The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Reimagining an Encyclopedia for the Twenty-First Century: Gender, Jewishness, and History Online

The Jewish Women’s Archive is home to the world’s largest collection of information on Jewish women, drawing nearly 2 million visitors a year. It is also entirely digital, and has been so since its founding in 1996. JWA is perhaps best known for the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, which drives two-thirds of the traffic to our site, from 230+ countries around the world each year. What started in 1997 as a hardcover reference work on U.S. Jewish women was later broadened to include women beyond North America and published on CD-ROM in 2005. Shortly thereafter, JWA undertook to publish it on our website, making it freely accessible to all. To keep this now-online resource up-to-date regarding both history and scholarship, JWA began work on a new edition in 2017, launching the updated, expanded, and renamed Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women in June 2021, honoring the groundbreaking efforts of those who laid the intellectual foundation for JWA’s current work and works.

In this roundtable, JWA CEO Judith Rosenbaum will discuss the complex questions and painstaking process of editing, rewriting, and expanding this resource, from addressing significant changes in the Jewish community, in scholarship, and in theoretical understandings of Jewishness and womanhood, to considering audience and user experience, to recruiting scholarly contributors from around the globe (in part during a pandemic), to exploring the changing meaning of “encyclopedic” in the 21st century. What worked well? What challenges did JWA encounter along the way? What can other institutions take away from this process?