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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. 41 April 2001

On other pages

Arabic gems highlighted

The Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic manuscript fragments of the Cambridge Genizah Collections, which provide remarkable insights into the everyday lives of the Jews of Arab lands a thousand years ago, are gradually being revealed by researchers as one of their most prized gems.

A volume has just been published by Cambridge University Press which represents the first part of a project to classify and describe the Arabic portion of these Collections, based on worldwide expertise in Jewish and Arabic literature.

The subject matter of the 7,891 fragments described in the volume includes important literary material, as well as documentary sources. In addition to Jewish and Muslim treatises, there are brief descriptions of private and business letters, legal and administrative documents, merchant accounts and school exercise-books.

The detailed introduction, by Meira Polliack, will interest Arabists, Hebraists, historians, linguists, medievalists, and scholars of religion and literature. Extensive indexes and bibliography, covering sixty-six pages, provide easy access to the rich subject matter, and to the many medieval authors, both Jewish and Arab, whose works have been identified in the volume, often for the first time.

The volume, entitled Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections: Arabic Old Series (T-S Ar.1a - 54), was compiled by Colin F. Baker and Meira Polliack, both of whom were researchers in the Unit.

Dr Polliack is now a senior lecturer in the Bible department at Tel Aviv University, and Dr Baker is head of the Arabic section of the British Library. Shulie Reif was responsible for compiling the indexes.

The volume appears as No. 12 in the "Genizah Series"; which is published by Cambridge University Press for Cambridge University Library, and the general editor of which is Professor Stefan Reif. The ISBN is 0 521 79280 0.

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[Prince El-Hassan bin Talal]

Prince El-Hassan bin Talal (right) and Professor Stefan Reif discuss a Genizah document as Dr Edward Kessler looks on

Jordanian prince at Genizah display

His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, together with a number of his friends and colleagues, visited the Unit during a day spent at Cambridge under the auspices of the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, directed by Dr Edward Kessler.

A special exhibition of Genizah and Islamic materials was mounted and Prince El-Hassan signed the Visitor's Book. He wrote: "With many thanks and my sincere appreciation of the lucid explanation of our common heritage. I thank you all for this splendid presentation in these days when we are in such need of understanding and mutual tolerance between nations.";

Other distinguished guests who recently visited the Unit were Dr Peggy K. Pearlstein, from the Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; Professor Mina Weinstein-Evron, great-granddaughter of Solomon Schechter's twin brother, Sholem; Mr Saul and Mrs Mira Koschitzky, of the Israel Koschitzky Family Charitable Trust; Rev. Justin J. Taylor and Dr Kevin McCaffrey, from the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem; Rabbi Joshua Haberman, of the Washington Foundation for Jewish Studies; and Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Rector of the Bet Morasha Academic Centre for Jewish Studies and Leadership in Jerusalem.

Groups also came from the International Conference for Postgraduate Students in Jewish Studies, Cambridge University Jewish Society, the Spiro Ark at Middlesex University, and Northwood United Synagogue.

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Trust's grant to T-S Unit

In addition to the current year's major external funding reported in the last issue of Genizah Fragments, other financial support has continued to come to the Unit over the past few months.

The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, administered from the National Preservation Office at the British Library, made a grant of 3,132. This enabled the Library's conservators to give their expert attention to some of the bound volumes in the Genizah Collection that required special treatment after over twenty years of heavy use, following their previous conservation.

Mrs Linda Noe Laine contributed $5,000 in honour of her granddaughter, Camille McCrae Noe Kelly; Mr and Mrs Raymond Burton gave 1,000; and a Canadian charitable foundation sent $1,000.

Other substantial contributions to Unit funds have come from the Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Charitable Trust (500); J. Davies Charities (500, through Mrs Felice Davies and Mr Malcolm Kayne); the Kohn Foundation (500, through Dr Ralph and Mrs Zahava Kohn); and the Williams Family Charitable Trust (500, through Mrs Gertrude Landy).

Among those who have also assisted the Unit are the F. and D. Worms Charitable Trust (300); the R. and M. Emanuel Charity Trust (250); and the R. and M. Phillips Charitable Trust (250).

Welcome renewals of their contributions were received from the P. and H. Maurice Charitable Trust (150); Mr David Pinto (150); Diana and Anthony Rau (150); the Rubin Foundation Charitable Trust (150); Mr H. E. Knobil (100); Dr Charles Levene (100); and the Sterling Charitable Trust (100).

The Unit is also grateful to the Bishop of St Albans for a donation of 100; to Dr Ralph and Mrs Marilyn Cantor for their gift of 100; and to anonymous donors who contributed 100 in memory of Dr Haskell Isaacs.

Among supporters in the United States were Benjamin and Barbara Friedman ($200); Mrs Anne Schechter Herzberg ($100, in memory of Jeanne and Morris Schechter); and W. R. Garr and Laura Kalman ($100).

Other smaller or anonymous donations, amounting to over 1,000, are also much appreciated.

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[The Pauline Epistles in a western Syriac hand]

T-S NS J390: verses from the Peshitta version of the Pauline Epistles in a western Syriac hand

Trousseau list tells only half a story

In 1980, in the fourth volume of A Mediterranean Society, page 467, S. D. Goitein noted that T-S NS J390 (23.5 x 11.7 cms) and T-S 13J7.8 (27.4 x 6.5 cms) could be conjoined to form a Judaeo-Arabic trousseau list. He did not, however, mention that on the reverse were several verses, written in Syriac, from the Pauline Epistles.

The trousseau list of twenty-four lines would have been attached to the marriage contract and itemizes the dowry that the bride, Mubaraka daughter of Tobias, brought to the house of her husband. These items remained her property.

Her husband, Yeshu`ah son of Abraham, had to declare in the presence of elders "that all these valuables had come into his house and were now in his possession and under his hand; and that he had undertaken to keep them as if they were his own; and that he would not make any change to them without the knowledge and consent of his wife."; (See Goitein in AJS Review 2, 1977, page 85.)

In pre-nuptial contracts such as these, the full value of the dowry was to be returned to the bride should she be widowed or divorced. Not unnaturally, a bride would strive to have as expensive a dowry as possible, since this was her insurance policy should there be troubled times.

The total value of Mubaraka's trousseau list, given at the end of the document, is 480 dinars. This is not a huge amount, since wealthy dowries could be several thousand dinars, but it is enough to place her comfortably in the middle classes of the Jewish community.

The inventory of items - jewellery, clothing, furniture and utensils - provides a fascinating insight into Mubaraka's life and even allows us to visualize her appearance.

One of her garments, a long greyish robe, interwoven with gold thread, that reached her heels, was offset by a pearl-white turban, with the ends hanging down her back.

Her matrimonial home was furnished with divans (often covered in expensive, imported fabrics) and storage chests, and she had a trunk made of bamboo.

The dowry also mentions a container for soda ashes that were used for washing the body.

Some of the goods came from distant places. Mubaraka would have been justly proud to wear the chain of "twenty-three amber beads in the shape of apples and cherry-plums, that was divided by nine gold beads."; Amber came from the Baltic regions, and was brought to the Middle East by Viking traders down the Volga river.

Two of her divans were covered in a sumptuous heavy shot silk, originally manufactured in Tabaristan near the Caspian Sea in Persia. Closer to home, another divan was covered in brocade of Italian origin and there were cushions of Sicilian silk, as well as divider curtains of Tunisian brocade.

The trousseau list allows an exciting glimpse into middle-class life of the Jewish community in Fustat during the eleventh century, showing a society with goods from diverse sources and highlighting the international trade links. Yet the trousseau list might have been only a draft, for it was written on the back of an earlier document with very different origins.

T-S NS J390 recto consists of verses from the Peshitta version of the Pauline Epistles in a distinctive western Syriac hand. This fragment must have originated in one of the Monophysite (Syrian Orthodox) or Melkite communities that lived in Egypt.

The Christian scribe did not take especial care when writing the quotations, for the lines are not ruled and their spacing varies, being done "by eye";. The central crease, which can still be seen, shows that T-S NS J390r was originally folded.

It is possible that the quotations from Romans 16:26-27 and I Corinthians 13:12-13 were merely selections, to highlight particular qualities, such as "faith, hope and love"; (verse 13). More probably, T-S NS J390r was originally part of a codex, since the verses conclude their respective books. Presumably the intermediate folios of I Corinthians 1 - 12:11 were lost.

The circumstances in which this folio was recycled to record Mubaraka's trousseau list are perplexing. Perhaps the scribe bought the codex, or perhaps only some leaves, second-hand.

The extra spacing between lines 13 - 14 shows that he took care not to write on the crease where the folio was originally folded. Presumably the copyist, as well as Mubaraka and Yeshu`ah, could not read Romans 16:27, which cites the name of Jesus Christ. Nor did it seem to matter that the pre-nuptial contract had writing on its reverse.

The contents of T-S NS J390r and T-S NS J390v - T-S 13J7.8 are diverse and unrelated. However, their mutual presence is testimony not only to the richness of life in medieval Fustat, but to the Christian and Jewish communities that lived there during the Fatimid period. We hope soon to publish them fully.

Erica C. D. Hunter
Friedrich Niessen
Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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From the Editor's Desk

I always find myself busy giving lectures and seminars on topics connected with the Genizah's literary treasures. Recent weeks seem to have brought even more commitments than usual.

Whether scholars, students or interested amateurs, the participants in such sessions tend to ask a number of recurrent questions. One of these relates to the long years when little institutional care was taken of the various Genizah collections around the world. Was the situation like that of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Did some sort of conspiracy prevent treatment and access?

The broad reply is, of course, that there are fashions in scholarship, that some periods are more favourable to progress than others, and that it often takes a combination of personalities, organizations and funding to bring about a productive result. Fortunately, we are now enjoying an international expansion of Genizah research in all its aspects.

In addition to undertaking projects for the conservation, description and publication of Genizah fragments, a number of institutions with such medieval Jewish riches are making information available through the Internet. This not only assists scholars in the field but also brings the Genizah material within the grasp of the non-specialist enthusiast.

Earlier issues of this newsletter referred to the web sites of this Unit and of Princeton. Another site at the University of Pennsylvania that readers may wish to consult is: sceti.library.upenn.edu/genizah/.

The Genizah Unit at Cambridge University Library, responsible as it is for almost seventy per cent of the world's Genizah manuscripts, is glad to have been able to set the pace for many of the developments since its foundation over a quarter of a century ago. Its own web site is currently averaging about 11,000 "hits"; per month.

The Unit looks forward to seeing, and co-operating with, many projects devoted to Genizah research so that, with the aid of such funding bodies as the Friedberg Genizah Project at New York University, the earlier years of neglect may confidently soon be left behind us.

Stefan C. Reif
Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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Oldest and newest

Having previously produced a booklet about work being done by Cambridge dons in the physical sciences, the University's Press and Publications Office has now produced one devoted to arts, humanities and social sciences.

The publication, entitled "innovation&creativity@cam.ac.uk";, features twenty-four personalities and their research subjects. It is intended primarily to introduce the wider world, briefly and in non-technical terms, to what is being achieved in Cambridge.

In the section dealing with the University Library and its historic collections, details are given of the oldest and most important items, and of the most modern techniques for making their contents widely available.

The Genizah Collection features prominently in this section and explanations are offered of its origin and contents, as well as of its historical and literary uniqueness.

Reference is also made to the projects of the Genizah Research Unit.

The booklet was featured, together with a new web-based edition of the "Media Guide to Expertise";, at a meeting in the British Academy which launched the University's new Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

The meeting was addressed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Alec Broers, and other distinguished Cambridge academics, and was chaired by Sir David Frost.

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Volume marks centenary of Genizah studies

Volume 15 of the Tel Aviv University series Te`uda (1999) is devoted to the Cairo Genizah and commemorates its removal to Cambridge by Solomon Schechter just over a century ago.

Edited by M. A. Friedman, the volume contains articles based on papers presented at a symposium entitled "A Century of Genizah Research"; held at Tel Aviv University in December, 1996. The subjects covered are Piyyut and Liturgy; the Karaite Encounter; Halakhah and Rabbinic Literature; Society and Culture; Schechter and Cambridge.

E. Fleischer writes on the cultural profile of medieval Eastern Jewry as reflected in the payyetanic texts, while T. Beeri concerns herself with Hebrew poetry in Babylonia in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Jewish poetry from Andalusia is dealt with by J. Yahalom, and the Arabic contribution to Jewish liturgy is highlighted by Y. Tobi.

The Genizah texts analysed by these scholars leave little doubt about the high level of literacy among the Jews, though Arabic literature played an important role in the shaping of Hebrew poetry, especially the secular variety.

M. Gil declares as unfounded the long-accepted view that Karaism was founded by Anan ben David in the eighth century. Gil concludes from Genizah materials and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim sources that it was founded by a second "Anan"; in the ninth century.

M. Polliack identifies five types of Arabic Bible translations found in the Genizah: pre-Sa`adyanic, popular Sa`adyanic, post-Sa`adyanic, vocabulary lists and Karaite translations.

J. Olszowy-Schlanger and M. A. Friedman devote their articles to Karaite and Rabbanite marriage contracts (ketubbot). While the first stresses the influence of the Babylonian ketubbot - rather than the Palestinian - on the Karaite formulations, the second article dismisses the claim of exclusive Babylonian influence, since Palestinian characteristics are also found in later Karaite versions.

M. B. Lerner discusses in detail two folios of responsa from Munich by R. Ahai Gaon which he considers as a reliable proto-text, and which he traces back to the Cairo Genizah.

Comparisons are drawn by G. Libson between the halakhic monographs of R. Samuel ben Hofni and other responsa found in the Genizah.

Y. Rivlin's article concludes that documents dealing with inheritance laws found in the Genizah prove inter alia the right of wives and daughters to inherit or bequeath property belonging to them, and that some procedures seem to be the result of Islamic influence.

S. D. Goitein and M. A. Friedman describe the life of a Jewish trader in India. The material for this article comes from Goitein's "India Book";, which is being prepared for publication by Friedman, following Goitein's death in 1985.

The role played by the Nagids of Egypt in communal affairs in Palestine is assessed by A. David, while M. Frenkl analyses some of the booklists found in the Genizah, with conclusions concerning the contents of Jewish libraries. P. B. Fenton offers an insight into relations between Jews and Muslims. His conclusion is that Jews were totally integrated into Arabic culture and even influenced by Islamic spirituality.

E. Engel examines aspects of Hebrew scripts used in the Genizah and highlights changes in style over the years. S. C. Reif, relating the stories behind the story of the Genizah, describes the fate of some manuscripts at Cambridge which were lent and nearly lost.

His conclusion is that, at times, only the determination and persistence of librarians retrieved them for the lenders.

The volume is a first-hand source of information on some of the finds in the Genizah, covering a wide range of subjects and areas, yet leaving for later treatment scores of other aspects and topics. This demonstrates that many more volumes need to be written on all areas of scholarship concerning the Genizah. This volume, meanwhile, is one way of demonstrating scholars' appreciation of the Genizah as an inexhaustible source of learning and a unique treasure.

Avihai Shivtiel
University of Leeds

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[Naphtali Wieder]

Naphtali Wieder

Naphtali Wieder

Naphtali Wieder, who was active in Genizah research for some sixty years, has died in Jerusalem at the age of 95.

Born and rabbinically educated in Sighet, then in Hungary, Wieder studied at the Hochschule fr die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin between the two World Wars. His interest in Jewish liturgy and in the Genizah evidence for the medieval evolution of its texts was inspired by his teacher, Ismar Elbogen, who had himself started contributing to this field in the early years of the twentieth century.

After he moved to Oxford in 1939, Wieder combed the Genizah collections of the British Library, the Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library for prayer versions with interesting textual variants and began to publish articles which explained the liturgical data they contained.

He brilliantly demonstrated how they permitted the reconstruction of forgotten elements of medieval Jewish liturgy. He also drew attention to numerous examples of changes being made in words, phrases and longer texts for linguistic, social and theological reasons.

His collected liturgical articles were published in two Hebrew volumes in Jerusalem in 1998 under the title The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West. Among his most important contributions were his clarifications of the earliest forms of the Babylonian and Palestinian rituals, his rediscovery of many lost or misunderstood customs, and his tracing of the textual history of the prayer-book of Sa`adya Gaon.

Wieder also made use of Genizah material in his two other published volumes, Islamic Influences on the Jewish Worship (Oxford, 1947) and The Judean Scrolls and Karaism (London, 1962). Some of his work was discussed in Genizah Fragments, number 37 (April 1999).

He was among various scholars who regularly visited Cambridge University Library over a period of some twenty years after the New Series of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection was established on the initiative of S. D. Goitein in 1954.

Material was then kept in large crates and sorted into cardboard boxes by individual scholars, in accordance with their own interests. Wieder was responsible for filling a number of such boxes (subsequently conserved in volumes) with items that dealt almost exclusively with liturgy.

He was also in those years a close colleague and collaborator of the late Dr J. L. Teicher, then Lecturer in Rabbinics at the University of Cambridge, who played an important role in drawing attention to the Genizah's importance and the need to make institutional arrangements for its conservation, description and research.

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[Michael Klein]

Michael Klein

Michael Klein

The untimely death of Michael L. Klein at the age of 60 has greatly saddened his scholarly colleagues in general and his fellow Genizah researchers in particular.

Klein came to Genizah research via his interest in the history of targumic literature, a subject he took up in the course of his doctoral studies under Professor Menahem Haran at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1970s.

He began to publish Genizah texts in 1978 and his scholarly articles over the subsequent twenty years include some fourteen that deal directly with fragments, as well as many others that touch on the Genizah material.

Two of Klein's books were also dedicated to this topic. The Hebrew Union College Press in Cincinnati published in 1986, in two volumes, his Genizah Manuscripts of Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch. Cambridge University Press followed in 1992 with his Targumic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections in the University Library's "Genizah Series";.

It was during his various stays at the University of Cambridge that he was able to make excellent progress with such studies. He was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall and a Visiting Research Associate at the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit in 198788 and a Senior Visiting Scholar at St John's College in 1995.

He was very popular with all those with whom he came into contact in these Colleges as well as in the University Library and in the various faculties.

While he held the Deanship of the Hebrew Union College campus in Jerusalem he often made the Genizah a theme of the visiting lectures he arranged, and he responded to an invitation to contribute a piece to an earlier issue of this newsletter (see Genizah Fragments number 30, October 1995, page 2).

One of the first volumes to be made available in electronic form on the Unit's web site was his Targumic Manuscripts volume, and on-line images are gradually being added to these descriptions.

His last article was "Targumic Studies and the Cairo Genizah";, the text of a lecture given at Cambridge University Library in 1998.

It has been prepared for publication in a volume shortly to go to press under the title Fragments Found and Fathomed: An Introduction to the Cambridge Genizah Collections, to be published by Cambridge University Press for Cambridge University Library.

The Library has fittingly agreed, at the suggestion of the volume editor and the Unit's steering committee, to dedicate the volume to Klein's memory.

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How you can help the T-S Genizah 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: Professor 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 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 10 (UK) or $18 (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, the American Friends of Cambridge University support the Taylor-Schechter Collection with their unfunded grant number 7/78. If you are interested in supporting this AFCU project, please contact the Director of the Annual Appeal at: 708 Third Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel: 212-880-2840). 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. Contributions are similarly deductible in Canada even if made directly to Cambridge.

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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; last updated January 2002