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Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo

Public exhibition: 27 April – 28 October 2017

Free admission – all welcome

Monday – Friday 09:00–18:00

Saturday 09:00–16:30

Sunday closed

Milstein Exhibition Centre, Cambridge University Library West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9DR


Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo

For a thousand years the Jewish community of Old Cairo put their worn-out writings into a synagogue storage room, a genizah. Explore one of the greatest collections of Cambridge University Library and a remarkable survival of the medieval past. The exhibition Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo provides a window on the life of a Jewish community a thousand years ago – a community in the centre of a thriving Islamic empire, international in outlook, multicultural in make up, devout to its core.

For curator led tours and events visit

01223 333000



The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection is a window on the medieval world and has been colourfully described as ‘a refuge for writings’ and ‘a battlefield of books’. Its 193,000 manuscript fragments, mainly in Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, Aramaic and Arabic, are an unparalleled resource for the academic study of Judaism, Jewish history and the wider economic and social history of the Mediterranean and Near East in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. They shed light on the mundane as well as the religious and cultural activities of that world, since the Collection preserves a huge number of personal letters, legal deeds and other documents, alongside literary and sacred texts. The manuscripts were recovered from the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, Old Cairo, in 1896–7 by the enterprising Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter with help from his colleague Charles Taylor. In the 1970s Cambridge University Library established the Genizah Research Unit to carry out a comprehensive program of conservation, cataloguing and research on the manuscripts, which is leading to all manner of important discoveries about Jewish religious, communal and personal life, Hebrew and Arabic literary traditions, and relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians from as early as the ninth and tenth centuries CE. The Genizah Research Unit relies upon external support for its projects.

Thinking about visiting the Collection? Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page first.

High-resolution images and detailed descriptions of more than 17,000 Genizah fragments from our Collections are now available on the Genizah section of Cambridge University Digital Library. Hundreds of new fragments are uploaded each month. Click here to see them.


August 2017's Fragment of  the Month challenges the interpretation of the governor of Ramla's actions towards the Jewish community in the famous 'Ramla earthquake letter', T-S 18J3.9.

Click here to read it! 


The latest issue (April 2017) of Genizah Fragments, the Unit’s twice-yearly newsletter, is now available to read and download here.


Have you found our website or bibliography useful? Would you like to make a donation to further Genizah research and the production of online Genizah resources at Cambridge? You can now give securely online via the Cambridge University Development Office. Please follow this link.

Genizah Research Unit

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Contact the Unit

Dr Ben Outhwaite
Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit
Cambridge University Library
West Road

Tel: +44 (0)1223 333129
Fax: +44 (0)1223 333160



Would you like to donate to the Genizah Research Unit? Follow this link!