jakob (Cz.), and Iacov (Rom.).
Occasionally there is even a Jacob. Our hope in making this decision was to provide a
truer impression of the world we are presenting as well as to locate individual figures
within their particular culture or field of endeavor. Examples of some of the variant
forms of frequently encountered names are provided in Table 1.

For writers, we generally rendered the figure’s name in the principal language of his or her writings. (Even in this category there were instances where someone is fairly equally known, for example, as both a Hebrew and a Yiddish writer, forcing us to choose which spelling to use as an entry term.) In other instances, we had to rely on existing sources and the guidance of our editorial board members and the contributors themselves. A politician active in Warsaw in the interwar period, for example, might have used or been known by the Polish form of his name or by the Yiddish form. If he represented a religious party, he might even have gone by the Hebrew form. Our decisions in such instances became more particular, though at the same time they always remained rooted in basic principles and guidelines.

We made some exceptions for names of internationally known figures, where a particular spelling has become overwhelmingly familiar, and for figures who emigrated from Eastern Europe and subsequently adopted a particular spelling of their own. Such names include Sholem Aleichem (not Sholem Aleykhem), Joseph Brodsky (Iosif Brodskii), and Marc Chagall (Moyshe Shagal).

Place-names present a far more difficult problem. Nonscholarly and simply incorrect spellings abound in the literature; diacritical marks are frequently dropped; and, as noted above, a place may have, for example, a Romanian name, a Hungarian name, a German name, and a Ukrainian name as well as a Yiddish form. Different forms are appropriate to use in different historical periods. The practice that we therefore adopted for cities and towns for which we have included an entry is to use the current, official form as our headword, though we may use a variety of historical forms in the run of text both later in that very entry or in other entries. Often the modern form used for the headword is not the form most frequently used (e.g., Vilna rather than Vilnius; Lwów and Lemberg rather than L’viv). We made a small number of exceptions in the entry terms for world capitals (Moscow rather than Moskva, Warsaw rather than Warszawa, Kiev rather than Kyiv, Prague rather than Praha, etc.). When place-names are attached to the names of rabbinic scholars, Hasidic rebbes, or Hasidic dynasties, we have generally used the Yiddish form of the town’s name (except for major cities such as Vilna or Prague), for example, Simḥah Bunem of Pshiskhe rather than Przysucha and Yisra’el ben Shabetai of Kozhenits rather than Kozienice.

An excellent and contentious example is a city that historically was Hungarian, in which language it is called Munkács. After World War I with the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, however, it fell within the newly established Czechoslovakian state, during which time its name was Mukačevo. It reverted to Hungarian control in 1938–1944, but since then has been part of Ukraine, where it is spelled Mukacheve; this last form, as the current official spelling, is where readers will find our entry on the city. Overlaid on these local spellings, however, is the Yiddish form, Munkatsh according to YIVO romanization. As it happens, the city was the locus of a Hasidic dynasty of some significance, so our entry on that group is found as “Munkatsh Hasidic Dynasty.” Although other spellings such as Munkacz or Munkatch exist, we have avoided using such nonstandard forms. A major exception is our use of the spelling Lubavitch rather than the more proper (in the YIVO system) Lubavitsh; the former is simply too well established and ubiquitous to be ignored.

In order to minimize readers’ confusion the articles have been liberally sprinkled with parenthetical variants of the names of people and places. From the outset, we held as a goal that this project would serve as a standard source for spellings in East European Jewish Studies; we hope that we have succeeded at least to some degree.