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New, handwritten Maimonides texts discovered at Cambridge University Library

Read all about it here:


Annual Genizah Lecture 2021

Sorry to disappoint, but with the ongoing difficulties for travel and gathering due to the COVID19 pandemic, it has been decided to continue with the postponement of our Annual Lecture for the foreseeable future. 


Ask a Scribe

What does it take to be a scribe in the 21st century, check out the 'Ask a scribe' videos on our Audio/Video page where modern scribe, Marc Michaels, talks about his work handcopying sacred texts.


Judaeo-Arabic literature in the Genizah

A lecture by Dr Rachel Hasson on 25 March 2021, on popular Judaeo-Arabic literature in the Genizah. This is a fascinating area of research as it looks directly at the intersection of Jewish culture with the wider culture of the Muslim world. This lecture is given as part of Dr Mohamed Ahmed's major ERC project on Arabic poetry in the Genizah. Details below.

Poster advertising a lecture on Judaeo-Arabic literature in the Genizah



Annual Genizah Lecture 2020

The Annual Genizah Lecture is the highlight of any Genizah scholar's calendar. As the ongoing pandemic prevents us from hosting large gatherings in indoor spaces, the 2020 Annual Genizah Lecture has been cancelled and its speaker rebooked for 2021.



Annual Genizah Lecture 2019

Paradoxes of the Digital Age: The Cairo Genizah and the Material Text

Wednesday 30 October 2019


Milstein Seminar Rooms, Cambridge Univeristy Library

The Cairo Genizah is a time capsule of an age when the vast majority of Jews lived under the rule of caliphs and sultans. The manuscripts hold the promise of illuminating not just an unually cosmopolitan medieval Jewish world, but the lives of Christians and Muslims as well - from flax-growers and sugar-sellers to viziers and courtiers. The advent of digital technologies has drawn attention to the materiality of the texts. But what happens when we look at Genizah manuscripts not as inert vehicles for written words but as objects with biographies and social lives?

Our speaker is Marina Rustow the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilisation in the Near East at Princeton University.

The event is free, but booking is required via Eventbrite:


Parenting, Schooling and Identity Formation and Reformation: From the Middle Ages to the Modern Period

WORKSHOP taking place on 11-13 February 2019

Cambridge University Library, Milstein Rooms


Come and join a panel of academics at this workshop discussing all aspects of parenting and education. The workshop is free, but places are limited and need to be booked via our Eventbrite page:


Film Screening taking place as part of Cambridge Film Festival 2018


From Cairo to the Cloud by Michelle Paymar is being screened at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on Wednesday 31 October at 19:30 and Thursday 1 November at 12:45

Dr Avraham Malthete


A documentary film exploring the discovery and history of the Cairo Genizah Collection, including interviews with many Genizah scholars.

'In 1896, Solomon Schechter entered the sacred storeroom of an ancient synagogue in Cairo and discovered a vast treasure trove of manuscripts that revolutioned our understanding of Jewish history and illuminated a thousand years of vibrant Jewish life in the hear of the Islamic world. An accidental archive of more than half a million documents, the Cairo Genizah reveals the richness of Judeo-Arabic culture and reflects periods of relative religious co-existence unimaginable today.'

You can make a booking HERE


Digital Publication of Discarded History Exhibition Guide

Discarded History exhibition guide image


The curators of the Discarded History exhibition have made the exhibition guide freely available online. The guide contains translations of all the manuscripts that were on display. Many of these are the first full translations of the documents.

Also, for those who were unable to visit the exhibition in person, you can see the digital version on the Library's webpage here.

Successful exhibition closes

After a long six months, the University Library’s exhibition Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo closed to the public on 28th October 2017.

The exhibition, featuring 68 Genizah fragments accompanied by Fatimid and Ayyubid period artefacts from Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, was one of the most successful exhibitions the University Library has ever had.

With the advice and expertise of Chris Burgess, the UL’s Exhibitions Programme Manager, ‘Discarded History’ used experimental display techniques (for what are relatively unattractive scraps of brown paper and parchment) and focused on the personal stories of lives lived a thousand years ago.

40,353 visitors came to see ‘Discarded History’, many attending one of the 31 curator tours on offer, or in group visits organised by schools, religious institutions, and local historical societies.

From Cairo to the Cloud - the world of the Cairo Geniza

A documentary film screening

on Wednesday 10 May, 19.30-21.00

Milstein Rooms

Cambridge University Library

West Road


Seats will be allocated on a first-come first seated basis and a selection of beverages will be

available for purchase.

One of the events happening around our exhibition, Discarded History, this new documentary on the Geniza by Michelle Paymar tells the remarkable story of the Cairo Geniza, a vast treasure trove of manuscripts discovered in the “geniza,” or sacred storeroom, of an ancient synagogue in Old Cairo. The Geniza documents are a window into a vanished civilization, illuminating over a thousand years of Jewish, Christian, and Moslem life in the heart of the Islamic world. 


Lecture announcement


Uncaging the Vulture: new translations of the Poetry of Solomon Ibn Gabirol


by Raymond Scheindlin, Professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 


Will take place on Tuesday 2 May 2017, 18:30 - 19:30 at


Franks & Steel Room, Wellcome Collection

183 Euston Road





If you would like to attend please RSVP to Francesca Harper at


Solomon Ibn Gabirol, one of the greatest poets of the medieval golden age of Hebrew poetry, left a record of ecstatic spiritual experience in his religious verse and of a troubled, combative personality in his secular verse. In this lecture, we will explore both of these facets of his work and show how they emerged from a single, singular vision. Along the way, we will speak of the Genizah’s contribution to the reconstruction of his poetry.



Talk introducing the Genizah exhibition 'Discarded History' by Dr Ben Outhwaite

Thursday 27th April at 5pm (Tea served from 4.30pm)

Milstein Rooms
University Library
West Rd 
Cambridge, CB3 9DR


Dr Ben Outhwaite, Head of the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library, talks about putting together the exhibition 'Discarded History'. The exhibition shows a selection of manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah Collections which give us a unique window into the life of the Jewish community in medieval Cairo.




A new way to search the collection

A project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has enabled us to develop a new search tool which facilitates the exploration of the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection by using techniques from the fields of text mining, information retrieval and natural language processing to automate the process of producing descriptive catalogue data for our images on the Cambridge University Digital Library.

The keyword metadata provides a new way of searching and browsing the Collection both across broad subject areas and around distinctive items of vocabulary or key concepts. Furthermore, the interface is able to suggest similar items that might be of interest to the user, based on the similarity of the accrued data.

How to use this search tool

To search the tagged data, use the searchbar found here:

A login is required (various login options are given). 

  • Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the search slider (see image below)


Curated metadata searches within catalogue entries written by Genizah Research Unit staff.

Secondary literature searches will include tags generated by the text mining of 100 years of published scholarship on the Genizah fragments.

Crowd-sourced includes all tags added by users. 

 - the search slider can be used to narrow or broaden the metadata source.


To view the results

Select a manuscript – select the tab view more options – select tagging

A word-cloud will appear adjacent to the manuscript. The size of each word in the cloud indicates its relevance.

Clicking on an individual term in the word-cloud allows you to mark the terms as irrelevant to the document, and it will decrease in importance in subsequent searches. If enough users mark a term as irrelevant, it will cease to be associated with that fragment altogether.

Refreshing the tag cloud (icon top right corner) causes a different set of its keywords to be displayed. 


Click here to watch Dr Ben Outhwaite talking about the project at last year's DCDC conference (Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities) in a talk entitled 'Mining a Manuscript Catalogue'



Escape Rooms Genizah-style

Solomon Schechter and the Chamber of Secrets


Dr Solomon Schechter sits with his head in his hands. His travels in Egypt and the procurement of the precious Genizah in the past few months has been both exciting and exhausting. His quest to uncover the secrets of the Genizah has left him weary. And the good doctor has found that he now carries with him his own secrets...


The Genizah collection has occupied a place of honour among the literary treasures of the University of Cambridge for more than a century. Scholars are still uncovering important historical insights and meaning.

You and your colleagues are a team of conservators working on the preservation and exploration of this priceless collection. One day, whilst at work, you suddenly discover a secret vault and room adjacent to the original depository….

During this 50 minute escape game you will come to realise that there is more to the collection than first thought. You are about to discover the great secret that Dr Schechter kept hidden within his precious haul. Yet it's a race against time - your academic rivals are dangerously close to also uncovering Dr Schechter‘s great mystery. Dr Schechter has given you a head start, can you solve the puzzles and crack the clues he set over one hundred years ago to unearth the secrets of the Chamber?


This event will be run 15 times between May and September on the following dates/times:

6th May, 1030, 1230 and 1430.

3rd June, 1030, 1230 and 1430

8th July, 1030, 1230 and 1430

5th August, 1030, 1230 and 1430

2nd September, 1030, 1230 and 1430.

One team (2-8 players) per session. £30 per team.

Bookings open very soon on the University online store. Notice will be posted on the Library Facebook page and twitter when available, at and @theUL.




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 Exhibition - coming to Cambridge in 2017


Genizah manuscripts will be displayed in a special, five-month, public exhibition at Cambridge University Library opening at the end of April 2017.

The exhibition, ‘Discarded History’, will tell the dramatic story of the discovery of the manuscripts 120 years ago, and peer into the medieval society that emerges from their pages. From the first documents recording the discovery of the manuscripts to the nitty, gritty of everyday life: amulets, a child's doodle, letters galore about subjects from ransoming a captive woman to being lost at sea and what we might presume is the most modern of legal agreements - pre-nups! Life laid bare.

You may have visited Cambridge and viewed the Genizah manuscripts before, and this exhibition will be an opportunity to come again, learn something new not only about the manuscripts themselves but also about how we restore and conserve them. Usually kept in our closed stacks, this is a rare opportunity to see manuscripts not normally accessible to the public. 

The 2017 exhibition ‘Discarded History’ is a chance to share the Cairo Genizah with audiences who’ve never heard of it - there’s something to interest everyone! Do you know of a school or educational institution that would be interested in visiting Cambridge to learn about life in medieval Egypt? Please spread the word! Bring your friends! Come and see Maimonides' autograph, Saladin's petition, the Bible in Arabic script and much more.

To celebrate each month of the exhibition, there will be a programme of public lectures and activities. Full details of the exhibition programme will be given on this page and on social media closer to the time.




The Total Archive

A new article by Ben Outhwaite in the journal Limn examines the Cairo Genizah and its effect on scholarship:

A Hoard of Hebrew MSS

On Jewish Prayer

The Genizah Unit is delighted to report that the latest volume in Brill’s Cambridge Genizah Studies series will shortly appear. Stefan Reif, former and founding director of the Unit, Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and expert on the history of Jewish liturgy, has produced an in-depth analysis of some of the most important manuscripts of Jewish prayer to emerge from the Cairo Genizah – our most important source for the analysis of the evolution of the Jewish liturgical traditions. Treating twenty-five fragments in depth, with transcription, translation, and historical and textual commentary, the book offers an erudite and thought-provoking look at a range of liturgical texts, covering everything from the Passover Haggada to an unusual grace after meals. The book will offer a fresh understanding of the historical, theological, linguistic and social factors that have shaped Jewish prayer.


Jewish Prayer Texts from the Cairo Genizah, by Stefan C. Reif (Brill, 2016)

For more information, see:




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