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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

No. 37 April 1999

[Mrs Elsie Alexander, Professor Stefan Reif and Dr Ian Alexander]
Mrs Elsie Alexander, widow of Solomon Schechter's grandson, and one of her sons, Dr Ian Alexander, look on as Genizah Unit director Professor Stefan Reif (centre) discusses a crate of fragments from the Taylor-Schechter Collection

On other pages

Grant aids completion of projects

The final instalment of the grant made by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to the University Library for the description of Genizah material, following the Follett Report, has now been received.

The sum of £71,440 will enable the Unit to bring its various HEFCE projects to a satisfactory conclusion next year.

Three generous awards have been made by friends of the Unit in the USA through the American Friends of Cambridge University.

Mrs Linda Noe Laine has contributed $5,000 in memory of Dr Erica Hunter's father, Mr Victor Immanuel Frank.

Mrs Noe visited the Unit as part of an extended stay in Cambridge during which she participated in many lectures and seminars and met leading scholars in a wide range of religious studies.

The Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust in New York has kindly renewed its annual contribution of $5,000; and Ms Kathryn L. Johnson has made a generous gift of $1,000 as an expression of her personal interest in the historical importance of the Genizah Collection.

Additional major support has come from the R. and D. Lauffer Charitable Foundation (£3,000); from the Kessler Foundation (£1,500), whose income is derived largely from the Jewish Chronicle; and from the Samuel Sebba Charitable Trust (£1,500).

Generous assistance has again been provided by Raymond and Pamela Burton (£500); Mrs Felise Davies and Mr Malcolm Kayne (£500); Mr J. E. Elias (£400); Goldberg Family Charitable Trust (£500); H. Joels Charitable Trust (£500); Kohn Foundation (through Zahava and Ralph Kohn; £500); Lewis Foundation (£500); Harry and Gertrude Landy (£500); Ruth and Michael Phillips (£250); Cyril and Betty Stein (£500); and Fred and Della Worms (£300).

Among others to whom the Unit is grateful are Mr Henry Knobil (£100); Lauderdale Road Synagogue Women's Guild (£150); Mr Geoffrey Ognall (£125); Professor Zvi and Hava Palti and a group of friends (£150); Diana and Anthony Rau (£125); Mr M. Rose (£100); Rubin Foundation Charitable Trust (£150); David and Ingrid Sellman (£200); Mr Leo Sterling (£100); and the Willesden Discussion Group (£150).

Other smaller donations, some of them anonymous, amounted to over £4,000 and included contributions in memory of Dr Haskell Isaacs and Dr Bernard Cutler.

The Unit greatly appreciates all such support.

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Major volume published

A most important volume for historians and text critics of rabbinic literature has just been published by Cambridge University Press for Cambridge University Library as No. 5 in its ``Genizah Series''.

A Hand-list of Rabbinic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections, by Robert Brody, incorporating earlier work by E. J. Wiesenberg (xiii + 352 pages; ISBN 0 521 58400 0), offers brief descriptions of many classical and medieval rabbinic texts.

A total of 5,325 items has received his attention, and that of a few colleagues, and there is a brief introduction that classifies the material and explains the methodology used to describe it.

The detailed indexes of sources, names and subjects are a valuable reference source and the 24 plates well exemplify the kind of material covered in the descriptions.

The volume is available from Cambridge University Press, and its usual suppliers, at £95.

Most of the other ten volumes published to date in the series are still available from Cambridge University Press. Where they are out of print, the Cambridge University Library office may still have a few copies for sale.

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The role of the twin Scotswomen, Mrs Agnes Lewis and Mrs Margaret Gibson, in the discovery of the Genizah has long inspired scholars and amateur historians.

Whether or not they have read A. Whigham Price's biography, The Ladies of Castlebrae (Gloucester, 1985), such aficionados have often expressed interest in acquainting themselves with the original works of these two intrepid travellers and manuscript researchers.

Thanks to Sussex Academic Press, it will be possible this summer to purchase a reprint of two of their volumes, How the Codex was Found, by Mrs Gibson (Cambridge, 1893), and In the Shadow of Sinai, by Mrs Lewis (Cambridge, 1898).

Further details of the volumes, and a special offer to readers of Genizah Fragments, will be included in our October issue.

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Contribution of Genizah collection to study of medieval Jewish culture

The second series of Genizah centenary lectures, on ``The Contribution of the Genizah Collection to the Study of Medieval Jewish Culture'', took place in the Morison Room of the University Library's new Exhibition Centre. Five lectures were delivered and are currently being prepared for publication, together with a number of papers given in the earlier series of centenary lectures.

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Professor Michael Klein

[Professor Michael Klein]
Professor Michael Klein

The first meeting in the second series of centenary lectures was chaired by the Regius Professor of Hebrew, Robert Gordon, and was treated to a study of Aramaic Bible translations and commentaries by Professor Michael Klein, of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

He demonstrated how a detailed review of the oldest extant fragments helps to illuminate such subjects as the synagogal-liturgical setting of the targum, its status and sanctity, and the reason for its original composition.

It also touches upon the non-normative halakhah reflected in such Palestinian targum and the purity of Aramaic dialect that it preserves.

Several new targumic texts and text-types discovered in the Genizah were noted, such as ``shorthand'' manuscripts; collections of expansive readings for festivals and special Sabbaths; introductory Aramaic poems to the targum of the haftarot; a fragment-targum of Onqelos; and various compositions of Masorah to Onqelos.

The paper concluded with a reading of the targumic tosefta to the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), which is unparalleled in its midrashic and exegetical expansiveness and literary fancy.

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Professor Joel Kraemer

[Professor Joel Kraemer]
Professor Joel Kraemer

Professor Joel Kraemer, of the University of Chicago, gave the second presentation, on Jewish female literacy, and the chair was taken by Rosamond McKitterick, Professor of Early Medieval European History.

Professor Kraemer drew attention to the numerous papers containing letters between women and members of their families to be found among the vast treasures in the documentary portion of the Cairo Genizah.

There are also appeals and petitions by women to the community and to communal officials, as well as declarations in last wills and testaments.

These precious and unique documents let us hear the female voice directly, unmediated by men.

The letters give us a fine aperçu into the socio-economic and cultural status of women and into the entire family structure.

The papers date mainly from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. Most are in Judaeo-Arabic; some are in Hebrew; and from a later period (sixteenth century) there are letters in Judaeo-Spanish and in Yiddish.

Many are from Old Cairo (Fustat) to other towns in Egypt, especially in the countryside, and from the provinces to Fustat. There are also letters to Cairo from more distant places, among them Aden, Byzantium, India, Seleucia, Tiberias and Tunisia.

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Professor Mordechai Friedman

[Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh and Professor Mordechai Friedman]
Professor Mordechai Friedman (right)

Professor Stefan Reif introduced the third speaker, Professor Mordechai Friedman, of Tel Aviv University, who spoke on three major aspects of medieval Jewish marriage and the family.

He began with a re-examination of the question of marriages of child brides, on the basis of published and unedited fragments. The evidence confirmed that these were quite irregular as far as legal minors were concerned and almost exclusively restricted to orphan girls, though the bride was often a young teenager.

One case of homicide within the family, the murder of a wife and mother-in-law, is documented. Its description as ``the infamous murder case'' suggests that such extreme family violence was indeed a rarity.

Jewish marriage contracts of both the Palestinian and Karaite traditions include ``mutual obligations,'' whereby the groom's undertaking to honour and serve his wife is balanced by her undertaking to honour and serve him. A fifth-century Egyptian ketubbah proves that the Karaites adapted this clause from the earlier Palestinian one.

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Professor Paul Fenton

[Professor Paul Fenton]
Professor Paul Fenton

At the fourth session, chaired by the Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic, Tarif Khalidi, Professor Paul Fenton, of the Sorbonne, devoted his paper to Jewish-Muslim relations.

He used Genizah texts to demonstrate that ``the principles of seclusion and discrimination inculcated by religious bigotry were often countered by the kind of economic and social realities that nurtured more tolerant attitudes''.

Professor Fenton gave details of Genizah letters that reveal Jewish-Muslim partnerships unrestricted by social or religious dictates. In the area of social relations, especially among the middle-class, contacts on a personal level were often quite intimate, despite official segregation.

The overall impression given by the Genizah documents was of a dynamic interaction between the Jewish and Muslim communities on both the material and spiritual planes.

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Professor Neil Danzig

[Professor Neil Danzig]
Professor Neil Danzig

The fifth and final session, as well attended as all its predecessors, was devoted to the talmudic and rabbinic fields and was chaired by the Reverend William Horbury, newly appointed Professor of Early Christian and Jewish Studies.

Professor Neil Danzig, of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, presented a detailed analysis of a well-known Genizah fragment containing a prayer on behalf of the Babylonian ge'onim and the Exilarch, one part of which is in New York and the other in Cambridge.

The combined text comprises a ninth-century liturgical handbook from a Babylonian synagogue. Among the data contained therein are guidelines for the formulaic conclusion of a homily delivered in the synagogue on the Sabbath and festivals.

This homily, known as a pirqa, concluded with a blessing that later evolved into the yequm purqan prayer recited in many European communities, as well as the recitation of a special qaddish reserved for study sessions.

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Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh

[Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh and Professor Mordechai Friedman]
Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh (left)

The President of St John's College, the Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh, who attended all the Genizah centenary lectures, brought the proceedings to a close and referred specifically to the Genizah's close connection with his College, and its Master in Schechter's day, Charles Taylor. The full text of his remarks is reproduced here.

By way of marking the conclusion of this series of lectures, commemorating the centenary of the arrival in Cambridge of the Genizah manuscripts, we would all wish to thank the organizers for arranging a varied and highly interesting programme.

Within the context of the Genizah, we have ranged from Targums to Talmud, from women's literacy to marriage customs, from Jewish-Muslim relations to Rabbinic custom.

Our lecturers have demonstrated the international interest in the Genizah and they have come to us from the USA, from France and, of course, from Israel. We greatly look forward to seeing the papers in print.

Coincidence may be defined as the workings of Providence. The centenary year of the Genizah sees a Hebraist, if not Master, then President of St John's College, of which the Reverend Charles Taylor, DD (joint donor of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection) was Master in 1898.

The year 1998 has also seen Professor Reif elected to a Fellowship of that same College in recognition of his tireless devotion to the work of the Genizah Research Unit. And one of our lecturers, Professor Michael Klein, of the Hebrew Union College campus in Jerusalem, was recently a popular Visiting Scholar of St John's.

Stefan Reif often speaks of Charles Taylor and of Solomon Schechter - I suspect in the past more of Dr Solomon Schechter than of the Reverend Charles Taylor. The action of the Council of St John's this year in appointing Dr Reif to a professorial fellowship will undoubtedly ensure that he will now speak of Taylor with additional pride and frequency.

Taylor was a very generous person and an all-rounder. He gave money for the land on which the Lady Margaret Boat House was built - for he was an enthusiastic oarsman. He gave large financial support to the College Mission in Walworth, South London.

Interestingly, 1998 has also witnessed the inauguration of the College's Eagle Project, designed to help able children from unpromising backgrounds in Lambeth, in the same area, to receive extra tuition so that entry into Oxbridge may not be out of the question.

Taylor was by training and profession a mathematician who, in his spare time (remarkable as this sounds), took up the study of talmudic Hebrew, publishing in 1877 an edition of Pirqey Avot which is still much used and appreciated.

And, of course, it was his financial support of Schechter which facilitated the whole Genizah enterprise.

It is said by a talmudic rabbi that a gentile who is punctilious about Jewish Sabbath observance is worthy of death.

If, then, I give expression in the two principal languages of the Genizah to our sense of deep gratitude for the miracle of the preservation of this material and for the care that has been lavished upon it here, then it would be prudent for me to do so briefly: Barukh ha-Shem wal-hamdu lillah.

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Library expands

The University Library has been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enlarge its reading rooms for manuscripts and rare books.

This should ensure more space and greater comfort for readers, as well as better storage facilities.

The work is expected to start this summer and to be completed by the early autumn of 2001.

During that period, all materials from the collections, including the Genizah fragments, will remain available to readers.

Some classes will be fetched to other reading rooms in the Library, but most will have to be consulted in a temporary reading room accommodating readers of both manuscripts and rare books, where space will be limited.

It may be necessary at peak times to place some restrictions on access and usage.

Scholars planning to work on the rare book and manuscript collections (including the Genizah material) are advised to try to plan their visits to avoid the peak times (June to September) and, if possible, to use the Library before the summer of 1999.

If this is not convenient, prior notice to the Rare Books (rarebook@ula.cam.ac.uk) or Manuscripts Departments (ms@ula.cam.ac.uk) is recommended.

Further details will be made available on the University Library's Website (http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/).

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Official opening

As head of the Oriental Division at Cambridge University Library, Professor Stefan Reif attended the official opening of the Oriental and India Office Reading Room in the new British Library recently constructed in Euston Road in London.

Other representatives from Cambridge University Library, who co-operate closely with their colleagues at the British Library, included Mr Charles Aylmer, representing the Chinese Collection, and Dr Geoffrey Roper, representing the Islamic Bibliography Unit.

There was a reception, an opportunity to see the new Reading Room and the various new facilities, and speeches by Mr Brian Lang, the Chief Executive, and Dr John Ashworth, Chairman of the British Library Board. The guests were also entertained to a performance of Indian music.

Dr Colin Baker, who is in charge of Arabic at the British Library, and was formerly a researcher in the Cambridge Genizah Unit, and Mrs Ilana Tahan, who looks after the Hebraica, showed Professor Reif some of the new facilities and introduced him to various members of the staff, as well as to the Chief Executive.

The Director of the Valmadonna Trust, Mr Jack Lunzer, was also present and took the opportunity of discussing with Professor Reif various problems relating to the study of Hebrew manuscripts and Jewish bibliography.

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Wieder's trail-blazing work

As a student of Professor Naphtali Wieder in London during the 1960s, I recall the occasional day when a lecture of his was cancelled because he was out of town.

In later years, it became clear to me that these visits were to what the late S. D. Goitein called ``the Mecca of Genizah scholarship'' and that Professor Wieder had returned from each of them newly inspired by outstanding discoveries made among the Cairo treasures at Cambridge University Library.

For over thirty years, as a researcher in Oxford during the Second World War, and subsequently as a lecturer, and then reader, at Jews' College and University College in London, Professor Wieder exploited that remarkable manuscript resource for his numerous publications, especially in the field of Jewish liturgy.

A few months ago, his name and his work were mentioned time and again at a conference held at the University of Denver on the theme of liturgy and ritual in the Islamic and Judaic traditions and arranged by Dr Seth Ward.

A number of the papers then delivered will shortly be appearing in a special issue of Medieval Encounter being published by E. J. Brill of Leiden.

Various lecturers at the Denver conference acknowledged the outstanding nature of Professor Wieder's work and I was happy to report that I saw him regularly in his retirement home in Israel.

In particular, Professor Shalom Goldman, of Emory University, devoted an entire lecture to Wieder's Hebrew volume Islamic Influences on the Jewish Worship (Oxford, 1947).

That volume - as, indeed, so much of Wieder's other work relating to manuscript study in general and Genizah research in particular - was trail-blazing, and it took other scholars a number of decades to catch up with him.

For years, students of Jewish liturgy have regretted that Wieder's 1947 volume and his many articles have not been easily available and they have hoped for a volume of collected works.

It is to the credit of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem that their hopes have now been realized.

Entitled The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West (Hebrew; Jerusalem, 1998), the two volumes contain forty articles, translated where necessary from the English, together with additional notes by Wieder himself, and detailed indexes. One of these indexes covers the manuscripts cited and it is hardly surprising to find hundreds of Genizah items among them.

The volume will prove a great asset to specialists in the development of Jewish liturgical rites and a fitting tribute to the world's leading expert in the field. It will also greatly assist Genizah researchers in appreciating the significance of that source for the traditional history of Jewish worship.

Perhaps it was those Genizah references that he cited in class almost forty years ago that ultimately led me to my work in Cambridge. It was certainly his inspiring teaching and example that prepared me for it.

Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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Focus on halakhic midrashim

Halakhic midrashim may be broadly described as collections of views, interpretations and sayings from the Tanna'im (or rabbinic teachers) of the first two centuries, which relate to the halakhic (legal) content of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Although they have always been regarded as containing more popular material than the Mishnah and other tannaitic sources, they are, nevertheless, an important source of information about the tannaitic method of biblical interpretation.

Menahem Kahana's book, Manuscripts of the Halakhic Midrashim: An Annotated Catalogue (Hebrew; Jerusalem, 1995), deals with the various manuscripts of the halakhic midrashim found in different collections.

In his introduction, he briefly surveys the history of talmudic research since the 19th century, and the way that scholars have been using manuscripts in an attempt to understand the text through its various versions.

Kahana also provides details of recent editions of the midrashim, stressing the discrepancies and shortcomings in both earlier and later editions.

Halakhic midrashim found in the Cairo Genizah offer the researcher an invaluable mine of information regarding hitherto incomplete midrashim and different versions of known works. At the same time, they make possible the correction of errors, especially in printed versions.

Kahana describes the difficulties he faced in locating 268 fragments in various libraries, deciphering their contents, and establishing their position in the development of the texts. He concludes his introduction with descriptions of the technical methods used in compiling the catalogue, and the terminology employed in the work.

The volume follows the traditional order of the seven midrashim: Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishma`el, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shim`on ben Yohai, Sifra Leviticus, Sifrei Numbers, Sifrei Zuta, Sifrei Deuteronomy and Mekhilta Deuteronomy.

The treatment of each midrash includes information on printed versions, followed by a list of manuscript fragments. In addition to the ``dry'' data, each entry contains references to published research, additional information, and corrections to earlier work.

There are also indexes and a bibliography, as well as a short English preface.

Kahana emphasises the importance of the Cambridge Genizah Collections, which contain the largest number of fragments (138), while the remaining fragments are shared by thirteen other collections.

This is an important tool for all scholars working on halakhic midrashim. It complements similar surveys of other Cambridge Genizah material that are currently appearing in the University Library's Genizah Series published by Cambridge University Press.

Senior Research Associate

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How you can help

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:

Professor S. C. Reif
Director of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit
Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR

The library may also be reached by fax (01223) 333160, or by telephone (01223) 333000. The Internet access is at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Taylor-Schechter/. Enquiries by e-mail should be addressed to genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk.

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 and Canada, all contributions may be directed to:

The President of the American Friends of Cambridge University
Mr Stephen C. Price
PO Box 9123
New York
NY 10087-9123
Transfers of such funds are regularly made to Cambridge from the USA.

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.

A substantial contribution towards the cost of the current issue of Genizah Fragments has kindly been made in memory of David Lauffer by his family. The Unit gratefully recalls his support over many years.

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Edited by Stefan C. Reif
If you have any questions, please e-mail genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk
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© University of Cambridge; revised May 2007