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T-S NS 98.51
T-S NS 98.51 (recto)
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Sacha Stern on Wed 19 Jan 2022

Sacha, what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been looking at a fragment in T-S NS 98 – it's full of calendar texts. This one is T-S NS 98.51. It’s extremely damaged and fragmentary. We’ll probably never find the rest of it, and the missing bits are almost certainly lost.

It’s a parchment fragment and looks quite old. How old is it?

I’m not an expert, but palaeographically speaking it looks to be from around the year 1000.

What is...


Has tags: calendar, Christian, Genizah Fragments, Q&A


T-S K5.78
Cambridge University Library T-S K5.78
By Shulamit Elizur on Tue 18 Jan 2022

How was writing in Hebrew practised in the Middle Ages? A glance at the discoveries from the Cairo Genizah supplies the answer and also reveals that little has changed over the years.

How do children practise writing the alphabet? By writing each new letter, one at a time, over and over again, of course. This is common practice today and it was common practice back in the Middle Ages. There are several pages preserved in the Cairo Genizah that contain these kinds of children’s writing exercises, from about a thousand years ago.



Has tags: education, Genizah Fragments


Thabit ibn Qurra book cover
By Ben Outhwaite on Fri 14 Jan 2022

Thabit ibn Qurra On Talismans and Ps.-Ptolemy On Images 1-9. Together with the Liber prestigiorum Thebidis of Adelard of Bath ● By Gideon Bohak and Charles Burnett ● Sismel, 2021

Not everyone can claim to have looked at every single item in the Taylor-Schechter Collection. Even after a quarter of a century working on the Genizah, I’m not sure I’ve...


Has tags: Book, Genizah Fragments, magic


T-S B13.12
T-S B13.12 (P2 recto)
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 13 Jan 2022

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 27 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 1994, by Uwe Glessmer of the University of Hamburg:

With Heinz Fahr, I have published an edition of T-S B13.12, entitled Jordandurchzug und Beschneidung als Zurechtweisung in einem Targum zu Josua 5, which appears as No. 3 in the Orientalia Biblica et Christiana series published by J. J. Augustin (Glückstadt, 1991).
The manuscript T-S B13....

Has tags: Bible, circumcision, Genizah Fragments, Targum


Schechter's letter
Add.6463(e)3416: Schechter's letter to Francis Jenkinson
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Wed 12 Jan 2022

125 years ago today, Solomon Schechter sat down to write this letter to his colleague and friend Francis Jenkinson, the University Librarian. Three weeks ago he had arrived in Egypt, made the acquaintance of Chief Rabbi Ben Shim'on, and started to delve into the contents of the Ben Ezra Synagogue's genizah. Schechter writes to Jenkinson describing his work in the dusty, insect-infested chamber and his dealings with the local men who were assisting him ('I have constantly to bakeshish them'). Interestingly, he first mentions working on 'the Genizas' (plural), before then describing 'the...


Has tags: Francis Jenkinson, Genizah Fragments, Solomon Schechter


Points of Contact book cover
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Fri 7 Jan 2022

Points of Contact: The Shared Intellectual History of Vocalisation in Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew ● By Nick Posegay ● Open Book Publishers, 2021

This book is the newest entry in the Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures series, and it is authored by the Genizah Research Unit's very own Nick Posegay. It investigates the shared history of ideas behind the vocalisation systems of three medieval Semitic languages, examining the work of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars as they developed ways to...


Has tags: Arabic, Bible, Book, Genizah Fragments, grammar, masora, Qurʾan, Syriac, vocalisation


Ben Ezra plan
Mosseri included this sketch of the synagogue's original floor plan in his article 'The Synagogues of Egypt', noting he had some recollections of it and had drawn this with the help of friends.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Rebecca Jefferson on Wed 22 Dec 2021

Rebecca, you have a new book coming out in February 2022. What’s it about, and how did you come to be interested in it?

The book, The Cairo Genizah and the Age of Discovery in Egypt: the History and Provenance of a Jewish Archive (I. B. Tauris, 2022), solely focuses on what we now call the ‘discovery of the Cairo Genizah’. It attempts to tell the provenance stories of the many other Genizah collections around the world whose stories have not been told as fully as that of Cambridge’s Taylor-Schechter collection. My interest in it began when I started working...


Has tags: Adolf Neubauer, Bodleian, Count d'Hulst, David Kaufmann, Elkan Nathan Adler, Genizah Fragments, Greville Chester, Mordechai Adelmann, Moses Shapira, Mosseri, Q&A, Rabbi Ben-Shim'on, Samuel Raffalovich, Solomon Schechter, Solomon Wertheimer, Yemen


Letter of thanks
Cambridge's letter of thanks in Hebrew.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Wed 15 Dec 2021

On 15 December, 1898, the official thanks of the University of Cambridge for the gift of the Genizah Collection were conveyed to the Jewish community of Cairo by the University Orator in the Senate House. The original text was in Latin, but a Hebrew version was prepared and sent to Cairo with the original. An English edition then appeared in the Jewish Chronicle of 30 December, 1898.

To the Heads of the Jewish Community in Cairo:
We offer you our thanks, not only on account of the singular goodwill with which you received our Reader in Rabbinic, but also on...

Has tags: Egypt, Genizah Fragments, Rabbi Ben-Shim'on, Solomon Schechter


Studies in Hebrew Linguistics and Masora
Studies in Hebrew Linguistics and Masora (Bialik Institute, 2021)
By Kim Phillips on Tue 14 Dec 2021

Studies in Hebrew Linguistics and Masora ● By Aron Dotan ● Asupport 20 ● Bialik Institute, 2021

This volume collects together 35 articles from the full range of Aron Dotan’s scholarly interests. The original publications span more than fifty years: the earliest having first appeared back in 1965, while the most recent is the one hitherto unpublished article appearing for the first time in this volume. The articles are arranged...


Has tags: Book, Genizah Fragments, Hebrew, language, masora


Mosseri II.163.3
A son describes his abandoned mother’s predicament, almenut ḥayyut, in an historical document from the Mosseri Collection, Mosseri II.163.3.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 9 Dec 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 63 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 2012, by Oded Zinger:

One of the pleasures of Genizah research in Cambridge is the way one stumbles across fascinating human stories while leafing through the Collection. Though my dissertation research revolves around marital disputes in the Genizah, when examining some of the documentary...

Has tags: Abraham Maimonides, agunah, Genizah Fragments, Mosseri, petition, widow


T-S Misc. 36.209
T-S Misc. 36.209 (verso): This 'bonus' fragment returned to Cambridge in 1969.
By Ben Outhwaite and Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Wed 8 Dec 2021

Mel, what are you working on today?

I’ve been reading through a folder of correspondence between Cambridge and the Jewish Theological Seminary covering quite a few decades in the 20th century. I can’t really call it work though – it’s more like snooping. The letters and other documentation are about 251 Genizah fragments which Schechter took with him to America in 1902, when he departed Cambridge to become President of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He wanted to continue working on the fragments, and Cambridge agreed to let him borrow them for a period of time....


Has tags: Genizah Fragments, Jewish Theological Seminary, Q&A, Solomon Schechter


T-S K5.41
T-S K5.41 (recto): a musical composition thought to be in Obadiah's hand.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Gary Rendsburg on Wed 1 Dec 2021

Gary, you’ve recently created a website dedicated to the life of Obadiah/Johannes of Oppido and his conversion to Judaism in the Middle Ages. How did you become interested in the manuscripts associated with Obadiah?

I actually do not recall the specific moment, but I can tell you that several lines converged: a) as I began to read more and more about medieval history, especially in the light of new research, including by my colleague Paola Tartakoff, I realized that conversion from Judaism to Christianity...


Has tags: conversion, Genizah Fragments, Karaite, Q&A


Hanukka ceremony at the University Library
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Tue 30 Nov 2021

Happy Hanukka to all readers of Genizah Fragments! Yesterday evening (in what was possibly a first for the University Library?) a Hanukka menorah (hanukkiya) was lit at the front of the building in an event jointly organised by the University Library and the Cambridge Chabad Society. 

Menorah lighting at the UL

Hanukka and Purim, though seen as minor holidays because they are not set out in the Torah, were nevertheless celebrated by the Jews of...


Has tags: Genizah Fragments, Hanukka


T-S K2.96
Detail from T-S K2.96 (verso): a twelfth-century chancery document which contains lines of a petition addressed to Saladin concerning forced government service.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 25 Nov 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 56 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in October 2008, by Marina Rustow:

No one has satisfactorily explained why the Cairo Genizah preserved Arabic texts from the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk chancery (dīwān al-inshā), the bureau charged with, among other tasks, receiving petitions from Egyptian and Syrian subjects and issuing decrees in response to them.
To date, 135 such documents have been...

Has tags: Chancery, Fatimid, Genizah Fragments, petition


Illustration of Corduba
Kristian Purcell's draft rendition of a scene in Corduba.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Phil Lieberman on Wed 24 Nov 2021

Phil, what are you working on at the moment?

For the past decade I’ve been working with my Vanderbilt colleague Lenn Goodman – a philosopher and accomplished Judaeo-Arabist – on a new translation of the Guide for the Perplexed for Stanford University Press. We come from very different disciplinary approaches – he’s a philosopher and I’m a social historian – so we look at Maimonides in different ways. We’ve actually written different introductions to the book (I’m writing a historian...


Has tags: Genizah Fragments, Moses Maimonides, Q&A


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