The final instalment of the total award of
over £27,000 made by the Wellcome Trust has been received
and the Unit is grateful to the Trustees for all the help
they have provided.
The description of all the medical and
para-medical fragments is now well advanced, but still
requires further financial assistance to see it through to
a successful conclusion.
The publication costs of the latest volume
in the Genizah Series, Professor Morag's monograph
on vocalized Talmudic fragments, has been partly offset by
a gratefully acknowledged award of £1,500 voted by the
Faculty Board of Oriental Studies from its John Stewart of
Over the last few months the work of the
Unit has also been generously supported by major grants
from the British Academy (£1,898), Mr John Rubens (£1,000),
Sir Michael Sobell (£1,000), and Mr Cyril Stein (£1,000),
who has also assisted the entire fund-raising
Other British donors who have kindly
renewed or increased their annual contributions are Mr
Trevor Chinn and Mr and Mrs Michael Phillips (£500); Mr and
Mrs David Lauffer (£300); Mr Conrad Morris (£250); St
John's College, Cambridge (£200); and Messrs Clifford
Barclay and Michael Rose (£100).
Helpful support has continued to come from
the other side of the Atlantic. Special thanks are due to
Mr Saul Koschitzky, of Toronto ($500); Mr Samuel
Brennglass, of New York ($100); and Mr Milo Mandel, of Los
Angeles ($100), for their first-time contributions, and to
Professor Jacob Neusner, of the Max Richter Foundation
($250), and Mrs Anne Hertzberg ($100) for their
Other smaller or anonymous donations
amounting to £250 have been gratefully received.
Sharing our excitement
The Unit has apparently become a victim of
the success of its campaign to publicize the importance of
the Genizah fragments. The past summer has seen a steady
stream of visitors to the Library anxious to view the
treasures of the Collection, many of them arriving on the
off-chance that they will be able to view the fragments.
They are not researchers, for whose needs the Library
exists to cater, but simply tourists and visitors.
It is good to have such wide interest and
enthusiasm, some of it possibly generated by the second
showing of the NBC film "From Cambridge to Cairo" a few
weeks ago. As our friends already know, the Unit does make
arrangements for previously organized parties, at least
once a month, to view an exhibition, hear a lecture and see
some slides about the Taylor-Schechter Collection.
Distinguished guests, from academic,
commercial and public life, are also welcomed by prior
arrangement and are then able to spread the news of what is
being done in the Unit to promote Hebrew and Arabic
scholarship, as well as Jewish self-awareness. In this way,
the Unit makes important contacts both in the wider and
scholarly worlds, as well as laying firm foundations for
its fund-raising efforts.
On the other hand, the Library is not a
museum and has no facilities for dealing with casual
visitors. If the University Librarian's plans are blessed
with support and success, we shall eventually have a
purpose-built exhibition centre and lecture hall and shall
then be in a position to share more effectively with the
interested public the knowledge and excitement that our
holdings can create.
In the meantime, however, every casual
visitor seen by Unit staff means a further delay in the
work of making this famous Collection more accessible to
researchers and, consequently, in bringing their findings
to bear on our understanding of our history and our roots.
Conversely, it is a pity to have to deny people even a
glimpse of items which hold such fascination for them.
If friends, supporters and scholars could
therefore encourage those anxious to view the Genizah
Collection to make their arrangements in advance, an
important service will have been performed for the Library,
for Genizah scholarship and for the visitors
Stefan C. Reif,
Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research
Dr and Mrs Reif and other members
of the Unit take this opportunity of wishing all its Jewish
friends, supporters and correspondents a happy and healthy
New Year in 5745.
Lord Sieff (right) being greeted on
arrival by Mr R. P. Carr, the Deputy Librarian
Sieffs see Collection
Lord Sieff of Brimpton, chairman of Marks
and Spencer plc, and Lady Sieff visited the Library to see
the Genizah Collection.
The Deputy Librarian, Mr R. P. Carr,
welcomed the visitors and entertained them to coffee and
they signed the visitors' book. Dr S. C. Reif then showed
them some of the most interesting items among the
Taylor-Schechter fragments and they also had the
opportunity of looking around other parts of the University
Twenty-one members of the American Friends
of Cambridge University, led by their retiring president,
Mr Gordon Williams, and their president-elect, Mr Stephen
Price, also had the story of the Genizah discovery and
significance of the finds explained to them by Dr Reif in
the course of a visit to the Library.
Having been welcomed by the University
Librarian, Dr F. W. Ratcliffe, they were divided into three
groups and escorted around the Library by senior Library
staff. Each of the groups had the opportunity of viewing
the Genizah fragments for themselves and entered into
lively discussions about the contents of the manuscripts,
particularly those relating to ordinary life in mediaeval
Other distinguished personalities who have
recently visited the Unit, some with their wives and
families, have included Professor Josef Singer, President
of the Haifa Technion, Judge Jacob Bazak, of Jerusalem, Mr
Brad Sabin Hill, of the National Library of Canada,
Professor Sol Kripke, of Princeton University, Professor
Stephen Goldstein, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
Mr J. Z. Lurie formerly of the Hadassah magazine
of New York, Professor Nahum Rakover, Deputy Attorney
General of Israel, Dr Richard Lorch, of Munich, and Mr
Alexander Peli, of Massada Press.
The Unit were also happy to welcome
long-standing friends and supporters of the Unit, Mr and
Mrs Raphael Levy, of New York, and Mr and Mrs Sidney Corob,
A group of American Friends at
Cambridge in July
Professor Shaked at Cambridge
Among their varied treasures, the Cairo
Genizah collections contain valuable materials for the
study of a number of fields of Jewish and general interest
for which they have, until now, hardly been used at all.
Among these fields are Judaeo-Persian texts and magic
fragments and it was to these that I devoted a few weeks at
Cambridge University Library in the summers of 1983 and
Some of the oldest extant fragments of
documents and literary compositions in Judaeo-Persian -
that is, in the Persian written by Jews in Hebrew
characters - have survived thanks to the Genizah. These
are, in fact, some of the oldest extant documents in any
form of neo-Persian.
The oldest dated document of this group
from the Genizah, or from any other source, carries a date
which corresponds to 950 C.E. It is a court settlement over
matters relating to family property and was issued by a
Some of the literary fragments written in
Judaeo-Persian and preserved in the Genizah are actually
remnants of what might have been an extensive
Judaeo-Persian religious literature written by Karaites.
That many of the leaders of the early Karaite movements
came from Persia is a well-known fact, but in the Genizah
we now find for the first time evidence for the use of
Persian in their sectarian writings.
We now have available to us specimens of
Karaite Bible commentaries, of legal discussions and
theology, and possibly of Hebrew grammatical analysis, all
of them written in Persian in Hebrew characters.
Scholarly interest in the Judaeo-Persian
material in the Genizah goes beyond the question of the
Karaite connections of some of these fragments. The corpus
of Judaeo-Persian texts from the Genizah is well in excess
of 100 folios and it incorporates private letters and legal
deeds, as well as such items as Bible commentaries,
midrashic and halakhic compositions, medicine and
There are also fragments of poetry, both
original (including at least one piece of popular poetry,
probably designed to be sung at a wedding) and translated
from Hebrew and Aramaic (usually liturgical compositions
given as part of a prayer book, with the original poem in
Hebrew or Aramaic copied together with the Judaeo-Persian
These fragments constitute about all that
remains of the literature written and used by the Jews of
Persia in the period which preceded the invasion of that
country by the Mongols in the early twelfth century. Their
conquests meant extensive devastation of many towns and
villages in Iran and the complete disappearance of several
Jewish communities. They were the cause of a profound
disruption in the history of Iranian Jewry.
The value of the discovery of these new
texts can be better appreciated when we note that, with one
exception, none of the literary products of the pre-Mongol
period is known from any of the rich collections of
Judaeo-Persian manuscripts in various libraries in Europe,
the USA and Israel.
Apart from their importance for historical
and literary study, these fragments are also instructive
for the study of the Judaeo-Persian language and of the
development of Classical Persian. The early Judaeo-Persian
fragments use an archaic form of New Persian and appear to
have been written, for the most part, in the western
regions of Iran, at a distance from the eastern area where
literary New Persian was in the process of crystallization
around the tenth century.
The fact that they used the Hebrew script
made the Jewish writers less dependent on the orthographic
conventions which were at that time imposed on the writing
of standard Persian in the Arabic script. They thus provide
us with a valuable, independent witness for the division of
Persian dialects in that early period.
Professor of Iranian Studies at the Hebrew University
While preparing a catalogue of the
fragments in T-S Misc. 8, 9 and 10, Dr Menahem Ben-Sasson,
Rothschild Fellow and Visiting Research Associate in the
Unit, has discovered two historical documents connected
with the Karo family.
One of the items, T-S Misc. 10.80, is a set
of shop accounts, apparently from Safed, the
sixteenth-century centre of Jewish mysticism in the Holy
Land. On the third line of the manuscript there appears a
reference to "our honoured teacher and rabbi, Joseph Karo"
in connection with a precious stone and in the general
context of goods and their prices.
In the second document (T-S Misc. 10.170),
dated in Egypt in 1707, David Dayyan undertakes to teach
young Hayyim ben David Karo "the writing skills used by
businessmen." The pupil, for his part, agrees not to employ
these skills for anyone without his teacher's
The scribe of the document adds the
following interesting note to his signature as a witness:
"Both father and son have instructed me to sign on
their behalf [editor's italics] that they have agreed
to these conditions."
Who precisely were David Karo and his son
Hayyim, and does the evidence indicate that they were at
this stage unable to sign their names?
Dr Stefan Reif and Mrs Shulie Reif had a
brief chat with Prince Philip when they attended a Royal
Garden Party held by Cambridge University Press to
celebrate four hundred years of printing and
The extensive exhibition of CUP
publications mounted on the Press's lawns on that occasion
included all the Genizah Series published to date,
plus books written by Dr Reif and Professor J. A. Emerton,
Honorary Keeper of the Collection.
Yemenite poems by Shibzi
In the context of a research trip
undertaken in the summer of 1983 to Europe and the USA in
order to collect lexicographical material for a scientific
Yemenite-English dictionary, I visited Cambridge University
Library and came across a Yemenite manuscript with the
classmark Or.1080.1.91. It seems to be incomplete, its
pages are not numbered, and the author is unknown. It is
pointed with supralinear vocalizations.
My impression is that it contains several
poems from the liturgical diwan (anthology) of R.
Shalem Shibzi, which usually also contains the work of
anonymous poets that varies from one manuscript to
In the Jewish National and University
Library, for instance, there is in the department of
manuscripts a considerable number of diwans
attributed to Shibzi which also contain poems of anonymous
authors that differ from one manuscript to another.
In the Bodleian Library at Oxford, I
encountered a manuscript with the classmark MS. Opp. Add.
8o 30, which is of the same literary genre - a
Yemenite diwan of poems - and is pointed with
supralinear vocalization like the above-mentioned
At the Jewish Theological Seminary in New
York, I found a manuscript with the classmark 1386, the
most beautiful manuscript I have ever seen. It is pointed
with full sublinear vocalization. This calligraphic
manuscript was produced to order for Professor Israel
Davidson of the Seminary by a Yemenite scribe, Raphael
Yihya Sirri, in Beersheba in 1927.
Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Conference on Jews in Arab lands
The first international congress on
Judaeo-Arabic studies, organized at the University of
Chicago's Department of Near Eastern Languages and
Civilizations through the initiative of Professor Norman
Golb, took place on 6-8 May, with Professor Shelomo Dov
Goitein as the guest of honour.
Scholars from America, Israel and Europe
took part in the lectures and discussions, which dealt with
the language, history, culture and thought of Jews in
mediaeval Islamic lands, all as part of the substantial
Judaeo-Arabic creativity of the period.
A major topic of the congress were the
basic problems encountered by students of mediaeval
Judaeo-Arabic, particularly the lack of a corpus of
material in this language.
Participants also exchanged views on how
best to publish the Judaeo-Arabic sources and in what way
such publications could be made to follow a consistent
pattern. There was general agreement on the need for
further contact between scholars in the field.
At the centre of all the sessions was, of
course, the Cairo Genizah. The Cambridge Unit's project to
produce a bibliography of the many thousands of published
items until 1980 was welcomed as an important first step in
the preparations needed for the production of a corpus of
Dr Menahem Ben-Sasson, Rothschild Fellow
and Visiting Research Associate in the Unit, reported on
the latest progress of the Cambridge bibliography and on
the Unit's future plans for a bibliography from 1980
onwards, various subject catalogues, and handlists of
particular sections of the Collection.
A visit to the Saltykov Shchedrin State
Public Library in Leningrad to examine its Genizah
fragments was described by Dr Paul Fenton. His involvement
in the Cambridge project had made it possible for him to be
included in an exchange of scholarly visits by the United
Kingdom and the Soviet Union and he gave an account of
discoveries made and lessons learnt in the course of his
stay in Russia.
The congress set up a new society for
mediaeval Judaeo-Arabic studies and elected Professor
Goitein as honorary president, Professor Joshua Blau as
president, Professor Golb as vice-president, and Professor
Mark Cohen as treasurer.
The report in our last issue of Professor
Ezra Fleischer's discovery of a poem by the wife of Dunash
ibn Labrat has led to lively correspondence between
scholars in the field and with the editor of Genizah
Professor I. O. Lehman, of Miami
University, has written: The Women's movement is strong
in America and to hear of a tenth-century Hebrew poetess is
a sensation, to be sure.
Professor Fleischer and Professor S.D.
Goitein have different views about the interpretation of
some of the text, and Professor Goitein has promised to
publish the results of his researches, which also concern
another poetess, in the fifth and final volume of his
Mrs Dunash certainly now seems to be
matching her husband for scholarly attention!
Mrs Shulie Reif at work on the Unit's
Putting the bibliography on computer
While completing and updating its
bibliography of published fragments, the Cambridge Unit is
also involved in preparing catalogues and handlists for
various parts of its Genizah holdings.
The systematic description of every single
manuscript will occupy scholars for many years, but the
completion of the project will enable researchers to make
more efficient use of the Genizah material in general and
the Cambridge fragments in particular.
From experience built up in the Unit, it
has become clear that the preparation of any subject
catalogue is bound to be adversely affected by the fact
that the Genizah fragments on a particular subject, however
concentrated their number in one part of the Collection,
are also to be found, scattered in various other, unrelated
They are there because they were not
identified when, many years ago, specific subjects were
assigned their own classmarks and the remaining items were
classified as miscellaneous material.
Even in the case of the relatively less
complicated matter of compiling a catalogue of Hebrew Bible
fragments, the volumes produced in the Unit constantly need
updating when Bible fragments are located in unexpected
areas of the Collection.
The Unit's newly provided access, through a
terminal and VDU, to the University's central computer, and
the brief training that members of the Unit have recently
received in its use, will help to overcome these old
problems and to speed up developments towards the more
efficient use of Genizah material.
As soon as all aspects of every fragment in
a particular volume have been systematically described for
the relevant handlist, the information is stored in the
computer according to classmark. As a result, each scholar
can draw whatever information he requires from the store,
whether it is technical specification, manuscript form,
material on which the text is written, content, date, and
even significant key-words that occur in the various
With the help of a brief computer course at
the University of Cambridge, I was recently able to take
advantage of this new element of mechanization in the Unit
while preparing a handlist of some of the volumes in the
"Misc." section of the Taylor-Schechter Collection.
By definition, many of the volumes in this
section contain material under a variety of headings and
the computerized system of cataloguing now makes it
possible for the researcher to gain swift access to his
specific subject of interest.
Of particular importance are items that
have somehow found their way into volumes containing quite
different subjects and are identified there by those
cataloguing the main subject; for example, poetic fragments
in volumes of historical documents. The information about
all such "rogue" fragments now fed into the computer is
likely to be of interest to many scholars in various
By the same token, researchers who come
across such "lost" items are earnestly requested to bring
this information to the attention of those compiling
handlists and catalogues in the areas to which they rightly
The input of such identifications into the
general store of information will be of assistance to all
scholars. It is therefore obvious that the creation of
links with the Unit's store of information would be to
Rothschild Fellow and Visiting Research Assistant in
the Unit, 1983-1984, and Lecturer in the Department of
History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
T-S AS 74.25, a fourteenth century list
of places in the Holy Land
The missing link
The Unit's filing cabinets recently played
a part in locating the missing fragments of an important
Hebrew manuscript from the Genizah.
Early in 1978, Dr Zvi Ilan, writer and
archaeologist from Tel Aviv, visited Cambridge University
Library in a search for mediaeval documents describing the
Holy Land. He was guided by Dr Reif to a fragment (T-S
K21.69) which represented a kind of manual or log-book for
pilgrims to Eretz Yisrael written in the fourteenth
The names of various Palestinian places
were written in bold red characters and were followed by
details of the tombs of saints to be found there. Dr Ilan
obtained a photograph of the fragment and began his
A few months later, Dr Reif discovered
another piece of the same manuscript (T-S Arabic 49.164)
and passed the information on to Tel Aviv. Dr Ilan
published various popular articles relating to his finds in
Cambridge and continued his research on the manual.
By the time that Mr Oded Irsay arrived at
the Library in the autumn of 1983 to spend a year working
on his doctoral dissertation for the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, many thousands of other fragments and enquiries
had been dealt with.
When, however, in the course of his
involvement in the Unit's work, Mr Irsay discovered the
third part of the missing fragment (T-S AS 74.25 - and
smaller material in AS 74.227), a quick consultation of the
files identified the others and the name of the scholar who
was working on them.
This third part is particularly important
since it mentions places like Kefar Hares, Shiloh and
Ashkelon and describes in detail the annual pilgrimage and
celebration at the tomb of the prophet Samuel in Ramah.
Dr Ilan is now in possession of all the
details he needs to complete the study of the
fourteenth-century manuscript and the actual pilgrimages to
the Holy Land that obviously lie behind it.
Egyptian Jews' petition
The Additional Series of the
Taylor-Schechter Collection contains hundreds of fragments
of historical interest. Most of these are small, and, from
that point of view, somewhat less valuable than the many
long and full letters in the Old and New Series.
Recently, however, I identified in the
Additional Series a highly interesting and significant
document dating from the mid-fifteenth century, a period of
time rather poorly documented in the Genizah as a
The fragment (T-S AS 150.3) contains a
draft, in Judaeo-Arabic, of a petition from the Jewish
community of Egypt to a Mamluk Sultan, requesting the
removal from office of the head of the Jewish community
(the ra'is al-yahud, or nagid in Hebrew),
whose administration and leadership the Jews deemed
oppressive and even threatening to their security as a
minority. The document also alludes to a crisis in Mamluk -
non-Muslim relations that is chronicled in Muslim
historical sources from the period.
In April 1442, Muslim religious authorities
were conducting a routine inspection of a synagogue in
Fostat (Old Cairo) in search of violations of the Islamic
law prohibiting repairs in houses of worship constructed
after the advent of Islam.
Quite unexpectedly, they discovered an
anti-Islamic blasphemy - two names of the Prophet Muhammad
carved on the steps of the reader's platform. As a result,
that platform was ordered destroyed.
This punitive measure was followed by a
general scrutinization of other houses of worship, Jewish
and Christian alike, in the course of which some churches
and other synagogues were put in jeopardy.
It seems that the Jewish community as a
whole know nothing about the blasphemous inscription and
that three individual Jews had perpetrated the
The Genizah fragment mentions these events
cryptically and hints that the much-disliked head of the
Jewish community had somehow been aware of the inscription.
Many other complaints about his administrative malfeasance
and fiscal rapacity suggest that the community was
desperate to rid itself of such a tyrannical leader.
The document is preserved intact, although,
as is general with Genizah fragments, there are tears and
stains obscuring some words.
By examining the fragment in
Cambridge during a recent visit, I was able to clarify
many doubtful readings that I had extracted from the
bromide print ordered from the Library.
More importantly, Dr Reif kindly arranged
for me to call upon the expert services of Mrs Sue Greene,
formerly of the Taylor-Schechter conservation team, who
meticulously unfolded several tiny flaps that were masking
some of the text.
This procedure resolved several more
problematic readings in the document and cleared up for me
some minor points in the article that I shall soon be
publishing about the Jews in Mamluk Egypt, on the basis of
this fresh discovery in the Additional Series.
Mark R. Cohen,
Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton
University, New Jersey