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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. 30 October 1995

Images of the Letter: Page 1 (390KB); Page 2 (380KB); Page 3 (380KB); Page 4 (380KB).

In this Edition:

T-S Unit may become envy of the world

[Dr de Lacey]
Dr Douglas de Lacey, author of the article below, arranges original, on-screen and enlarged versions of a Genizah fragment

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One of the oldest collections of documentary evidence of everyday Jewish life will soon be at the forefront of modern technology. I am delighted to have been appointed to arrange this.

For many years, I have been involved in the production of catalogues for the Genizah Research Unit while working at the University's Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre. As reported alongside, Cambridge University Library has now been awarded a grant from the HEFCE to fund a pilot project in the Taylor-Schechter Unit. My move here will enable me to concentrate on developing an electronic resource that may turn out to be the envy of the world.

The first step has been to ensure the preservation of all the information entered on the University's elderly mainframe computer, which is currently being decommissioned; this has all been transferred to its replacement. New programs will have to be written to continue the vital work of turning the raw input into printed catalogues, bibliographies and indexes.

But our long-term plans embrace far more than this. The computer files that produce our high quality printed works are stuffed with electronic codes that make them readable only by machines. Our funding will enable us to turn some of our catalogues into a form that will be readable on screen, allowing other scholars instant access to this invaluable archive.

If a successful pilot project enables us to attract further funding, we shall be in a position to create an unprecedented electronic archive.

Recent developments in information technology, particularly the World-Wide Web, mean that the potential is unlimited. My dream is of a Web page containing full catalogues and bibliographies, texts and images of all the documents.

Imagine the possibilities! You are interested in the link between medicine and magic. You access our Web page, and ask for a search on those two words. Among the results, you see several promising leads. You can immediately call up the appropriate bibliography, to be worked through at leisure, and discover the most relevant of the Genizah materials for your purpose.

You now have on screen the edited Hebrew text possibly a translation, and a high-quality picture of the document. Perhaps it is damaged at a crucial point, but your own earlier researches suggest to you a reconstruction un-noticed by the original editor.

Excitedly, you work at your own paper, which you decide to offer to the Unit, so that subsequent scholars interested in this manuscript will now be able to read your study on-line, or download it for themselves.

The value of such developments is not limited to those who are on the information super-highway and who understand the jargon of the World-Wide Web. Another way in which this material could be made available is through a CD-ROM.

This work will enable the Unit to continue to expand its researches into this crucially important material, and the publications that result.

Douglas De Lacey
Research Assistant

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Funding council's £68,000 grants

Following the recommendations of the review of academic libraries chaired by Professor Sir Brian Follett in 1993, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has included the Genizah Research Unit among a number of projects at Cambridge University Library that will receive special funding.

As part of HEFCE's policy to support work on specialized research collections, and on making their contents available to a wide body of scholars, a grant of £68,000 has been earmarked for Genizah research in the current year, and similar annual funding will be available over the next three to four years.

Among the Unit's projects benefiting from the consequent appointment of young researchers are the preparation and dissemination of additional volumes in the Genizah Series, and the upgrading of computer technology to improve access to the Genizah Collection.

Two appointments have already been made and are reported in this issue. Other young scholars will shortly be sought in the fields of Judaeo-Arabic, liturgy and rabbinics.

A substantial sum has been promised by the Dwek Family Charitable Trust, of Manchester, to facilitate the production of a popular and attractive book on the Genizah Collection; and Mr Aryeh Rubin, of New York, has committed major funds for the creation of educational material on CD based on the contents of the Genizah.

The Unit is indebted for renewals of their important awards to the Jewish Memorial Council (£2,000); the Sobell Foundation (£1,250); and the Athelney Charitable Trust (£1,000). Dr Colin Baker's research was also supported by a £1,000 grant from the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation.

Generous contributions have been received from Mrs Marjorie Glick (£533); Mr and Mrs Cyril Stein (£500); Mr Felix Posen (£500); Mrs Audrey Burton (£400); Sir Sigmund Sternberg (£250); Mr Jack Lunzer (£250); and Mrs Chinita Abraham-Curiel (£200).

Among others who have supported the Unit's efforts are Mr Cesare Sacerdoti (£150); Mr Geoffrey Ognall (£125); Mr Stephen Rubin (£125); Mr Maurice Khalastchi (£100); Mr David Pinto (£100); Mr E. E. Rosenbluth (£100); Mrs Judith Samuel (£00); Mrs Miriam Shenkin (£100); and Mr Lwn Sterling (£100).

The additional sum of £2,213 was received from various other sources, including the American Friends of Cambridge University and several anonymous donors. The Unit gratefully acknowledges all such helpful interest.

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Thriller's beneficial liaison

Ileen Maisel, Hollywood film producer (of Dangerous Liaisons fame), now working in London at Hat Trick Productions, and script-writer Sue Michie are planning to bring the excitement of Hebrew manuscript research to the cinema. They are currently preparing a thriller in which one of the central characters becomes fascinated with the messages conveyed in Hebrew texts from the ancient and mediaeval worlds. Since Cambridge and the Genizah Collection may feature in the film, discussions have been held with the Director of the Genizah Unit, Dr Stefan Reif, to clarify the historical and literary background and to ensure accuracy of detail.

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Targumic texts as mnemonic device

[T-S AS 67.26]
T-S AS 67.26
, a typical example of a shorthand targumic fragment
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The Cambridge Genizah archive remains a continuing source of discovery for almost every field of Jewish studies. This is what attracts scholars world-wide to visit and revisit the Research Unit. For some, it becomes an annual pilgrimage.

In 1979, 1 began searching for mediaeval copies of Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch - ancient Aramaic translations of the Bible composed during the early centuries of the Common Era in the Land of Israel.

After several brief visits, and the resulting publication of the Palestinian Targum manuscripts, I devoted a year's sabbatical in 1987-88 to scanning the Cairo Genizah material for all of its targumic texts. This led to the publication of a descriptive catalogue of approximately 1,600 fragments, Targumic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections (Cambridge, 1992).

In the course of this work, many interesting and important new compositions came to light, each worthy of full scholarly treatment and publication. I shall offer two examples in this article and deal with another in the next issue of Genizah Fragments.

There are a number of fragments of targumic Masorah in the Genizah collections, and I shall return to them shortly.

Professor of Bible and Targum, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem ;
Visiting Scholar, St John's College, Cambridge

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Genizah throws light on new finds

The rich heritage of the beautiful city of Copenhagen could not have provided a better backdrop for the fifth congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies. Nor, for that matter, could Denmark - with its heroic attempts to protect this heritage, as well as its Jewish community during Nazi occupation - provide a more suitable setting for a congress devoted to "Jewish Studies in a New Europe.''

The Genizah material at Cambridge University Library figured prominently, both as a subject in itself and with reference to almost every field of study concerned with mediaeval Jewish literature and history.

Among those devoting their talks to particular fragments within the Genizah Collection was Peter Hayman, who discussed "The Date of the Wisdom Text from the Cairo Genizah."

His paper examined recent contradictory theories concerning the placing and dating of the Genizah Wisdom Text to the end of the ninth century CE in Babylonia (by Fleischer), to c. 100 CE in Egypt (by Berger) and to the twelfth century CE in "the eastern diaspora" or Spain (by Ruger).

Hayman explored the unreliability of the criteria used for these datings and concluded with an attempt to place the Genizah Wisdom Text and similar texts, such as Sefer Yesirah and Midrash Aleph-Beth, against the background of a pluralistic Judaism in the mid-first millennium CE.

Meira Polliack also discussed specific aspects of the Genizah collection in a paper on "Arabic Bible Translations in the Cairo Genizah Collection," in which she attempted an initial survey of the different types and styles of Arabic Bible translation attested in folders Ar. 1a-c and 21-28 of the Old Series.

Roughly calculated, these folders contain some 1,300 translation fragments and provide an optimal concentrated source for the study of the entire corpus of Arabic Bible translations found in the Cairo Genizah, which total around 2,000 fragments.

This is due to the better physical condition of the fragments in the Arabic folders and to the fact that they encompass the full range of Arabic translation types known in Judaeo-Arabic literature from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries.

Polliack discussed five major translation types identified in this corpus, which comprised texts attributed to Saadiah Gaon (882-942); texts attributed to Karaite exegetes such as Yefet ben `Eli; texts written in the late Judaec Arabic style known as Sharh ; texts identified as pre-Saadianic; and Arabic vocabulary lists of translated Hebrew words and expressions from various biblical books. The paper demonstrated the range, variety, significance and contribution of the Genizah sources to an understanding of the popular background and functions of Arabic Bible translation among Jews of mediaeval times.

In these and other talks throughout the congress, the centrality of the Cairo Genizah Collection for the study of the Jewish Middle Ages was continually re-emphasized, as was the enormity of the task still awaiting scholars in reaching a deeper understanding of the Genizah's potential, through long-term study of its Hebrew and Arabic sources.

The congress served to sharpen an awareness of the ever-changing and vital role of the Cairo Genizah, not only as a world in itself, but also as a touchstone for the evaluation of the new mediaeval material emerging from the Firkovitch collections in St Petersburg.

Research Associate

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Providing openings for young scholars

From the Editor's Desk

Short-term research contracts funded from external sources are not a particularly popular phenomenon in academic circles. They offer no security to young scholars, often alter the preferred interests of a department, and put directors of projects under constant pressure to seek new sources of funding.

But as a means of complementing established and tenured staff with a supply of additional researchers, they are invaluable. They provide post-doctoral researchers with their first posts, force deparrments to widen what are sometimes narrow interests, and challenge those responsible for research topics to create fresh initiatives.

The danger of becoming staid, and even stale, in one's activities and interests is therefore considerably reduced. Research projects that might not otherwise be undertaken may be successfully completed in a relatively short time.

Since its inception in 1974, the T-S Genizah Research Unit has been staffed by short-term researchers who have made important contributions to the previously long-neglected description of the Cambridge Genizah material, before going on to impressive academic appointments at various centres arround the world. Simon Hopkins in Jerusalem, Eleazar Gutwirth in Tel Aviv, Paul Fenton in Strasbourg, Avi Shivtiel and Malcolm Davis in Leeds, and Geoffrey Khan in Cambridge all began their scholarly careers with periods in the Unit and now hold senior posts in their respective fields.

And this year the Unit bids farewell to Colin Baker, who takes up an appointment at the British Library with responsibilities for its Arabic collection; and to Meira Polliack, who returns to Israel as a Lady Davis Research Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The catalogue of the Judaeo-Arabic fragments in the Cambridge Genizah Collections that will shortly be published is substantially the work of these two promising young scholars and stands as testimony to their expertise and industry.

We welcome in their place Douglas De Lacey, who is already ensuring major steps forward in the computerization of many of the Unit's activities; and Erica Hunter , who will shortly take responsibility for a supplement to the earlier bibliography of Cambridge Genizah publications covering the years 1980 to 1995.

Among the part-time staff, Professor Joseph Yahalom has returned to Jerusalem after a sabbatical in Cambridge, during which he supervised the preparation of the first proofs of his catalogue of Palestinian vocalized piyyutim . Dr E. J. Wiesenberg has finally been forced by declining health to bring his Cambridge visits to an end in his eighty-sixth year, while Cambridge Hebrew student Rina Gilinsky has added to the excitement of her studies with a summer job assisting in the Unit.

Our grateful thanks go to all who have helped in the past, and best wishes for every success are extended to those who are now assisting our efforts.

Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

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1,066 and all that...

[Mrs Reif and Dr Engel]
Mrs Shulie Reif (left) and Dr Edna Engel compiling palaeographical data for the Hebrew manuacript catalogue

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After some five hundred years of collecting precious (non-Genizah) Hebrew manuscripts, Cambridge University Library will soon have its first comprehensive catalogue providing details of each of them.

Work on the history, content and physical description of 1,066 items is now complete, and publication by Cambridge University Press in its Oriental Series should take place next year.

The Genizah Reseach Unit assumed responsibility for the catalogue some years ago, and the basic work has been done by Dr Stefan Reif; assisted by his wife, Shulie.

Incoporating the earlier work of Solomon Mircus Schiller-Szinessy, Solomon Schechter, Herbert Loewe, Raphael Loewe and James Pearson, and Jacob Leveen, it has also benefited from worldwide scholarly co-operation and has exploited the latest scholarly publications. Further details of this major volume will appear in a future issue of Genizah Fragments.

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E-mail contact

Those in touch with the Genizah Research Unit by electronic mail should note a change in the arrangements and amend their records accordingly. Dr Stefan Reif's office may now be reached by the use of the address scr3@cam.ac.uk from anywhere in the world. An answering machine has also been installed in the office, and messages may be left on those occasions when no member of the staff is present.

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Anthology of Ha-Levi poems

The widespread presence of Judah Ha-Levi's poetry among the literary fragments from the Cairo Genizah is not surprising in view of the fact that he joined the Jews of Egypt at the peak of his fame, and while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The figure of the great poet never ceased to occupy the attention of Egyptian Jewry, as attested by the degree to which they cherished collections of his poetry.

Our knowledge of a private diwan (comprehensive anthology) of Judah Ha-Levi's poems, collated during his lifetime by an Alexandrian admirer, comes from a Genizah letter discovered by S. D. Goitein (T-S 13J24.8).

The letter was sent to the poet while he was in Cairo, informing him, among other things, that his Alexandrian host - himself a poet and scholar - had incorporated the poems written by his guest in his honour into a diwan, with Arabic headings.

The classic editor of the Judah Ha-Levi diwan was R. Hiyya al Maghribi, whose work the later editor, R. Yeshu'ah b. Eliyahu Ha-Levi, followed almost blindly. The latter's principles of redaction were, however, special.

A 13th- to 14th-century copy of his work is preserved in the Bodleian. It demonstrates that he had a keen perception of form, distinguishing between poems with a quantitative metre (mainly secular ones), poems with a syllabic metre (mainly sacred ones), and poems with inexact metres (and rhymed prose).

Interestingly, it seems that among the earlier fragments of the Cairo Genizah there are remnants of a diwan which makes similar distinctions. Fragments of sixty-eight folios of this diwan have so far been identified in the Genizah, and the liturgical section seems substantially in agreement with Yeshu`ah's parallel section.

After the Arabic rubric, "And these are from his ... liturgical pieces," we find a group of syllabic, scanned poems identical to the parallel ones preserved in Yeshu`ah's diwan, and in exactly the same order (T-S H15.20 + ENA 2158.14).

About the provenance of this diwan we know no more than that its fragmentary remains were scattered in the Cairo Genizah. We can, however, glean from Genizah material information about the background of Yeshu`ah, the editor of the parallel diwan.

A document issued in old Cairo in 1228 bears the name of "Our rabbi and teacher, Yeshu`ah Ha-Levi ... son of our rabbi and teacher, Eliyahu, pride of the Levites." Additionally, in a document from 1244, the same person is referred to as "the highly distinguished and pious scholar, our leading teacher and rabbi." The editor's name, his father's name, and even his designation as a Levite, are identical.

According to these documents, the editor must have been a well-to-do Cairene figure (T-S 13J4.3 and T-S 20.98).

From the extent of Yeshu`ah's acquaintance with muwashshah (strophic) poetry and tunes, S. M. Stern concluded that he must have lived in the mid-twelfth or, at the latest, thirteenth century. He surmised that Yeshu`ah lived in Spain, where muwashshah poetry originated and was popular during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The fact is, however, that a generation prior to Yeshu`ah, the famous Arabic washshah poet, Ibn Sana' al-Mulk (1155-1211), was active in old Cairo. He was especially well versed in Andalusian muwashshah poetry and is also known for his composition of the most important ars poetica of the muwashshah discipline.

It follows that Yeshu`ah may also have been active in similar Cairene circles, although somewhat later - in the first half of the thirteenth century.

There is yet further evidence in New York (JTS MS Adler 515) of an Egyptian copy of Yeshu'ah's diwan. At the beginning of this manuscript, we are informed that the copy was made from a manuscript of the diwan found in Egypt in 1557.

Our diwan did not travel far. In 1839, the Bodleian manuscript of Yeshu`ah's diwan was purchased in Tunis for S. D. Luzzatto - and modern Judah Ha-Levi scholarship began.

Professor of Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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"GF" passes milestone

[Mrs McGivern]
Mrs Sandra McGivern preparing to dispatch copies of Genizah Fragments

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With this thirtieth issue, Genizah Fragments completes its fifteenth year of publication.

There are currently over 1,400 names on its mailing list, and each issue is sent out from the Genizah Unit office by Mrs Sandra McGivern, who has been conscientiously doing secretarial work there since 1987.

At its last meeting, the Steering Committee for the Unit resolved to request annotated texts of their papers from the leturers at last year's series on "The Impact of Genizah Discoveries on Recent Scholarship."

The plan is to publish these together with an appendix containing a reprint of the first thirty issues of Genizah Fragments and extensive indexes.

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Ten lectures in the USA

During a hectic nine-day period in February, Dr Stefan Reif Director of the Unit, delivered ten lectures in New York, Washington DC, and Maryland.

The two major presentations were a talk on the uniqueness of the Genizah archive, arranged by the Cambridge University Development Office at the Harvard Club in New York; and an assessment of the impact of the Genizah material on Bible studies, sponsored by the Washington Foundation for Jewish Studies (directed by Rabbi Joshua Haberman) at the Embassy of lsrael.

Other topics, covered through the good offices of the Washington Foundation, included the history of Jewish liturgy (at the Kemp Mill Synagogue), and aspects of Hebrew studies in nineteenth-century Cambridge (at the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies in the University of Maryland).

The visit concluded with a meeting of the Genizah Centenary Committee held at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and presided over by the Librarian, Dr Mayer Rabinowitz.

Further progress was made in the plans for a major exhibition of Genizah material, an appropriate publication, and various lecture series.

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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: 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 he reached by fax (01223) 333160.

Readers not already supporting the Unit are asked to help ensure the continuity of this publication by making a 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, N.Y. 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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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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