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FESTSCHRIFTEN (from German; lit. "festival writings"). A Festschrift is usually a volume of articles by several authors for a celebration, especially a volume of learned essays, by students, colleagues, and admirers to honor a scholar on a special anniversary. The custom of publishing Festschriften became popular in academic circles in Germany in the 19th century and was eagerly adopted by the Jewish scholarly community as well, particularly to honor the birthdays or memory of prominent rabbis, teachers at rabbinical seminaries, and private scholars. An institution, such as a rabbinical seminary, a Jewish school, or a society could also be honored. The contents of these books usually consist of a brief dedication or biographical sketch of the person honored, a list of his writings, and a series of scholarly contributions in the field of his interest.

Early examples of this genre were published in Central Europe when modern Jewish scholarship was striving to achieve recognition within the general community of scholars. At that time formal recognition of scholarship in Jewish subjects was generally denied, except for Bible scholarship; even that field, however, was conceived as an exclusively theological discipline reserved for Christian scholars. Thus the Festschriften served the apologetic tendency prevalent in the early period of modern Jewish learning. With the spread of the methods of modern Jewish scholarship from Germany to other countries, Festschriften also became popular, and this type of literature continues to be published in Israel and the Diaspora. Generally, the main subject of a Festschrift is not the honoree, but in some cases memorial volumes may consist primarily of the literary remains of the person. A related development is the publication of hundreds of memorial volumes dedicated to the Jewish communities that were destroyed during the Holocaust; usually they take the form of reminiscences of the survivors.

Lists and Indexes

A list of Festschriften, "Jubilee, Memorial, and Tribute Volumes" (in: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1941), enumerates over a hundred titles for the period 1864–1941. The bibliographical quarterly Kirjath Sepher regularly published a list of works under the heading Kevaẓim ("collections"), from which a fairly complete bibliography of Jewish Festschriften can be derived. Nearly a hundred Festschriften honoring Jewish educational institutions and published from 1834 on are listed by Leah Y. Mishkin (in: sbb, 5 (1961), 92–101). Many of these, however, have the institutions as their principal subject.

An analytical Festschrift is An Index to Jewish Festschriften (1937) by J.R. Marcus and A. Bilgray, which analyzes 54 works by author, title, and subject. A general index to Festschriften that analyzes a substantial number of works of Jewish interest is Articles on Antiquity in Festschriften, and Index; the Ancient Near East, the Old Testament, Greece, Rome, Roman Law, Byzantium (1962) by Dorothy Rounds.

I. Joel's Reshimat Ma'amarim be-Madda'ei ha-Yahadut (1969, "List of Articles on Jewish Studies"), the first volume of a projected series, analyzes periodicals and collections, including Festschriften published in 1966.

Index to Festschriften in Jewish Studies (1971), compiled and edited by Charles Berlin, gives a comprehensive list of 243 Festschriften with an alphabetical list of authors and articles, and a detailed index. It excludes the Festschriften indexed by Marcus and Bilgray.


Sources:[Theodore Wiener]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.