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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. 29 April 1995

Images of the Letter: Page 1 (440KB); Page 2 (420KB); Page 3 (430KB); Page 4 (400KB).

In this Edition:

New index for Goitein

No student of Genizah texts can fail to acknowledge the centrality of S. D. Goitein's A Mediterranean Society published in five volumes by the University of California Press (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London) between 1967 and 1988.

Although each of these volumes contained an index, it did not cover the notes and appendices, nor was reference made (except in the first volume) to the individual Genizah fragments.

Goitein was aware of these shortcomings and was in the process of preparing a cumulative index volume when he died in 1985.

This work has now been thoroughly completed by his student, Paula Sanders, and published as the sixth volume of A Mediterranean Society entitled Cumulative Indices(lSBN 0-520-08136-6).

As well as including a general index and a list of Genizah texts cited, this valuable reference tool also notes all citations of scriptural, rabbinic and Maimonidean texts.

Sanders also briefly refers to the work of the Genizah Research Unit in her preface and notes the use made of one of the volumes in its Genizah Series:

"The order of classmarks in the collections of the Cambridge University Library, which comprise the major part of the geniza documents cited in Goitein's work, has been changed to follow that established in Stefan Reif'sPublished Material from the Cambridge Genizah Collections: A Bibliography 1896-1980 (Cambridge,1988), an invaluable reference work which users of this index will certainly consult.

"In addition, the citations in this index have been checked against Reif's citations, and corrections have been noted and cross-referenced."

The twelfth meeting of the Hebraica Libraries' Group was held at Jews' College and was attended by librarians and curators representing various collections in the British Isles. The thirteenth meeting is scheduled to be held at Cambridge University Library on 26 April,1995. .

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Christie's display Genizah gems

The University of Cambridge has made as great an impact on mankind as any institution in the world.

From Newton's theory of gravity, Darwin's theory of evolution, and J. J. Thomson's discovery of the electron, to twentieth-century breakthroughs such as the splitting of the atom and the identification of DNA as the secret of life, scientific firsts at Cambridge have led to fundamental changes in the world as we know it.

Foundations for the Future, a major exhibition looking to the past and the future, was mounted by the University in January and hosted by Christie's the auctioneers in London. It reflected on eight centuries of achievement and highlighted some of the leading research which keeps Cambridge in the vanguard of world-wide academic excellence.

The exhibition covered a wide range of subjects and contained a great variety of artefacts and archive material. It provided a fresh insight into the University - its purpose and aims - by illustrating its heritage and the outstanding contribution it continues to make to the modern world.

One of the cases at the exhibition was devoted to the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection. Its origin and scholarly uniqueness were described in a side panel, and an enlarged photograph of Solomon Schechter at work on his fragments in 1898 was used as a backdrop for the display of three items from the Collection.

Those chosen were T-S 6K3, specimen of a fragment as received from Cairo; T-S 12.192, an autograph letter of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204); and T-S K5. 13, a tenth-century child's Hebrew primer.

[The Exhibit]
The T-S Genizah Unit's exhibit at Foundations for the Future

(Size of full image = 180KB)

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Untapped sources for accountants

In 1844, an American writer, J. C. Colt, ventured the opinion that the Italians picked up all they knew of double-entry book-keeping from Alexandria or some other eastern city.

This comment, and a similar statement by the Scottish author of an earlier accounting text, led me to investigate the possibility that translations of selected Genizah fragments would reveal progenitors of the Italian method of double-entry.

While the Italian method of book-keeping was made known to the world by the publication of Pacioli's Summa in 1494, it had been used at Genoa and other Italian city states as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century.

Soon after my Genizah research began, I appreciated that it was unlikely that necessary and sufficient evidence for an incontestable case would be found in the Taylor-Schechter Collection. As Shelomo Dov Goitein noted in Economic Foundations (the first volume of A Mediterranean Society), "not a single complete account book from the classical Genizah period has come down to us."

Yet, as the essence of mediaeval double-entry was form and content, it seemed possible to discern progenitors of these elements, particularly form, on a single fragment.

Form involved the use of concomitant concepts that we now call "debits" and "credits," and the recording of such entry combinations on waste book, journal and ledger sheets. This form is repetitive and is obvious to someone who understands the accounting process.

In contrast, content can be revealed only by an expert translator. Goitein was aware of this and, in a 1966 article in the Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, he provided a set of translated bankers' accounts "in order to enable those who have no direct access to them to participate in their elucidation."

Professor Goitein's long-standing invitation was accepted in my paper published in Accounting Business and Financial History (1994, No. 1).

The ABFH paper makes known to those interested in the history of accounting that the form of one twelfth-century banker's account was bilateral that is, one column was used for debits and another for credits and that the use of this form preceded similar use in Italy.

Early Italian single- and double-entry records were in paragraph form, in which debits were recorded above credits or vice versa.

It is anticipated that the article in ABFH will attract accounting academics to the Taylor-Schechter and other Genizah collections, because they are virtually untapped and potentially rich sources of accounting history.

In another article, published in the Accounting Historians Journal (June, 1994), I attributed the lack of recognition and progress in the search for Judaeo-Arabic progenitors of late mediaeval and modern accounting concepts and practices to two factors.

In the first place, most academics who are versed in accounting history do not possess the skills necessary to translate Genizah fragments. Secondly, extant translations of business accounts and financial statements are few and have not been published in toto and in conjunction with copies of the originals.

S. D. Goitein and Moshe Gil, for example, provided extracts from hundreds of business documents, but, in the absence of complete translations and copies of original documents, their importance to accounting history cannot yet be assessed.

Senior Lecturer in Commerce, La Trobe University, Melbourne

[T-S NS 321.7(a)]
T-S NS 321.7 (a)
, one of the sets of mediaeval Jewish accounts discussed by Australian researcher Michael Scorgie
(Size of full image = 200KB)

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Library looks to use of CD-Rom

A leading health scientist, well known in the University of Cambridge for his academic work, but also for his expertise in the intricacies of its administration and his concern for the welfare of the University Library, has recently taken over as Chairman of the Library Syndicate.

Dr Anthony W. F. Edwards, Doctor of Science, Reader in Biometry, and Fellow of Gonville & Caius College, follows Emeritus Professor Derek Brewer, who served as Chairman for thirteen years.

In the Syndicate's first annual report under its new Chairman, reference was again made to the work of the Genizah Research Unit, as part of the Library's Oriental Division. Particular tribute was paid to its financial supporters:

"Dr Reif's energetic direction of the Taylor-Schechter Unit has not been diminished by his responsibilities as Head of the Division: it has simply been extended.

"Research output in the Unit continued unabated, and his own latest publication, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer, published by Cambridge University Press, is prime evidence of that.

"A record sum of £73,500 was received from external sources, including significant contributions from the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy, St John's College Cambridge and the American Friends of Cambridge University.

"The list of donors to the Unit is too extensive to cite here, but no one should be in doubt of the Library's gratitude to those and to its many other benefactors."

In the Syndicate's second report under its new Chairman, reference was made to the fact that "the international scholarly reputation of the Genizah Unit has long been acknowledged."

It was also reported that "the newsletter Genizah Fragments, which has a large international following of both scholars and lay people, appeared with customary promptness and contained important articles."

The Syndicate's view was that "the numerous activities of the Director and his staff, giving lectures, teaching ..., fund-raising, publishing, contributing to television and radio, these and so much more have a world dimension."

Dr Edwards also chaired the last two meetings of the Steering Committee for the Unit, made up of representatives of the University Library and the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

In the first of these, the Committee resolved to retain the general format of Genizah Fragments as it had recently developed; to enquire into the possibility of mounting exhibitions to mark the centenary of the Taylor-Sehechter Genizah Collection in1996-97; and to obtain an estimate of the cost of reproducing the Library's Genizah holdings on CD-Rom.

At the second meeting, the Committee agreed to examine the various ways of providing digital access to the Cambridge Genizah fragments; to co-operate with institutions in New York and Jerusalem for the joint celebration of the acquisition of the Taylor-Schechter Collection in 1896-97; and to thank the retiring University Librarian, Dr F. W. Ratcliffe, and the retiring Regius Professor of Hebrew, Professor J. A. Emerton, for their contributions to the Committee over the years.

[Digital images]
Photographer Les Goodey
creating digital reproductions
(Size of full image = 170KB)

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From the Editor's Desk

Having delivered fourteen lectures on the Cambridge Genizah fragments in recent weeks at various institutions in the USA and Israel, I am now in a position to report on the general standing which the work of the Unit enjoys at both academic and popular levels.

It is gratifying to have found a widespread recognition of the importance of the Collection, a repeated acknowledgement of the centrality of the Unit's projects for Hebrew and Jewish studies, and a high opinion of Cambridge Genizah researchers.

One leading professor in New York declared that the most important research projects on Hebrew manuscripts were those relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the St Petersburg treasures and the Genizah Collection at Cambridge.

If such views confirm the Unit's international reputation as a centre of academic excellence, the recent decision of the Higher Education Funding Council of England to support the creation of a number of short-term research posts relating to Genizah material at Cambridge University Library (to be reported in detail in the next issue of Genizah Fragments) demonstrates that those scholars best acquainted with this country's manuscript resources see the work of the Genizah Unit as of national significance.

The University of Cambridge has also, by and large, supported Genizah research here and has made genuine efforts to compensate for the periods of apathy and even neglect that can unquestionably be identified in the century since the pioneering efforts of Schechter and Taylor.

There are occasional indications that inadequate assessments of Hebrew manuscript research and mediaeval Jewish studies are not entirely absent from the local scene, but the Unit's continuing successes and research productivity will undoubtedly contribute to a growing respect for these important areas of academic endeavour. It is one of the tasks of Genizah researchers to educate towards that end.

Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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Haskell Isaacs dies at 80.

[Dr Isaacs]
Dr Haskell Isaacs
, who died recently in Cambridge at the age of 80
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Dr Haskell Dawood Isaacs, whose knowledge of Jewish and Islamic medicine in the Middle Ages was surpassed by few scholars, has died in Cambridge at the age of 80. Dr Isaacs' years in Manchester and later in Cambridge - he had been a Research Associate in the Genizah Unit since 1983 - were rich in professional achievement, scholarly activity and communal involvement.

Born in 1913 into a Baghdadi Jewish family with strong ethnic and cultural commitments, Haskell - as he was widely and fondly known - was exposed to the cultural influences of Britain and France that pervaded the Iraq of his youth.

He attended a school run by the Alliance Israelite Universelle and received a thorough training in medicine at the Royal College of Medicine in Baghdad.

Haskell arrived in Britain in 1945. Following his marriage to Ruth Lewis, a warm and gentle personality with outstanding musical talents and wide cultural interests, the couple settled in Greater Manchester.

It was there that he practised as a kind, cheerful and tolerant family doctor for 34 years and there that he and Ruth brought up their son and daughter, David and Ann, with the finest family values.

Despite home commitments, night calls and a busy practice, Haskell found the time to deepen his knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew and Arabic sources relating to Jewish medical activities in the mediaeval oriental world.

He developed a close relationship with the department of Semitics at the University of Manchester, both as a student and, later, as an honorary lecturer and was awarded his MA (with a thesis on Al-Ghazali) in 1956.

Thirteen years later, he gained his PhD for a dissertation on Isaac Israeli's Book of Fevers and began to publish important material on the history of medicine.

When the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge required a scholar to prepare a volume describing the hundreds of medical texts in the Taylor-Schechter Collection, all the experts in the field pointed to Haskell Isaacs as the person to approach.

He was thus able to follow up his retirement with an immediate move to Cambridge and to a research post at Cambridge University Library which he occupied with distinction from 1983. When he met the Deputy Librarian, he was reminded that he had delivered him in Manchester many years earlier!

Haskell derived great joy from his contacts with students and faculty, as well as with University Library staff. He gained partictilar pleasure from the fact that he was able to complete his Medical and Para-Medical Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections and it is gratifying that Cambridge University Press was able to provide him with copies of that important volume a few weeks before he died.

He will be missed not only in the world of oriental scholarship, but also in the wider community, where he never failed to take on responsibilities and to represent high standards of learning and culture.

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Major grants for research

Two major grants have recently been received in support of the Genizah Unit's current research projects.

An award of £12,000 from the John S. Cohen Foundation is being used for the description of the Judaco-Arabic fragments and the preparation of Joseph Yahalom's Palestinian Vocalised Piyyut Manuscripts, to be published in the Genizah Series.

Dr Colin Baker's research is being supported by a grant of £5,000 from the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation.

Other generous awards have been made by the Jewish Memorial Council (£2,000); the Harbour Trust (£1,800); the Samuel Sebba Charitable Trust (£1,500); the Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Charitable Trust (£1,448); the Kessler Foundation (£1,385), whose income is derived largely from the Jewish Chronicle; and the Dr R. and Mrs Z. Kohn Charitable Trust (£1,000).

The Unit is again grateful to the Goldberg Charitable Trust (750); Mr J. C. Dwek (500); Mr and Mrs Harry Landy (500); Mr and Mrs Cyril Stein (500); Sir Trevor Chinn, of Lex Services plc (500); and Mr A. S. Oppenheimer (500) for renewals of their substantial contributions.

Further support has also been received from William Margulies (250); Hilary and Philip Maurice (250); Ruth and Conrad Morris (250); Ruth and Michael Phillips (250); Mr T. H. Reitman (250); Mrs Helen Sebba (250); Della and Fred Worms (250); Adrienne and Harvey Beckman (200); Mr S. W. Laufer (ioo); Diana and Anthony Rau (100); and Mrs Judith Samuel (100).

Financial assistance from the USA continues to be transferred to the Unit by the American Friends of Cambridge University. It includes awards of $3,000 from the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust (through Mr Seth E. Frank), and $750 from Ms Kathryn L. Johnson, of Louisville, Kentucky.

Anonymous and smaller donations amounting to £2,198 are also gratefully acknowledged.

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Views from Jerusalem

The Genizah Unit took advantage of the presence on sabbatical leave in Cambridge of four distinguished scholars from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the Michaelmas Term.

A series of lectures on the general theme "The Impact of Genizah Discoveries on Recent Scholarship" was arranged in the University Library, and each of the four specialists spoke on a topic of his choice.

Dr Menachem Kister's lecture dealt with the Hebrew fragments of the apocryphal book of Ben Sira discovered in the Genizah and was chaired by Dr Gordon Johnson, President of Wolfson College.

Dr Kister evaluated their importance and explained their significance for a better understanding of the history of the Hebrew language. He also suggested interpretations of several verses, most of them having some bearing on theological concepts.

In a lecture chaired by Dr Robert Gordon, Regius Professor elect of Hebrew, Professor Menachem Kahana explained how the discovery of tannaitic midrashim in the Genizah had provided early reliable texts for known works and restored to Hebrew literature some lost midrashim. He paid particular attention to Sifrey Zuta on Deuteronomy.

The newly appointed University Librarian, Mr Peter Fox, introduced a lecture by Professor Joseph Yahalom on the life and work of Judah Ha-Levi, with emphasis on the poet's last years in Egypt and the Holy Land.

Professor Yahalom evaluated the many poems and letters discovered in the Genizah and demonstrated how they illuminated the mediaeval Jewish culture of Andalusia and Ha-Levi's attempts to settle in the Jewish homeland.

Professor Haggai Ben-Shammai concluded the series with a paper on mediaeval history and religious thought, with Dr F.W.Rateliffe, University Librarian Emeritus, presiding.

In this fourth session, Professor Ben-Shammai assessed the monumental contribution of S. D. Goitein to the exploitation of Genizah material in reconstructing the lives of ordinary folk in the Mediterranean area of the Middle Ages.

He also drew attention to the manner in which the Genizah documents had highlighted the names of lost thinkers and exegetes and restored to scholarship versions of their seminal works.

It is hoped that the Genizah Unit will soon be able to publish a volume containing these four lectures, as well as other material by its researchers relating to developments in recent years.

[Prof Yahalom & Mr Fox]
University Librarian Peter Fox (right) introducing the lecture by Professor Joseph Yahalom of the Hebrew University

(Size of full image = 170KB)

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Unit's staff in demand

Papers dealing with the Cairo Genizah featured at this year's conference of the British Association for Jewish Studies held jointly for the first time with the Jewish Historical Society of England under the presidency of Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon at the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham.

Brad Sabin Hill, head of the Hebrew section at the British Library, read a paper on Moses Gaster's library and referred to Gaster's collection of some 10,000 Genizah fragments now at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

A reassessment of the Mastaura ketubah from eleventh-century Anatolia (T-S 16.374) was offered by Dr Nicholas de Lange, University Lecturer in Rabbinics at Cambridge, who made some fresh suggestions for the understanding of a number of the Judaeo-Greek terms.

The Genizah Research Unit's Dr Colin Baker gave a comprehensive survey of the Judaeo-Arabic material in the Cambridge Genizah Collections and evaluated its significance for the study of mediaeval Jewish culture.

Researchers in the Unit have been in demand at various seminars, conferences and literary meetings in recent months.

Dr Geoffrey Khan lectured in Oxford on the formularies found in the Arabic legal documents from the Cairo Genizah at the Fourth International Conference of ARAM, a society promoting studies of culture in the Syro-Mesopotamian area. He also lectured at the Society for Old Testament Studies in London and at the Centre for the Study of Judaism and Judaeo-Christian Relations in Birmingham. Mediaeval Karaite Bible translations were the subject of Dr Meira Polliack's lecture to the Seminar in Mediaeval Jewish Language and Literature at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and her address to the Cambridge Seminar in Hebrew and Jewish Studies and of her paper at the annual meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies in Boston.

The Director of the Unit, Dr Stefan Reif, spoke to the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem on Genizah fragments of Passover liturgy, and to the Society for Jewish Study in London on unusual Hebrew prayers from the Genizah.

He also gave an overview of mediaeval Jewish liturgy to the Oxford Seminar in Mediaeval Jewish History, and lectured at the William Robertson Smith Centenary Congress at the University of Aberdeen and at the winter meeting of the Society for Old Testament Study held in Oxford.

Dr Reif's Sunday and evening course on the Genizah's importance for Jewish history, given at Birkbeck College in the University of London, was attended by about a dozen students.

Among more popular presentations were those given to the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society, Southend Hebrew Congregation, Cambridge Library Group, Jewish Memorial Council Seminar, United Synagogue, Liverpool branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Leo Baeck College, Ely Diocesan trainees, Highgate Forum, Cambridge University Jewish Society, Yakar Study Centre and the Redbridge Jewish Community Centre.

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Boost from Bermant

In a recent contribution to the Jewish Chronicle, columnist Chaim Bermant briefly turned his attention to the latest book written by the Director of the Unit, Dr Stefan Reif, to Cambridge University Press, and to the Genizah Collection.

His comments were a welcome fillip for the Unit's research and publication activities: "If you are intrigued, as I am, by the evolution of Jewish liturgy, I can recommend a book which may be the answer to your prayers.

"It is by Stefan Reif and is called Judaism and Hebrew Prayer. It is published by Cambridge University Press and, as the CUP believes that anyone who can read at all can't be short of cash, it will set you back 40 - though I gather that a paperback edition will be appearing in the spring.

"Dr Reif is well equipped to write on the subject for, as custodian of the Genizah collection in the Cambridge University Library, he has long been scrutinising fragments from our prayer books, some of which are more than a thousand years old."

The paperback edition of Judaism and Hebrew Prayer was indeed published by Cambridge University Press last month at the very reasonable price, for its 450 pages, of 15.95 in the UK and $19.95 in the USA (ISON 0-521-48341-7).

In a recent review (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 58), Dr Irving Jacobs welcomed Reif's fresh assessment of post-talmudic liturgical developments "in the light of the information yielded by the scholarly analysis of material discovered in the Cairo Genizah."

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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-Schechtcr 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 on (01223) 333160.

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 (USA/Canada), Mr Stephen C. Price, at 466 Lexington Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017, USA. Transfers of such funds are regularly made 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.

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Edited by Stefan C. Reif and printed by the University Printing Services of Cambridge University Press

If you have any questions, please e-mail genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk
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