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- Access
- Minimum Configuration
- Changing Keyboards in Windows XP
- For Apple Users
- Development Schedule
- Fundamentals of Research in Rachel
- Spelling Rules for Translation and Transliteration


Access to Rachel is free, but the number of visitors at any one time is restricted.
The program was designed to meet all demands. Nonetheless, if you repeatedly encounter the message “Server is overloaded, please try again later”, please accept our apologies, and signal the problem to us via e-mail, with the date and time at which the problem occurred :

Moreover, the reference base is regularly re-indexed, an update scheduled between 3AM and 5AM GMT, taking into account all the constraints of various time zones. During a period of 20-30 minutes, the base may be unavailable or may have a very slow response-time.

Rachel’s vocation is knowledge-sharing. However, please contact us before undertaking any large-scale adaptation for your own uses — recuperating bibliographic notes, derivatives, making links, etc. Further, it is the policy of Rachel, as with any bibliographic data base, to indicate the originating library for each reference. We ask you to respect this policy.

Minimum Configuration

High-speed connection (DSL, cable, etc.) is not mandatory, but it does facilitate research.
The site can be accessed through any Internet navigator, with any operating system.
However, all of the functions were developed and tested for computers running Windows XP (and later) and Internet Explorer.
With this configuration, users can easily change from a Latin-character keyboard to a Hebrew-character keyboard, one of Rachel’s essential functions.

Changing Keyboards in Windows XP

To use this function you must configure the Languages option in your tool bar.

Right-click on the tool bar to select the language option bar.
2/ Right-click again on the language icon (EN for English, FR for French) that will appear in the lower-right of the menu bar, and select the parameter option.

Then configure the language by selecting Hebrew (HE).

By clicking on EN/FR you can change to the HE(brew)-character keyboard.


For Apple Users

Choosing a Navigator

Microsoft Internet Explorer for Apple will not display Hebrew characters. We can suggest two navigators that have this capacity :

Firefox, a free navigator.

Download in French :
Download in English :

Safari, bundled with Mac OS X.

Purchase and download:

Switching Keyboards in Apple

To make this a default option, you must configure the Language option in your toolbar.

In the apple menu of the toolbar, open System Preferences.

Click on International.
2/ In the International window, choose Languages, then Modify.

3/ In the window that opens, select Hebrew and/or Yiddish (which displays in Hebrew characters). Click on OK.

4/ Return to International window, choose Input Menu. Select Hebrew or Hebrew-QWERTY, depending on which Hebrew keyboard you’re used to; otherwise, just choose Hebrew.

When typing, there are two ways to move between keyboards:
- Apple-key + space bar (the flag to the right of the toolbar becomes an Israeli flag); or
- Click on the flag icon in the upper-right and select the Israeli flag.

Development Schedule

Bringing RACHEL online is a long-term project mobilizing several dozen people for over two years.
As of June 8, 2005, the site’s official opening date, the provisional schedule is as follows:

The catalogue of the Bibliothèque Medem (Medem Library) will probably be the first file fully available and operational. This library’s card catalogue was comprehensive, and was consequently easy to retroconvert. We estimate full online access for Fall 2005. But the work is hardly complete. All of the references will undergo revisions to reflect both multiple copies among libraries and spelling differences between Yiddish and Hebrew. The Subject file will need particular honing.

The library of the Séminaire israélite de France (Jewish Seminary of France) had no reliable catalogue. Extensive work was undertaken to elaborate one in collaboration with the Jewish National and University Library, in Jerusalem (JNUL). We are targeting the end of 2005 for a complete catalogue of holdings. The Subject file will be in a primitive state, and will need considerable refinement.

The library of the Alliance israélite universelle (AIU), with the largest collections, also suffers from these riches. Its card catalogue reflects decades of the patient labors of successive librarians. We hope that the whole catalogue will be retroconverted by Spring 2006.

At that stage, all three libraries will engage in a painstaking process of eliminating duplicates and standardizing references.

Until the work is completely finished, we cannot recommend too strongly that you complement any online research with research at the relevant library.

Fundamentals of Research in Rachel

Rachel uses Aleph 500 software, from Ex Libris, a program developed by an Israeli company and available worldwide.

Aleph 500 was chosen because it utilizes the most widely-used cataloguing standards (Marc 21) and because it can manage simultaneously the different alphabets found in our catalogue (Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.).

Rachel is a multimedia catalogue, with access to books, periodicals, theses, manuscripts, archives, photographs, videos and music recordings. Aleph 500 works intuitively, and has a context-sensitive help menu. The remarks which follow are meant as an initial user orientation.

Users can perform two types of search :

1. Key-word or phrase search, which generates a listing of pertinent references
2. List search, which generates an alphabetic list of terms or names including the term keyed in or as close to it as possible. To display references, the user clicks on the term(s) selected.

Key-word or phrase search has three levels of complexity.

1.1 Simple Search :

Type in a word or phrase, in Latin, Hebrew or other characters, choose the field for searching this word or phrase. This is a key-word search.

When searching by phrase, if you check “Expression exacte: OUI” (with all words: yes) the search will be carried out for the whole character-chain of your phrase, e.g., “sciences du judaïsme.”
This is the “exact search” (“recherche exacte”) function.

If you check “Expression exacte : NON,” the search runs the three terms separately, “sciences” OR “du” OR “judaïsme.” The results will thus be very different..

Users can access the following indices

All fields of the zones indexed in the full bibliographic notice, including the notes.

Title : words appearing in titles, subtitles, alternate titles, series’ titles, subseries’ titles, original titles.
> Examples : « mangeclous », « livre ma mère », « ספר הזהר »

Author : Individual or collective authors.
> Examples : « Georges Perec », « congress Jewish Studies »

Subject : Subject terms taken from either the subject listings created by the librarians of the Rachel network or from the subject listings derived from recuperated bibliographic references. Subject may be in several languages. Only subject terms in French are regularly checked.
> Examples : « mariage », « wedding »,«  הלכה »

Publisher : Terms figuring in the names of commercial publishing houses
> Examples : « Gallimard », « עם עובד »

Series : Terms appearing in titles of series or sub-series
> Example : « que sais je »

Function : under construction

System Number : for library professionals only


  1.2 Advanced Research

This method allows you to define up to three search terms, linked by a Boolean operator AND, OR, BUT NOT
You can also limit a search by filtering by language (language of publication), format (document type); year (of publication), library (network member library), function (publisher, editor, translator,...).

Searching by year, you can display the latest publications received and you can keep abreast of recent acquisitions.

1.3 Multiple-Catalogue Search

This method allows you to perform a simple search by key-word in selected catalogues external to Rachel. These currently include the Union List of Israel (collective catalogue of Israeli university libraries), the Library of Congress Washington, DC), RAMBI (Index of periodical articles on Jewish topics, published by the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem). Further catalogues will be accessible via Rachel as partnership agreements are signed.

2. List Search

Use this option to browse through an alphabetical list of the key words displayed at the head of a field.  This is the equivalent of searching by word in the drawer of a card catalogue.

Do not use initial articles in titles in any language.  In most Hebrew titles, omit the word ספר
> Examples : « mangeclous », « livre de ma mère », « זהר »

To search for personal names, enter last names first.
> Examples : « Perec georges »

Display Results

20 results are displayed per page.  They include format (document type), author’s name, title of the work, year of publication, and in which library (or libraries) it can be found.

To see a full version of the bibliographic reference, users must click on the title or the number to the left, or check the relevant box. By checking several boxes, users create a group of references. By clicking on “Show selected references,” the designated references will open in a standardized format.

Reference Display Modes

The standardized format is designed to meet most researchers’ needs.
It is only in this format that you can navigate in the catalogue by clicking on a hypertext link — the subject link, for example, to see the other works on the same subject.
It also allows you to locate copies at the bottom of the reference.
This format allows users to access external links, e.g., the digitized version of a book, or a site relevant to the selected work.

The ISBD format uses the traditional presentation of card catalogues.

The Citation format enables users to recuperate the specific information necessary for citation in notes for scientific articles.

The Champs MARC (MARC fields) and Etiquettes MARC (MARC labels) formats are reserved for library professionals.

Accessing Information about Copies

Under the rubric “Copies” (“Exemplaires”) are the document’s call number, the specific library in which it’s found, and the individual elements particular to each copy (owner’s mark, origin, collector, numbering, etc.).
Select “Location” (“Localisation”) in the standard display, or select a library in the results listing.

From “Copies” some of the participating libraries will allow you to reserve a document, order photocopies, or see all of the information relating to a given copy.

For online reservations and photocopy requests, you must be a registered reader in the library in question, with a user name and password. Please make direct contact with the library of your choice.

Spelling Rules for Translation and Transliteration

The problematics of transliteration are complex and not easily resolved.

Various systems have been superimposed throughout the ages. As a result, there are numerous transliteration rules applied in the files that RACHELnet is in the process of converting.

We cannot urge users too strongly to use your imagination in performing searches, and not to limit a search to a single transliteration.

Please remember two essential aspects :

With the progressive integration of Hebrew characters, the system of transliteration is becoming obsolete. Standardizing transliterations is a very long-term procedure, which will take a number of years. We are aiming for the following system.

Only the transliterated forms retained will appear in Rachel. The rejected forms are accessible in a “multilingual thesaurus” link. Rejected forms of transliteration can be used for a search, but any results will be displayed in the standardized form.

If you search for Purim, the system results are displayed under Pourim. These will be the same references as if you had searched under Pourim.

1/ Transliteration according to French pronunciation :
Ex : Pourim, not Purim, which becomes a rejected form

2/ When a French term is applicable, it is preferred to a transliteration
Ex : Contrat de mariage, not ketouvah, which is rejected

3/ Accents: do not use accents or diacritical marks :
Ex : Gechem not géchèm (even at the end of a word)
Ex : Michle not Michlé

Divre Hayamim not Divré Hayamim    

4/ Word endings: use ה to indicate h
Ex : halakhah not halakha

5/ Prefixes: prefixes are attached, not hyphenated :
Ex : Roch hachanah not Roch ha-chanah

Tou bichevat not Tou bi-chevat

6/ Dagech: letters with a dagech are not doubled in transliteration
Ex : Agadah not Aggadah

7/ In a Hebrew term search, do not use quotation marks:
Ex : טו בשבט et non pas ט"ו בשבט

  o אֹ
  a אַ
  a אָ
  o אֳ
  e אֵ/ אֵי
  e אֶ
  e אֱ
  a אֲ
  ou אֻ
  i אִ/אִי
  e אְ (vocal) שוא נע
  non translittéré אְ (muet) שוא נח
  o וֹ
  ou וּ
  non translittéré א
  v ב
  b בּ
  g ג
  d ד
  h ה
  v ו
  z ז
  ‘h ח
  t ט
  y י
  kh כ
  k כּ
  l ל
  m מ
  n נ/ן
  s ס
  non translittéré ע
  f פ/ף
  p פּ
  ts צ/ץ
  q ק
  r ר
  ch שׁ
  s שׂ
  t ת

Distinctive Features of Running Searches for Works in Yiddish

1. Absence of diacritic marks: Yiddish appears without any diacritic marks. Thus an aleph could correspond to a komets-aleph (O) or a pasekh-alef (A); tsvey yudn could correspond to either tsvey yudn (EY) or to pasekh-tsvey-yudn (AY); there is also no khirik. The letter pey represents either a pey (P) or a fey (F).

2. Writing the names of Yiddish-language authors:

As of the opening of Rachelnet (June 8, 2005), book references have two sources :

  • cataloguing by the librarians of the Medem Library-Paris Yiddish Center (Bibliothèque Medem-Maison de la culture yiddish), by librarians from the AIU (Alliance israélite universelle), or librarians at the SIF (Séminaire israélite de France). In this case, names of Yiddish-language authors follow Yiddish spelling.

  • retroconversion based on the cards of the JNUL (Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem). In this case, the names of Yiddish-language authors were written following Hebrew spelling rules. Modifications are under way, but will take several months. In this period, some works written by Yankev Glatshteyn, for example, will be found under the spelling  as in Yiddish, and others under the spelling as in Hebrew.

3. Subject Catalogue in Yiddish : still under construction, and less elaborated than the subject catalogue in French. Subject searches are more efficient for now in French than in Yiddish.

4. If you do not have a Hebrew keyboard, or if you are unable to activate this function on your computer, you can perform searches for works in Yiddish using the author’s name in Latin characters, transcribed following YIVO rules.