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Genizah Research Unit 2010
As we were in 2010.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 24 Jun 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is a photo of the Genizah Unit's staff as it once was in 2010 (with the exception of me - I must have been away that day). The team, from left to right: Blazej Mikula (photography), Mark Scudder (photography), Amir Ashur, Nancy Buck (photography), Ben Outhwaite, Sarah Sykes, Esther-Miriam Wagner, Lucy Cheng (conservation), Julia Krivoruchko, Gabriele Ferrario, Maciej Pawlikowski (photography), Samuel Blapp, Daniel Davies, and Ronny Vollandt. The team was particularly large at that point, as we had taken on additional researchers for an AHRC cataloguing...


Has tags: Genizah Fragments, staff


T-S Misc. 36.131
Detail of T-S Misc. 36.131 (recto): theological work by Samuel ben Hofni, copied by Joseph ben Jacob ha-Bavli
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Zvi Stampfer on Wed 23 Jun 2021

Hi Zvi, which manuscript are you working on today?

I’m looking at a couple of Genizah manuscripts. In general, I’m now dealing with witches.

Are these magical texts or responsa about witches?

They’re theological texts, on the relations between witches and theologians – not personal relations but of an academic nature. Witchcraft and witches were challenging topics for Jewish rational theologians and they addressed it in their writings. The most challenging case was the biblical story of the Witch of Endor and King Saul.



Has tags: Genizah Fragments, mu'tazila, Q&A, Saadiah Gaon, Samuel ben Hofni, theology, witches


Bouncing Back - and Forward
Bouncing Back – and Forward: From Immigrant Household to Cambridge Fellowship (Vallentine Mitchell & Co, 2021)
By Sarah Sykes on Wed 23 Jun 2021

Bouncing Back - and Forward: From Immigrant Household to Cambridge Fellowship ● By Stefan C. Reif ● Vallentine Mitchell & Co Ltd, 2021

When you have lived such a busy and varied life as Stefan Reif, it behoves you to record it for future posterity! From humble beginnings in Edinburgh to Professor and College Fellow at Cambridge University, Stefan’s life journey has been one full of industry and determination. The book, originally...


Has tags: Book, Genizah Fragments, Stefan Reif


T-S 12.299
T-S 12.299 (verso)
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...


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


T-S 12.829
T-S 12.829 (recto): part of an eleventh-century Judaeo-Arabic letter in the hand of Hai Gaon.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 17 Jun 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 21 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 1991, by Moshe Gil, Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University:

In 1968, I started my research on the history of the Jews in Muslim lands in the early mediaeval period (frequently called the “geonic period”) with my late teacher, Professor S. D. Goitein. Since then, the main source of documentation for my work has been the Cairo Genizah manuscripts. I have made many visits to...


Has tags: Babylonian, Genizah Fragments, Hai Gaon, Moshe Gil, yeshiva


T-S AS 158.147
T-S AS 158.147 (recto)
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Nadia Vidro on Wed 16 Jun 2021

Nadia, which fragment are you working on today?

I am working on T-S AS 158.147. It’s a fragment of a Karaite calendar chronicle for the end of 410–418 AH (1020–1028 CE). I’m looking at it as part of the project ‘Qaraite and Rabbanite calendars: origins, interaction, and polemic’, funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. It is a joint project between UCL and LMU (Munich).

What are the key things...


Has tags: calendar, chronicle, Firkovich, Genizah Fragments, Karaite, Q&A


T-S Ar.5.58
Detail of T-S Ar.5.58.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 10 Jun 2021

Nick Posegay's article 'Sticking to the Script: How an incredible journey of Hebrew letters helps us recall the Arabic language' has just appeared in The Scholar, an annual magazine for Gates Cambridge scholars and alumni. Nick's article tells the Genizah story to a general audience through the lens of T-S Ar.5.58, a leaf from a Bible glossary with the vocabulary for a portion of 1 Samuel:

"The scribe’s booklet was...


Has tags: article, Bible, Genizah Fragments, glossary


T-S AS 162.51
T-S AS 162.51: a deadly curse template, in which the name of one's enemy can be inserted.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 10 Jun 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from our Fragment of the Month in September 2007, by our late colleague Friedrich Niessen and Gideon Bohak:

‘Take a plate of lead and write on it in the first hour of the day; bury it in a new grave which is three days old’. Thus starts a Judaeo-Arabic instruction preserved in the Additional Series (...


Has tags: curse, Genizah Fragments, magic


T-S Ar.42.8 (recto)
T-S Ar.42.8 (recto)
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Mohamed Ahmed on Wed 9 Jun 2021

Hi Mohamed, which manuscript are you working on today?

I’m working on T-S Ar.42.8. It’s a fragment in Arabic script by an unidentified author and scribe.

Can you tell me about it?

It’s a fragment of a work on poetics, covering the subject of prosody in Classical Arabic poetry and mentioning famous Arabic poetic scholars, such as al-Ḵalīl and al-Aḵṭal. The recto...


Has tags: Arabic, Genizah Fragments, literature, poetry, Q&A


T-S 8J5.23
T-S 8J5.23 (verso): Conditional bill of divorce, dated 1169 CE, presented by Moses to his wife Sitt al-Fakhr, to be used if he doesn't return from his trip abroad.
By Amir Ashur on Wed 9 Jun 2021

A new article in the Guardian (‘Unchain your wife’: the Orthodox women shining a light on ‘get’ refusal) raises the issue of Jewish women who are chained – that is, unable to get remarried although they have been left by their husbands. According to Jewish law, a divorce is not complete until the husband, willingly, gives his wife a get – a formal bill of divorce – written in accordance with very strict rules. A slight error, even in one word or letter, can make...


Has tags: agunah, divorce, Genizah Fragments, get, get refusal, marriage


T-S 8.38
T-S 8.38: Letter to their father from two wannabe cheesemongers in Baalbek.
By Ben Outhwaite on Fri 4 Jun 2021

On this National Cheese Day, I thought I would take a look at what traces of cheese we can find among the documents in Cambridge Digital Library. Cheese is mentioned frequently in the Genizah world, as it was a mainstay of the medieval diet: milk could not be preserved, and so most dairy was consumed in the form of various kinds of cheese, hard and soft, salted, brined or fresh. It was popular throughout the Genizah world and in Egypt it was a favourite food of both the poorest and the richest sections of society. The Baḥrī Mamlūk sultan an-Naṣīr Muḥammad (d. 1341 CE), for instance, was...


Has tags: cheese, dairy, Genizah Fragments, kashrut, kosher


T-S NS 163.57
T-S NS 163.57: A Judaeo-Romance/Judaeo-Arabic word list.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 3 Jun 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 49 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 2005, by Avi Shivtiel:

A number of talmudic sages seem to have favoured the learning of languages, since the Talmud records several statements to the effect that this was a skill to be encouraged among scholars.

An early and important midrash claims that God gave the Torah to Israel in four languages - Hebrew, Latin, Arabic and Aramaic (Sifrey, Ve-Zot Ha-...


Has tags: Armenian, Avi Shivtiel, Genizah Fragments, language, list, Romance, vocabulary


T-S NS J378
T-S NS J378 (recto)
By Ben Outhwaite and Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Wed 2 Jun 2021

So, Mel, tell me what are you working on today?

I’m writing a catalogue entry for T-S NS J378. It’s an easy one to do, because — helpfully — several other people have already translated it: Goitein, Gershon Weiss, and Amir Ashur. We still need a catalogue entry for it, though, for Cambridge Digital Library, so I’m writing that. It’s a betrothal agreement, written by our favourite court scribe, Halfon ben Manasseh. The date isn’t preserved, but because we know Halfon’s handwriting, we...


Has tags: betrothal, Genizah Fragments, Goitein, legal, marriage, Q&A


T-S NS 98.11
Detail of T-S NS 98.11.
By Magdalen M. Connolly on Wed 2 Jun 2021

It has long been customary in both Genizah studies and Arabic codicology to describe the numerals frequently found in documentary texts as ‘Coptic’.[1] Recent work has shown that these curvilinear numerals may better be termed ḥurūf al-zimām (‘the letters of accounts/registers’) or ‘zimām numerals’ (Chrisomalis, 2010). In what follows, I will give a (very) brief overview of the Coptic alphabetic numerical system, ḥurūf al-zimām, and the related Mozarabic/Toledan and Rūmī/Fāsī numerals to explain why the Genizah Research Unit will be adopting this more accurate terminology in future...


Has tags: accounts, Coptic, Genizah Fragments, numerals


Mosseri IXa.1.28
Left: Mosseri IXa.1.28, before conservation. Right: After conservation, the Masoretic Text of Leviticus 9:4-6 is revealed.
By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Thu 27 May 2021

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

Mosseri IXa.1.28 is a paper fragment, which was crumpled and exposed to dust due to less than ideal storage in the past. After testing the stability of the inks, the fragment was cleaned by gentle brushing, and encrustation of dirt or dust was broken down with pressure from a small spatula and the debris brushed away. To...


Has tags: conservation, Genizah Fragments, Mosseri


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