||Rare sampler for a new Jewish encyclopedia envisaged by prominent Jews, among them Ahad Ha'am (Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, 1856–1927), at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1891, Aḥad Ha-Am visited Ereẓ Israel and summed up his impressions in Emet me-Ereẓ Yisrael ("Truth from Ereẓ Israel"), a strongly critical survey of the economic, social, and spiritual aspects of the Jewish settlements. In 1893 he paid a second visit, and published similar criticisms. To foster the educational work which he considered a prior condition for settlement, he planned an encyclopedia on Jews and Judaism (Oẓar ha-Yahadut) which he hoped would encourage Jewish studies and revitalize Jewish thought. The proposed encyclopedia became enmeshed in disputes among maskilim and failed.
Further background is that in 1893, Ben Avigdor was appointed secretary of the "Benei Moshe" branch in Warsaw. In this capacity, he opened the "Ahiasaf" publishing house which he later ran, at first with Elazar Kaplan and afterwards also with Zalman Gluskin and Matityahu Cohen).5 During his time as secretary, Ben Avigdor was unhappy with the publishing policies coming from Ahad Ha'am and his faithful followers in Odessa and therefore, after three and a half years in office, he resigned. In the summer of 1897, shortly following Ben Avigdor's resignation, Ahad Ha'am published a series of articles which proposed his idea of the essential work needed for creating a foundation of knowledge for the modern Jew in "Hamelitz", one of the modern Haskalah papers. The major project Ahad Ha'am envisioned was titled "Otzar Hayahadut" (The treasure of Judaism), a project to which he recruited his admirers, and which the "Ahiasaf" publishing house was meant to serve. The idea was to publish a new Jewish compendium, which would not be perceived as another just another encyclopedia. While still preparing for their big project, news of the release of "The Jewish Encyclopedia" (published at the beginning of the twentieth century in America) forced the "Benei Moshe" group to clearly articulate the differences between their project and the American one.
In 1904, Dr. David Neimark, an eminent historian of Jewish Philosophy published a programmatic essay named: "The literary value and the historical place of "The Treasure of Judaism" in "Hashiloah", a periodical, first edited by Ahad A'am. In the same edition of "Hashiloah", "Benei moshe" published a call to the "lovers of Hebrew literature" explaining the goals of their project. This call was signed by the managers of the offices of "Otzar ha-Yahadut" in Warsaw: Dr. Yosef klozner, who later succeeded Ahad Ha'am as the editor of "Hashiloah" and who, as the first chair of the department of Hebrew literature, went on to become a prominent figure in the development of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Dr. David Neimark, the manager of the Berlin office.
It took "Benei Moshe" another two years to publish a booklet entitled: "Otzar ha-Yahadut in Hebrew, its nature, purpose and essence - a sample issue" (Warsaw, Ahiasaf, 1906). This publication contained opening remarks by Klozner in which he strongly argued that their effort was destined to save the Jewish nation who would otherwise perish. Klozner made a great effort to explain that the project initiated by "Benei Moshe" would bring the vitality missing in "The Jewish Encyclopedia". Additionally, the booklet contained Ahad Ha'am's aforementioned program (published in "Hamelitz") and Neimark's article from '"Hashiloah", as well as four sample entries prepared for "Otzar Ha-Yahadut":