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Software Review of the Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth CD ROM for Windows

  • What is it: The Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth is a multimedia CD ROM encyclopedia, not unlike Grolleirs or Comptoms in many respects, except it focuses in clear easy to understand language many aspects of Jewish Life and History. Contemporary in it's content and appealing in it's interface, it's primary audience, I believe, is the 9 - 15 crowd. I found, to my delight, that as an adult there were also many good articles in here with new information for me. Then again, I'm to sort of person who after a hard nights work, will come home and study Atlases for relaxation.
  • System Requirements: The CD ROM requires a PC compatible computer of the 486 variety or higher with a CD ROM, at Least 4 Megs of RAM, and Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. 8 megs of RAM is suggested for smooth running and VGA video with 64K color is recommended for it's images. I tested the program on my AST Advantage 486SX with DX4 -100 Everest Overdrive upgrade CPU and 24 MEGS of Ram running Widows 95. My Hard drive is extremely small and compressed with little room left, so I tried to install the program on my parallel port Iomega ZipŠ drive which proved to slow for the opening musical number. As a result I reinstalled it on my hard drive, and everything ran smoothly from there.
  • INSTALLATION: Because of my limited space, I was very concerned about loading yet another windows program onto my hard drive which would leave small parts of it behind in my windows systems directories. Installing this program requires one to select run from th start menu, choose the CD ROM drive, which in my case is the E: drive and setup. This program is not plug and play, which is fine by me since I'm not a fan of this technology in any case. Then an installation shield pops up, which then prompts your for the directory name and drive to install the program under. You can choose the defaults if you wish, or change the drive and directory as suits your needs. Then click next, and installation goes smoothly without a hitch. Zip drives in parallel may be to slow for the initial music which the program produces. But on my IDE Hard Drive in compression and using MAG RAM Ram doubler, ll of which slows my hard drive access, the program runs well right out of the gate. In Windows 3.1 you would follow a similar procedure using the program manager instead of the start button.
  • Content: The program starts with a pastel beige full screen interface with a video running in the center to traditional Eastern European Jewish clarinet music and a flashing pictorial symbolic of Jewish History from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the peace summit of Yasser Arafat, President Clinton and Prime Minister Rabin. After the initial introduction, you are presented with Main Menu which can be seen by clicking here now. Image size is 126KB. Click the back button on your browser to return. The CD has over 1400 Judaica Topics, all written in plane easy to understand english. Among the features that the program permits is printing of topics, adding notes directly into the encyclopedia hyper linked to articles, which makes this a wonder program for student research, hundreds of pictures and music, five ways of searching the articles for a topic, as well as the online help which one expects from a windows program.
  • The Grand Tour In testing out the program I started by clicking on SEARCH and entering in the word Brooklyn. An impressive list of 17 articles then popped up in a window to choose from Coppland, Aaron to Yeshiva University. Starting at the top I started to tour the articles. Which presented the following text:

    COPLAND, AARON (1900-- 1990), U.S. composer. Copland was born in Brooklyn and studied in New York and Paris. Returning to the U.S. in 1924, he became active as a composer, teacher, and conductor. In his early years Copland attracted the attention of Serge Koussevitzky, then conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who became an ardent champion of his music. His Piano Concerto, which he played with Koussevitzky in 1927, shocked the staid Boston audience by its aggressive jazz idiom. But Copland's talent soon won for him universal acceptance. In 1964 he received the Medal of Freedom from the U.S. government.
    One of the choices from the graphic icons permits you to move down the list of articles which were selected from your search. This feature is especially helpful when looking up a topic. After clicking on that icon, the next article was on Habad (or more commonly Chabad). It lead me directly to the reference on Brooklyn

    Today the hub of the Habad empire is in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. There is also a large branch in Israel centered at Kefar Habad, near Lod. The 7th Lubavitch leader, Menahem Mendel Schneersohn, born in Russia in 1902 and educated in mathematics and engineering at the Sorbonne in Paris, led the New York community from 1951 until his death in 1994. He was childless and did not designate a successor. Under his direction, the influence of the Lubavitch community spread far beyond the hasidic community and penetrated the mainstream of Jewish life in all parts of the world. In theory, the Habad Hasid is too sophisticated to expect miracles from his leader --- he looks to him only for spiritual guidance. Nevertheless, the great "Rebbe" was said to have cured a man of cancer by placing his hand on the man's side and saying "si'z gornisht" (It's nothing). A campaign hailing Rabbi Schneersohn as a Messiah began in the late 80s and has continued beyond his death in the 1990s. The messianism gripped a large part of the Lubavitch community and has created a huge debate in the ultra-Orthodox communities in the Diaspora and Israel.
    This article comes with two new features. One is a hype text link (that is like a web browser - click and go) an article on Hassidsm and the other was a graphic of Rabbi Schneersohn which could be clicked on and enlarged. There is also a hyperlink to a biography of the previous Lubavitcha Rebbe.

    One thing I noticed was that the text throughout the encyclopedia uses the term Ultra Orthodox to describe various mainstream Orthodox groups, among them the Lubavitch.

    Danny Kaye was also included in my search of Brooklyn which mentioned several of the important films he made. It did not mention White Christmas among these movies. It also listed a number of Hazzan including Berle Chagy, Baseball Pitcher Sandy Kouflax,actor Zero Mostel, The City of New York, The Satmar Hassidim, Self Defense, Sports, Barbra Steisand, Fanny Brice, The United States with a musical link to the Star Spangle Banner, Gerald Warburg, and Yeshiva University. One can make on notes all these topics along using cut and past text.

  • Multi-MediaI'm most impressed with the Multi-media capability of the program, which is destined to only get better with the yearly improvements that the developer says will be available. One can search through the CD for sound files. One that I discovered which was most educational was of a song by Yemenite Children in the 1950's. Their pronunciations of Hebrew is profoundly different then either standard Ashkenazi or Sephardi Hebrew and is worth a listen. Once an article is opened, one can choose music off the bottom menu and a list on musical pieces is made available. This is a list of articles with sound tracts on them. Click the musical notes on the top of the article, and you get sound. It's that simple.

    I chose an article on Prayer and a large article appeared on the history and development of Jewish Prayer going back to biblical prayer. The sound file is a nice Sephardi hymn with voice and some sort of guitar like accompaniment. The Article itself is tremendous with topics within it including Biblical Prayer, Prayer in the Rabbinical Period, The Language of Worships, Prayer in Modern Jewish Thought, and The Order and Content of The Prayer Service. Every aspect of the topic is covered. Indeed, it is a rich article, perhaps 15 typical pages long.

  • Searching The heart and soul of a program like this is it's searching ability. On the top menu bar, this program has a Search selection with many choices. Directly under this menu selection is Overview, By Index of Articles, Search By Categories, Search by Vocabulary,and Search by Words. Under Search by Categories is an impressive list of subsections. You can search Jewish Studies, Jewish Objects, Persons, Places, History,Israel, USA, and General This is really very useful in narrowing the scope of searches and for general browsing. The difference between a word search and a vocabulary search seems to be that a word search is a traditional hard text search of all the articles where the vocabulary search uses peace of software which lists words by alphabetical order. Ultra, for example, is found in both searches and produce the same list. It seems that by vocabulary is a more graphical interface to the search engine.
  • Rating This program does everything it advertises. It's really an extensive volume on Judaic Topics written with young people in mind, but without insulting their intelligence. It has an plethora of useful articles, and a dynamite note taking capacity for serious school work. Why everything one can think of is not yet included, it would be hard to find topics not included in this work. With it's projections for yearly updates, it is guaranteed to remain current, and for it's 139 dollar list price, it will be the most potent source for Judaica in your home.