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The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

Genizah Fragments

The Newsletter of Cambridge University's
Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit
at Cambridge University Library

Centenary Edition

No. 34 October 1997

On other pages

Israeli President in Cambridge for manuscripts exhibition

[President Ezer Weizman, Mrs Weizman, Dr Stefan Reif, and Israeli Ambassador Moshe Raviv]

President Ezer Weizman and Mrs Weizman conversing with Dr Stefan Reif.
On the left is Israeli Ambassador Moshe Raviv

During their state visit to Britain in February, the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, and his wife, Reuma, visited Cambridge University Library to see a special exhibition of Genizah fragments and other Hebrew manuscripts.

Among the officials who accompanied them were the Israeli Ambassador, Moshe Raviv, and Mrs Raviv; the British Ambassador to Israel, David Manning, and Mrs Manning; and the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, James Crowden.

Mr and Mrs Weizman were welcomed at the entrance to the Library by the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Alec Broers, who presented Dr Anthony Edwards, Chairman of the Library Syndicate, and Peter Fox, the University Librarian.

They then moved to the Anderson Room, where they were shown the exhibits of Hebrew manuscripts by Dr Stefan Reif, Director of the Genizah Research Unit, and his colleagues.

The guests also saw how the Library is using new technology to exhibit these mediaeval documents and to provide researchers around the world with on-line access to Genizah sources.

Following their meeting with a representative group of university personalities involved with Hebrew and Jewish matters, the President and Mrs Weizman were presented by Dr Edwards with facsimiles of a signed letter by Moses Maimonides, and a document recording the rental of part of a synagogue in Ramle in 1039.

Expressing his appreciation, Mr Weizman said that he was particularly excited by the relevance of the Genizah material to Jewish roots in the Holy Land. He hoped to have another opportunity of visiting the Unit at some future date and, meanwhile, was looking forward to visiting the summer exhibition of Cambridge Genizah fragments at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Before leaving, the presidential couple signed the Library's distinguished visitors' book.

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Burton gift of £5,000

Various members of the Burton family have over the years taken an active interest in the work of the Unit and have offered their generous support. The latest financial contribution from this philanthropic family has come from Raymond and Pamela, who kindly contributed £5,000 after a visit to Cambridge to see the Genizah treasures.

Important assistance continues to be received from friends across the Atlantic and has recently included $2,000 from the Joseph Meyerhoff Fund, and $750 from Ms Kathryn L. Johnson.

Among generous supporters in Britain have been St John's College, Cambridge, which contributed £500 towards the cost of mounting the Centenary Exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; the Harbour Trust (£500, through Barbara and Stanley Green); Elizabeth and Sidney Corob (£500); and the Lewis Foundation (£500, through Mr Malcolm Gee).

Others who have renewed their support are Ruth and Conrad Morris (£250); Mr Felix Posen (£250); and Sir Sigmund Sternberg (£250).

The Unit is also grateful to Mr Cesare Sacerdoti (£150); Mr Harold Joels (£150); and Mrs Miriam Shenkin (£100); and to various other friends who have contributed anonymous or smaller amounts.

The Genizah Research Unit is grateful to the family of the late David Lauffer, of London, for its generosity in substantially contributing to the expenses involved in producing this issue of Genizah Fragments. The Unit recalls with affection his support and interest over a lengthy period.

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Ben Sira jigsaw slots together

In the summer and autumn of 1897, Solomon Schechter was hard at work deciphering the Genizah fragments he had brought back from Cairo, and seeking out Hebrew texts of Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus). As part of our centenary celebrations, we reproduce here the comments of Charles Taylor on the events of 1897-1898 that relate to the rediscovery of the Hebrew version of that apocryphal work, as published in his introduction to their joint edition, The Wisdom of Ben Sira (CUP, 1899).

By a surprising series of discoveries in recent years, much of the Hebrew of Ecclesiasticus, a book which had been known to the modern world only through Versions and some Rabbinic Quotations, has now again been brought to light.

The Revision of the Authorised Version of 1611, undertaken in 1870, having at length been accomplished, it was said in the Preface to the Apocrypha (1895), of the book Ecclesiasticus: ''Considerable attention was paid to the text; but the materials available for correcting it were but scanty.''

On the 13th May in the following year, Dr Schechter at Cambridge observed in a bundle of fragments brought by Mrs Lewis and Mrs Gibson from Southern Palestine a time-worn leaf from a copy of the lost original Hebrew of Ben Sira's work.

The publication of this first fragment (ch. 39.15–40.8) of the Wisdom of Ben Sira in the Expositor led to the identification of the nine leaves following it (ch. 40.9–49.11), which had been acquired by the Bodleian Library through Professor Sayce ''almost simultaneously'' with the discovery of the leaf first found.

The nine and the one, promptly edited by Messrs Cowley and Neubauer in Hebrew and English, with the Greek, Old Latin and Peshitto Syriac Versions, were published at the Clarendon Press early in 1897.

At Midsummer in that year, Dr Schechter found in the Cairo Genizah collection at Cambridge another leaf of Ecclesiasticus from the same Codex, and afterwards from time to time six others, including the penultimate and last folios of the book, which were discovered together on the 27th August, 1897.

Two more leaves from this Codex, identified by Mr G. Margoliouth, are now in the British Museum, as announced in the Times of the 4th April, 1899. The one fits in between the first and the second in order of the seven leaves just mentioned, and the other between the third and the fourth.

In the same Genizah collection, Dr Schechter had detected also two pairs of leaves from another manuscript of Ecclesiasticus, on the 2nd and the 24th of September, 1897, respectively.

These four small leaves, which contain in close writing more than the seven from the other manuscript, could only have been singled out from a collection of so many thousands by a careful though necessarily rapid scrutiny. They altogether lack the striking Biblical and Masoretic appearance which distinguished the Ben Sira fragments previously found.

In this preliminary edition of the eleven new leaves found by Dr Schechter, the discoverer is responsible for the Text, the Notes on the Text, and the Introduction; and the present writer for the Translation and Footnotes and the Appendix, which contains discussions of some passages extracted from the folios edited by Messrs Cowley and Neubauer.

For the defects of the first part of the volume, I have to offer the apology that it had to be finished quickly after the completion of the Notes on the Text.

Of the Text in manuscript, I have as yet read only the ninth folio (ch. 49.12–50.22), which was published as the first of Dr Schechter's Genizah Specimens in no. 38 of the Jewish Quarterly Review (Jan. 1898).

Our cordial thanks are due to Mrs Lewis and Mrs Gibson for kind permission to give herewith, for the first time, facsimiles of the folio first discovered, a fragment second to none in interest to the decipherer.

Ben Sira's book is of unique interest to the scholar and the theologian as a Hebrew work of nearly known date, which forms a link between the Old Testament and the Rabbinic writings.

The first step to its right appreciation is to note its discursive use of the ancient Scriptures, and the author's free way of adapting their thoughts and phrases to his purpose.

The Hebrew restores allusions which were lost or obscured in the Versions.

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How you can help the T-S Unit

If you would like to receive Genizah Fragments regularly, to enquire about the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, or to know how you may assist with its preservation and study, please write to: Dr S. C. Reif, Director of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR, England.

The Library may also be reached by fax (01223) 333160, or telephone (01223) 333000. The Internet access is at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Taylor-Schechter.

Readers not already supporting the Unit are asked to help ensure the continuity of this publication by making a small, regular gift. The sum of £5 (UK) or $10 (abroad) is suggested; payment may be made to Cambridge or to the American Friends.

All contributions to the Unit, whether for the research programme or for its other activities, are made to the ''University of Cambridge'', which enjoys charitable status for tax and similar purposes.

In the USA, all contributions may be directed to the President of the American Friends of Cambridge University, Mr Stephen C. Price, P.O. Box 9123, JAF BLG, New York, NY 10087-9123, USA. Transfers of such funds are regularly made from the USA.

Contributions in Canada should be made payable to the University of Cambridge and may be sent to the Director of Cambridge University Development Office, Mr David Rampersad, at 188 Eglington Avenue E (Suite 703), Toronto, Canada M4P 2X7.

The AFCU is recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization, and contributions are legally deductible for United States income tax purposes. They are similarly deductible in Canada even if made directly to Cambridge.

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A productive year in Jerusalem

From the editor's desk

[Mrs Weizman, Dr Reif, Dr Fishof]

Mrs Reuma Weizman (right) wife of Israel's President, with Dr Stefan Reif and Dr Iris Fishof at the opening of the Genizah exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

It has been a hectic few months. Participation in the research project on ''The Beginnings of Jewish Prayer'', at the Hebrew University's Institute for Advanced Studies, has occupied most of my time.

There have also been regular visits to Cambridge to oversee developments in the Unit and to co-ordinate efforts with colleagues there.

For its part, the Genizah Centenary Exhibition at the Israel Museum has regularly requested specialist advice and presentations. Sometimes, trying to do too many things is counter-productive; but excellent working conditions, and the close co-operation of fellow participants in these various activities, have ensured a productive as well as an enjoyable year.

In Jerusalem, I lectured three times in the context of the Institute's research project, each time on an aspect of the Genizah's importance for Jewish liturgical history.

Although it seems unclear whether these fragmentary texts represent alternative rites dating from talmudic times or revolutionary developments that occurred at a later period, it is now well established that much close and extensive work – some of it already under way in the Unit – remains to be done on their description and analysis.

I succeeded in preparing a number of articles for publication, edited one volume, and wrote a few chapters of a general introduction to the Cambridge Genizah Collections.

With the close assistance of Avi Shivtiel, Erica Hunter, Ellis Weinberger, Matthew Bernstein, Shulie Reif and Sandra McGivern, progress continued to be made in the Unit, especially in the areas of description, publication, digitisation and bibliography. Through the magic of e-mail and fax, solutions were quickly found to any problem that arose.

The excitement of the Israeli presidential visit to Cambridge and the opening of the exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem are described elsewhere in this issue. The April 1998 issue will contain references to the many papers devoted to the Genizah at this summer's World Congress of Jewish Studies.

At the time of writing, I have lectured on the Genizah some thirty times during my stay in Israel. These commitments were not restricted to Jerusalem, but have also taken me west to Tel Aviv, north to Haifa and south to Ashkelon.

The degree of enthusiasm, interest and excitement among scholars and lay people has been remarkable. It demonstrates that the Unit's work over the past quarter-century has made a major impact on those with a will to understand its central significance for Hebrew and Jewish studies.

Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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Israel Museum exhibition

CD-Rom may provide record of exhibition

[Janet Coleby, Shulie Reif, and Jim Bloxam]

Conservation staff Janet Coleby (left) and Jim Bloxam assist Shulie Reif in preparing the fragments for travel to Jerusalem for the Israel Museum's Genizah exhibition

By a happy coincidence, the invitation to my husband, Dr Stefan Reif, to be a visiting professor at the Hebrew University's Institute for Advanced Studies, for the academical year 1996-97, brought us to the Middle East exactly a century after the Taylor-Schechter Collection of Genizah manuscripts left it.

Following almost two years of planning and organising, the anniversary of Solomon Schechter's expedition is being marked in Israel by an exhibition of over fifty Genizah manuscripts which opened at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem at the beginning of June, and will run until 28th October.

Thus, my ''quiet year,'' which was to have been devoted to family and relaxation, became one of activity - sometimes feverish - as I worked with Daisy Raccah-Djivre, curator of the exhibition, and Iris Fishof, chief curator of Judaica, together with numerous departments at the museum, on preparing this major exhibition.

The museum curators were always enthusiastic, but others were a little more hesitant. Were people really going to come and look at scraps of paper and vellum – some written in Hebrew, it's true, but many in Judaeo-Arabic, or even Aramaic?

Was it wise for the Israel Museum to stage an exhibition that might interest only a handful of scholars, and a relatively small group of yeshiva-educated men?

Having already visited Cambridge University Library in February, President and Mrs Ezer Weizman had no such qualms, and their presence at the well-attended opening ceremony ensured that the exhibition got off to a flying start.

The unprecedented press attention included a front-page report in the Jerusalem Post, an item on television's Channel 1 evening news programme, and coverage in almost every other Israeli newspaper and radio channel, in both English and Hebrew. It brought the Genizah - to say nothing of Dr Reif's face and voice - into every home.

Special cultural and educational events at the museum followed thick and fast. Among them were a reception to mark the opening, hosted by the Organization of Shoharim and Friends; a workshop on ''All you ever wanted to know about the Cairo Genizah,'' given by Dr Reif for the International Council of the Israel Museum; and guided tours in English and Hebrew on an almost daily basis.

Private tours were arranged for cultural attaches, ambassadors - including the British Ambassador, David Manning - Knesset Members, university lecturers, librarians, teachers and students.

Public lectures given by Dr Reif and other experts on Genizah topics, at the museum's impressive Springer Auditorium, are scheduled to continue throughout the summer.

The grand finale will comprise a marathon programme of lectures a few days before the fragments return to Cambridge early in November.

This is the first time that so many important fragments have left Cambridge, but Peter Fox, Cambridge University Librarian, reassured himself that the treasures were well cared for when he attended the opening of the exhibition at the invitation of James Snyder, Director of the Israel Museum.

The clearly labelled display covers the story of the discovery; examples of the handwriting of famous personalities, including Maimonides, Judah Halevi and Joseph Karo; personal family letters; reports of business dealings, many in far-flung places; Jewish relations with Muslim and Christian neighbours; the Karaites; and the communities of Eretz Yisrael and more distant lands.

The stress placed by the exhibition on the daily life of the Jews in the Mediterranean area a millennium ago makes these fragments, each with its own story, very accessible.

From the university scholar bringing a class of students for serious discussion and study, to the young schoolchild thrilled and amazed that he is able both to read and to understand letters written in Hebrew some 900 years ago, the exhibition, ''A Mosaic of Life,'' has ignited a flame of wonderment, interest and involvement.

The visitor's experience is enhanced by a snappy 20-minute film, produced on the lines of a modern television news programme, and by The Genizah News, a 16-page newspaper, both packed with detail of contemporary events in the Mediterranean area 1,000 years ago, based entirely on information gleaned from Genizah documents.

The only sadness, shared by all involved in both Cambridge and Jerusalem, is that this fascinating exhibition must be so short-lived. But plans are under way to produce a permanent record, possibly on CD-Rom, which will prove to be an invaluable teaching resource, as well as a treasured souvenir of this unique exhibition.


Assistant to the Curator of the Exhibition

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New publication on piyyut manuscripts

The tenth volume in the Library's Genizah Series has just been published by the University Press. The volume, entitled Palestinian Vocalised Piyyut Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections, is the work of Joseph Yahalom, a professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University.

As is the case in other Semitic languages, the Hebrew vowels are not part of its alphabet and it was only after the Arabic conquest of the Holy Land in the seventh century that systems of marking the vowels were introduced.

An early supralinear method is to be found on Genizah fragments of synagogal poetry, brought to Egypt in the eleventh century by Jewish refugees from the Crusader invasion.

Yahalom's volume (No. 7 in the series) provides the first full descriptions of 81 of these manuscripts. It also includes an introduction, indexes, and 16 plates. The ISBN is 0 521 58399 3 and the price is £65.

In its 1997 press awards, the Board of Deputies included a mention of Genizah Fragments as ''a most unusual publication.'' The judges summarised it in the following way:

''Newsletter for a very specialist field of interest, everything you ever wanted to know about the Genizah fragments!

''This oddity among community newsletters belies its high quality and professional touch. A disciplined, four-column format with strong, cross-page headings, sometimes inactive, fitted well with good pictures.

''A unique publication on a unique, even obscure, subject, a 'must' for all self-respecting Genizah aficionados!''

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Israeli stamp marks Genizah centenary

[Genizah and Dead Sea Scrolls souvenir sheet]

A section of the first-day cover of the Genizah and Dead Sea Scrolls souvenir sheet issued in May
(reproduced by permission of the Israel Philatelic Service)

Israel's Philatelic Service issued a souvenir sheet on May 29 to commemorate the centenary of the discovery of the Cairo Genizah, and the 50th anniversary of the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The issue coincided with the opening of Pacific 97, the international philatelic exhibition in San Francisco, California – one of the largest ever – and was launched at a glittering inaugural reception attended by Israeli and US diplomats, postal officials, and invited guests from around the world.

Two stamps appear on the souvenir sheet, created by the Dutch artist, Ad Vanooijen, who has been responsible for some of Israel's most innovative philatelic designs over the past decade.

The sheet, printed offset by E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd, also features the symbol of Pacific 97 and of Israel 98, the international stamp exhibition to be held next May to mark the state's 50th anniversary.

The two-shekel stamp, marking the Genizah discovery, includes a photograph of the interior of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fostat (Old Cairo). It is reproduced by courtesy of Richard Pare, photographer of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, which has spearheaded the synagogue's restoration.

The right-hand gutter of the stamp depicts Solomon Schechter studying manuscript fragments from the Genizah at Cambridge University Library, to which he had transferred some 140,000 of them after his momentous journey to Egypt in 1897.

One of the fragments was identified by Schechter, then Reader in Talmudic and Rabbinic literature at Cambridge University, as belonging to the original Hebrew of the Book of Ben Sira, a volume of proverbs included in the Apocrypha.

A quotation from the book – extracted from Genizah fragment T-S 12.727 – appears in the lower section of the stamp, and is reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Library.

The three-shekel stamp commemorates the finding of the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls by a Bedouin shepherd in a cave at Hirbat Qumran in 1947. It shows various sites and antiquities connected with the scrolls, and Hebrew University Professor E. I. Sukenik – father of Professor Yigael Yadin – examining some of them after he had purchased them from a Bethlehem antiques dealer.

A quotation from a Genizah fragment on the first-day cover is from the Proverbs of Sa'id Ben Babshad: ''The riches of the mind grow from day to day.''

The pictorial cancellation on the first-day cover – dated Jerusalem, 29.5.1997, 22 Iyar 5757 – shows a drawing of one of the jars in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, together with lettering from a scroll.

The postmark notes, in Hebrew and English: ''100 years since the discovery of the Cairo Genizah'' and ''50 years since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.''

Bulletin No. 555 of the Israel Postal Authority's Philatelic Service includes descriptions of the Genizah and Dead Sea discoveries, the former by Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the latter by Dr Adolfo Roitman, of the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book.

The bulletin expresses appreciation to Dr Stefan Reif, Director of the T-S Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library, for his assistance in the preparation of the souvenir sheet.

First-day covers and mint souvenir sheets are obtainable through the Israel Philatelic Service, 12 Sderot Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv-Jaffa 68021, Israel, and from Israel philatelic agencies throughout the world. The agent in Britain is Harry Allen, P.O. Box 5, Watford, Herts WD2 5SW.

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Gesher Theatre visit

[Dr Shivtiel, Mr Weinberger, Ori Levy, Dr Yahil-Wax]

Dr Avi Shivtiel (right) and Ellis Weinberger (second from left), both of the T-S Genizah Unit, host a group of actors from Israel's Gesher Theatre, accompanied by their directors, Ori Levy and Dr Miriam Yahil-Wax, during their visit to the Cambridge University Library in May

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Edited by Stefan C. Reif

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©University of Cambridge; last updated October 1998