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By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Tue 8 Mar 2022

In the Middle Ages, just like today, women face particular challenges when war arrives on their doorstep, and the Genizah has preserved unique testaments to the experiences of some of these women. Many, of course, found themselves refugees, arriving in a new city and dependent either on family or on the generosity of the local Jewish community. Women’s appeals to the community and the charitable disbursements made from public funds are perhaps where the plights of women fleeing war are most visible in the Genizah. That may be due to the circumstantial survival of documentation of this... Read More

Has tags: charity, Genizah Fragments, refugees, Women

 

By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Wed 23 Feb 2022

As the eyes of the world turn to Ukraine, let’s take a look at the so-called ‘Kiev letter’ – a document that has been interpreted by many scholars as proof of the existence of a Jewish community in the Middle Ages in Khazaria (in what is now Ukraine). This 10th-century letter of introduction, written on a tightly folded piece of parchment, accredits Jacob son of Hanukkah in his efforts to raise money to free himself of debt. Jacob – described as generous and of a good family – fell into difficulties when his brother borrowed money from gentiles and was then robbed and slain by brigands.... Read More

Has tags: charity, Genizah Fragments, Kiev

 

By Ben Outhwaite on Sun 19 Sep 2021

When you took to the high seas in the Middle Ages it was a calculated risk, but quite a considerable one. You were at the mercy of the weather, the seaworthiness of your chosen vessel, the reliability of its captain, his crew and your fellow travellers, and of the intentions of other seafarers you might encounter on your voyage. The poet Judah ha-Levi, who sailed from Spain to Egypt in the 12th century, described it unsettlingly:

‘Greetings from a prisoner of hope, who sold himself to the sea and put his spirit in the power of the winds. Shoved by the west wind eastward, then... Read More

Has tags: captives, charity, Genizah Fragments, pirates, sea, travel

 

By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 29 Jul 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 23 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 1992, by Abraham David:

During the Mamlūk period (1250-1516), the land of Israel was politically and economically attached to the Egyptian centre and was ruled from Cairo by emirs and governors with varying degrees of authority. 

From the second half of the fifteenth century, Jewish sources paint an interesting picture of relations... Read More

Has tags: charity, Genizah Fragments, Hebron, Jerusalem, mamluk, Ottoman, Safed

 

By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 17 Jun 2021

To mark Refugee Week (14–20 June 2021), here’s a letter from Alexandria, Egypt from September 1212 CE, reporting the arrival of a large number of French refugees at the port. As Europe became less and less hospitable to its Jewish population – Phillip II of France had been enacting policies to confiscate Jewish property since 1180 – refugees began to flee across the Mediterranean to safety in Egypt. Their arrival is mentioned towards the end of a letter (T-S 12.299) sent to the cantor Meʾir ben Yakhin in... Read More

Has tags: charity, France, Genizah Fragments, Goitein, refugees

 

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