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Cairo Genizah

Jews of Cairo
Collections of Genizah Documents
History of Genizah Discoveries

Liturgy and Poetry
Historical Discoveries
Genizah Research, 1960s–1980s


The 1896 discovery of the Cairo Genizah was one of the greatest Jewish treasures ever found. It has provided the world with the some of the most important documents of the medieval Middle East.

The term genizah is a word shortened from the rabbinical Hebrew phrase bet genizah. Its counterpart in late biblical Hebrew is genez (pl. genazim, ginzei) which in Esther evidently means a treasury, as well as the term ganzak (I Chron. 28:11, ve-ganzakkav). The term ganzakkah occurs a few times in rabbinical Hebrew, along with bet genazim, in the sense of "treasury." The verbal noun genizah signifies the act of storing something away, and is used a few times with bet in the phrase bet genizah to signify a "house of storing"; subsequently, in colloquial but not literary usage, the bet was dropped and genizah alone came to mean "the [place of] storing." There are other cases of verbal nouns used as nouns of place in Semitic languages.

The Jewish custom of storing away old books and manuscripts seems to have grown out of the rabbinical rule that worn-out Torah Scrolls should be buried. Since they cannot be thrown out because they contain God's name, these documents, often called shemot or names, are put in a genizah. Genizot are usually found in the attic or basement of a synagogue, but can also be in walls or buried underground. Non-religious documents can be put there as well. Such manuscripts as a rule were only temporarily stored away in some chamber of the synagogue until such time as they were able to be given a permanent burial in the cellar or in the local cemetery; but, in time, the first process seems to have become as important as the second, and in some places, to take precedence over it. Such was the case with the genizah, or bet genizah, of the ancient synagogue of Fustat.

The term genizah (pl. genizot) should be used and understood as a generic term. There was more than one genizah. In Cairo alone there was apparently more than one such storage, or deposit place, for old, outworn writings, mostly, but not exclusively, in Hebrew script. An important genizah was at a Karaite synagogue, which was apparently the source of much of the material that came to be known as the Firkovitch Collection, housed in the National Russian Library in St. Petersburg. There were additional such institutions in other communities of the east as analyzed by Y. Khalfon-Stillman and M. Cohen.

Therefore, any genizah is not an organized comprehensive archive or deposit library. Furthermore, genizot are not representative of the daily or spiritual life of their users. Yet, they are more representative than any private archive or collection of books. In the absence of comprehensive archives and deposit libraries the importance of the genizot lies in their randomness. It is this randomness which makes the contents of genizot so varied and rich, and which kept for us organized family archives of such families who were not immortalized in "classical" sources together with haphazardly preserved documents, official documents relating to communities or persons or properties that were no longer extant and were of no interest to anybody. The same randomness also preserved for posterity complete or fragmentary literary works that at some point of time seem to have lost their attraction or importance for their owners in particular, or for the reading public at large, or for book collectors and dealers. The common denominator of almost all texts found in Cairo genizot is the Hebrew letter; not necessarily the language. The Hebrew letter was regarded holy since it was studied in the context of religious life; it was taught in order to participate in the public synagogue ceremonies and prayers, expecting children to present what they had learnt in class. The less the Hebrew language was understood the more it became holy since the sign became a symbol and reminder to the elementary studies of the language. Hence any remnants of it were regarded holy and kept in the most respectable way discards could be kept. No wonder therefore that the genizot contain all signs of documented life, even the most secular ones like bankers' accounts, merchants' lists, children's jottings, and even transliterations of other religious texts as the Koran or the New Testament or any scientific text.

A large section of the material relevant both to history, i.e., documents, and religious thought, as in fact many other areas of knowledge and learning, is in Judeo-Arabic. Hebrew translations to Arabic and Judeo-Arabic works, started mainly in the second half of the 12th century, are rather rare among the genizot.

Jews of Cairo

The best-known genizah, the Cairo Genizah, is located in the Ezra Synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo, Egypt). For many centuries, Cairo played an important role as one of the most prominent Middle Eastern economic, political and cultural centers. Consequently, the Jews of Cairo held a leading position among Jewish communities in the region. Soon after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the late seventh century, the newly built city of Fustat became the administrative center of the country until Cairo was built adjacent to it in the 10th century. In 882, the Jews of Fostat bought and renovated the destroyed Coptic church of Saint Michael, turning it into the Ezra Synagogue.

During Fatimid rule in Egypt (969–1171) the newly-founded city of Cairo mainly served as the political and administrative center of the country and the realm. The great metropolis of Egypt was Fustat, a few miles to the south, and the majority of the Jewish population lived there. This community had a tripartite religious complexion: aside from the sectarian Karaite Jews, there were two groups of Rabbanites – the one showing allegiance to the Jewish academies of Babylonia; and the other group, the Palestinians, whose allegiance was to the Palestinian academy. These groups had many differing customs and legal regulations; they consequently possessed separate synagogues in each of which a different custom prevailed. The one which has survived until today and from which the Cairo Genizah fragments come, was not the one of the Karaites (as a number of writers formerly thought) but that of the Palestinian Rabbanite Jews. This synagogue is still standing in Old Cairo after its renovation by the World Jewish Congress in the 1980s, almost a century after the previous community renovations of the site that might have led to the discovery of the Genizah.

Many documents have been discovered during the years which throw light on the history of the synagogues of Fustat and Cairo and on the basis of them scholars traced with some exactness the important changes through which the communities passed, including the status of the waqf, or property holdings, of the several synagogues during the reign of al-Hākim. It seems most likely that due to this series of acts there is relatively little documentary material of the preceding age among the Genizah papers.

The discovery of the documents in the Cairo Genizah has been likened to the 20th century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition to valuable Biblical and Talmudic documents, it gave a detailed picture of the economic and cultural life of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean region over many centuries. No other library in the world possessed such an array of religious and private documents from the 10th to 13th centuries, when the Fatimid caliphs (10-12th centuries) and Ayyubid sultans (12th-13th centuries) ruled. The genizah revealed a wealth of information from this period, an era previously not well-known in Jewish history. Its leaves described the vital role the Jews played in the economic and cultural life of the medieval Middle East as well as the warm relations between Jews and Arabs, through community minutes, rabbinical court records, leases, title-deeds, endowment contracts, debt acknowledgments, marriage contracts and private letters. Pages from the genizah identify hundreds of previously unknown people as well as provide new information about well-known men such as theologian and philiogist Yosef al-Fayumi (842-942). More than 200 previously unknown poems by Yehuda Halevy (c. 1080-1145) were found in the genizah. Perhaps the most important papers found belong to Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides or the "Rambam," 1135-1204),the greatest medieval Jewish philosopher and physician. The genizah contained over thirty works authored by the Rambam, including commentary on some Mishna tractates and a number of letters. Before this discovery, only a few lines of original Rambam writings had ever been found.

Many genizah documents have become a unique historical source for the Middle East, providing important information for Muslim and Christian scholars in addition to Jewish ones. The rich store of linguistic works shed light on Hebrew grammar and lexicology as well as a history of Arabic dialects. Unique Arab manuscripts were found, such as the pharmacological work of 11th century doctor Ahmed Ibn Al-Djazzar and a love story of Umayyid caliph Al-Walid II dating from the mid-eighth century. There were fragments of Greek translations of the Bible by Aquila, the Covenant of Damascus and ancient Babylonian and Spanish piyyutim (medieval Jewish synagogue hymns and poems added to standard prayers of the talmudic liturgy). The Cairo Genizah also included abundant material on the history of the Karaites and numerous responsa from the Gaonic Period, including works by Saadiah ben Joseph, the gaon of Sura, in the early tenth century, and other Babylonian geonim. There was correspondence between Jews of the region to as far away as India. Fragments of the eighth century Aramaic law book by Anan ben David and other documents uncovered the laws and history of previously unknown Jewish sects such as the "Zadokites." A tenth century letter from Kiev found in the genizah provided the earliest evidence of a Jewish community existing in the Ukraine. The genizah's leaves also tell the history of the Caspian kingdom of the Khazar's and its widescale conversion to Judaism in the beginning of the ninth century. Among the most recent works are Yiddish letters and poems from the 13th to 15th centuries

Collections of Genizah Documents

The largest and most usable collection of the Ben-Ezra synagogue's Genizah manuscripts is at University Library, Cambridge, where the individual fragments were set, at the beginning, either under glass or in bound volumes, or, in the case of some thousands, were placed loosely in large shelve-boxes. Holdings are dispersed: Cambridge University Library Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, containing some 135,000–150,000 "fragments." This Genizah collection accounts apparently for about 60% of all Genizah fragments known and available today; New York – The Library, Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), has about 30,000 Genizah fragments. Smaller collections are spread out across the world, in libraries in London, Oxford, Paris Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest, Leningrad and Philadelphia.


University Library, Cambridge, possesses fragments of a papyrus scroll found in the Genizah and containing old liturgical poetry (T-S. 6). A few papyrus documents, perhaps emanating from the Genizah, are also located in the Erzherzog-Rainer Papyrus-Sammlung in Vienna and in Heidelberg. All other texts from the Genizah, however, are written either on vellum, parchment, or paper, with the preponderance of texts being written on paper. The vellum and parchment texts are either fragments of Scripture used for worship purposes (which by halakhic precept had to be written on skin) as well as for ceremonial purposes or, more importantly, old texts (10th–11th centuries) of either a literary or documentary nature. A few are written in a palimpsest way, namely, rewritten on deleted elder text. The few very old documents emanating from non-Islamic countries are written on these materials. Texts written on paper seem to have come largely into vogue during the 11th century. The paper of 11th–13th-century texts is of a heavy weight, and as a rule brown in color, whereas Genizah papers of later periods tend to be thinner and more lightly colored.

History of Genizah Discoveries

Knowledge of the existence of the Cairo Genizah spread slowly to the West. The first traveler who appears to have been there in modern times was Simon van Geldern, a grand-uncle of Heinrich Heine, who in 1752 visited Egypt and recorded in his diary that he had been to the synagogue of Elijah and made a search through the Genizah, situated within it. Although he mentioned it in his 1773 book, The Israelites on Mount Horeb, von Geldern never actually examined its contents because of the local superstition that claimed disaster would befall anyone who touched the sacred pages. 

Moshe Haim Capsutto met an Italian scholar and traveler who visited the synagogue and gave a generous description of the site and relying on this source some reconstruction of the site was suggested. Capsutto, however, did not refer to the chamber and its content. Abraham Firkovich, the Russian Karaite who on his trips to the East collected great numbers of rare, valuable, and ancient manuscripts, visited Egypt in September/October 1864 (to wit, the second half of Elul 5624) during his second visit to the Middle East (1863–65). He gave explicit and detailed descriptions about his findings and whereabouts during his visit. His main and first interest in Egypt was the Karaite genizot of Cairo, and indeed he took back with him to Crimea a substantial amount of Mss that were sold to the Russian National Library in 1876, two years after his death. The Firkovitch Collection is by far the world's largest and most important collection of Judeo-Arabic manuscripts, containing over 10,000 Judeo-Arabic manuscripts ranging in size from a single page to 800 folios. And indeed, the way Firkovitch described his work in the genizot (before arriving to Egypt and in Egypt likewise) points to a very selective method – he would choose the best of manuscripts and leave the others in order to avoid un-needed investment both in time, money, and loads. While dedicating almost all of his time to the Karaite genizah, Firkovitch visited Ben-Ezra synagogue, accompanied by the chief rabbi, R. Elijah Israel Shirizly, and claimed to be requested to take with him also the treasures of Ben-Ezra and of the Rabbanite synagogue of Alexandria. Firkovitch described in his letter to his son-in-law, Gabriel, in Russia that he saw the Ben-Ezra Genizah and planned to take care of it likewise. Shortage of money and length of his stay in the region may have accompanied his desire/haste to share his findings from this second visit with colleagues and scholars and brought him to leave the Middle East without emptying, or even taking, the Ben-Ezra hoard. According to his letters and tentative catalogues the material brought from Egypt (named by him Gefen Mitzrayim after the verse in Psalms 80:9 and also pinkas kadmoniyot shel genizat Miẓrayim) was from the Karaite genizah and Basatin cemetery, and indeed it consists of dominant Karaite material. Some important rabbinical works are testified to be owned by prominent Karaite scholars and affluent members of that community. A major question remains however whether some of the material sold to the Russian National Library came from the Ben-Ezra room, since in a few cases other parts of the same copies can be found in western libraries thought to brought from Ben-Ezra. At the same time it might as well be the case that fragments left by Firkovitch, that were originally part of the books he took with him, were brought by others to these libraries mistakenly referred to as Ben-Ezra. At this time of writing (October 2005) not all Firkovitch and other related archives have been searched and new data may clarify this point.

In the same summer of 1864, Jacob Saphir, the scribe of the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem, attempted to see the manuscripts hidden in Ben-Ezra synagogue, but he was not as fortunate as Firkovich had been. The beadle was reluctant to allow him entrance into the chamber, which he claimed to be an abode of snakes and demons; once inside, he could not get to many of the manuscripts, for the entire collection had been buried under debris that had been deposited there by workmen some years previously. He had to content himself with a few worthless scraps, but later remarked in his travel diary, "Yet who knows what else is to be found underneath?"

Toward the end of the 19th century local dealers in antiquities began the clandestine task of removing certain fragments from their old hiding place. Cyrus *Adler visited Egypt in 1891 and was able to purchase a small collection of manuscripts, which he brought back with him to the United States and later bequeathed to *Dropsie College, now the Center of Advanced Jewish Studies of the University of Pennsylvania. Oxford's *Bodleian Library also acquired about 2,600 fragments in the same way, mainly through the periodic purchases of Greville Chester and A.H. Sayce. In 1896 Elkan N. *Adler made a trip to Egypt, and while in Cairo was permitted by the Jewish communal authorities to take a sack full of Genizah documents with him; using an old Torah-mantle which they gave him for that purpose, he stuffed in as many of the documents as he safely could and took them back with him to England. These manuscripts later found their way to the U.S. and became the nucleus of the collection of the *Jewish Theological Seminary of America. By this time the fame of the Genizah, induced partly by the reports of the abovementioned travelers and partly by publications in the early 1890s of Genizah studies by Rabbi S.A. Wertheimer (who also sold fragments to the Bodleian Library), had begun to spread.

In May 1896 Mrs. A.S. Lewis and Mrs. M.D. Gibson of England brought manuscripts which they had purchased to Cambridge and showed them to Solomon Schechter, who at the time was a professor of Talmudic and rabbinical literature. Schechter recognized them as the Hebrew original Book of Wisdom, ascribed to Ben Sira. The Book of Wisdom became part of the Christian biblical cannon (Ecclesiastics) when translated into Greek. Before its discovery in the Cairo Genizah, no known Hebrew version existed, some scholars even doubted its existence.

Schechter sent word of his discovery to Adolph Neubauer at Oxford, who soon announced that he had discovered nine leaves of this same long-forgotten text among the Genizah manuscripts of the Bodleian Library. Schechter at once proposed that a trip be made to Cairo to ascertain the possibilities of bringing the Genizah treasures to England. Money was secured for this purpose from Charles Taylor, the master of St. John's College; in December 1896 Schechter sailed for Egypt, and once there proceeded immediately with his task of securing the documents. The communal authorities consented to allow him to take practically that entire precious "hoard of Hebrew manuscripts" back to England.

With Schechter's return to Cambridge the first period of activity involved in making the new manuscript sources available to the world came to an end. The old Ben-Ezra synagogue of Fustat had been almost completely emptied of its contents, which were scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and had also reached the U.S. During the years, many public and private libraries – in London, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Paris, Strasburg, Breslau, Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest, St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Kiev, Moscow, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Toronto, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem University Library – managed to acquire Genizah fragments in smaller or larger quantities, with Cambridge in the foremost place. Soon after Schechter's return to Cambridge, the time came to explore the texts themselves. The discovery among the Genizah manuscripts of fragments of Ben Sira immediately set off a search for still further remnants of this old work, and for other ancient texts which were (rightly) assumed to be hidden either among the hundreds of thousands of leaves brought back by Firkovitch and by Schechter, or in the other collections. Due to past Soviet policy which prevented access of western scholars to the Firkovitch collections, these manuscripts have been largely unknown to scholars. The vast majority of the works contained in the manuscripts are not known from other sources. Study of these manuscripts and publication of their contents is expected to revolutionize the knowledge of Judeo-Arabic culture and to be a major contribution to the study of Jewish history overall. This collection was photographed due to an agreement between the Russian National Library and the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. Scholars had access in the last decade of the 20th century to the treasures of the Firkovitch collection and a great deal of attention has been given to its deciphering and cataloguing.

Luckier were most other collections. A new period in the history of Jewish studies opens after the arrival of the fragments from Cairo to Western libraries. As scholars began their explorations ancient texts came to light – not only Hebrew sources, but Greek and Syriac ones as well. Among the Greek fragments brought to light were portions of the Jews translation made by Aquila. This translation, which differed from that of the Septuagint in being far more literal and meticulous, yet considerably less comprehensible, constituted one of the columns of the multi-versioned Jews, the Hexapla, edited by Origen in the first part of the third century. It was employed mainly by Jews in the synagogal service, but fell into disuse when Greek declined in reading and speaking by the people after the Islamic conquests. In the case of these fragments and of texts containing parts of the Palestinian Syriac version of the Jews and of the Hexapla, the original writing, while still legible, was partially effaced through long and constant use, and a later scribe had employed the parchments to copy down some Hebrew liturgical hymns which to the men of that age were undoubtedly of much greater worth than the incomprehensible words written beneath. Another fact of interest is related to a statement of Origen, to the effect that "in the more exact [biblical] versions, the Name [of God] is written in Hebrew characters – not the modern [Aramaic square] Hebrew, but the ancient [Canaanite] kind." Tallying exactly with the description given by Origen, the Greek fragments of Aquila were found to employ consistently the old Canaanite letters rather than the square characters or the Greek word for God [Kyrios] when mentioning the Tetragrammaton.

While these discoveries were in progress Schechter worked on important sectarian manuscripts. One of these turned out to be fragments of the Aramaic law book of *Anan ben David (eighth century); when added to the previously published parts of Anan's law book (edited by the Russian Jewish scholar Albert *Harkavy in 1897–98), it considerably increased understanding of the methods of this schismatic. Another short document created a sensation when finally published by Schechter in 1910. At about the turn of the century he uncovered fragments of a text containing laws and quasi-historical statements of an unknown Jewish sect; a study of the text brought him to the conclusion that the represented schismatic group was related to the "saddukiyya" especially mentioned by the Karaite writer al-*Kirkisānī as being a Jewish sect of pre-Exilic times. Since the views of this sect did not conform to those of the historical Sadducees, but in a few important respects did correspond to certain doctrines of al-Qirqisānī's "saddukiyya," Schechter judged the leaves to be fragments of a work written by "Zadokites," i.e., people belonging to the sect mentioned by al-Kirkisānī, or to a closely similar one; thus, while the text was copied down in medieval times, the document itself went back to Second Temple times. An extensive controversy over the age and importance of this text followed its publication. The discovery in 1947 and following years of the first *Dead Sea Scrolls – some of which proved to be closely related in phraseology and ideas to the Cambridge document – made it evident that Schechter had been correct in his intuition that this text had been conceived perhaps 21 centuries previously. It is not known how it came into the Genizah in fragments of two medieval copies.

Another of Schechter's early discoveries was the remains of an extensive literary epistle concerning the kingdom of the *Khazars. The ruler of this Caspian kingdom, and along with him many of his subjects, accepted Judaism before the ninth century. Some correspondence between the Khazar king Joseph and Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut had been published at the end of the 16th century and much later (in 1879) by Harkavy who used material brought from Cairo to Russia; the Cambridge document considerably increased the knowledge of the conversion and of subsequent Khazar history, and supplied many useful geographical details as well. In recent years still another Cambridge Genizah manuscript pertaining to the Khazars was discovered by N. Golb.

Information about the "*Four Captives" – Shemariah, Ḥushi'el, Moses, and Ḥanokh – who were thought to have come from Babylonia or Southern Italy in the tenth century, been captured by pirates, and subsequently sold out of captivity, and later to have founded the new seats of learning in Egypt, North Africa, and Spain, also came to light in the Cambridge documents. In this case some of the legendary stories surrounding these figures were seen as suspicious; as it could be shown from a letter of Ḥushi'el's (written by his son Hannan'el/Elhannan) that he had settled in Kairouan (now *Tunisia), after a trip there from some Christian country, probably Italy. Shemariah, on the other hand, turned out to be a native of Egypt. Thus, the whole story of the capture by pirates, as told, at least of these two sages was evidently a fabrication.

A personality which emerged most clearly from the Genizah was that of *Saadiah ben Joseph al-Fayyumi, the gaon of Sura. It became clear from Genizah texts that it was Saadiah who was chiefly responsible for conducting the struggle over the calendaric authority of the Babylonian academy which had been initiated by Aaron ben Meir, the head of the rival Palestinian school (922), and that he initiated a bitter quarrel with the exilarch, who had appointed him gaon (928), and with the latter's followers. Other polemics of his also came to light with the publication of treatises against the heretic Hiwi al-Balkhi, the masoretic scholar Aaron ben Asher, and Anan ben David and various later Karaites, many of whom fought Saadiah with equal vigor. Another side of the gaon's personality was revealed in some of his letters which were discovered during the early years of the 20th century. Many fragments of his Arabic commentary on the Jews were found, especially by Hartwig Hirschfeld, and parts of his grammatical treatises – probably the first systematic works on Hebrew grammar to be composed – were edited years afterward by S.L. Skoss, although a beginning had been made by Harkavy. Fragments of his legal (by M. Ben-Sasson and R. Brody) and philosophical (by H. Ben-Shammai and S. Stroumsa) writings were also discovered, and one manuscript emanating from his children gave the exact date of his birth (882) and the approximate time of his emigration from Egypt to Palestine, Syria, and finally Babylonia. Indeed, if all the Saadiah fragments that were discovered in the Genizah had not been found, it is unlikely that H. Malter's richly documented study of the gaon would have been possible. Much important research on the Saadiah fragments, and on the polemic literature of that age, was carried out by Moshe Zucker, Yehuda Ratzaby, Eliezer Schlossberg, and Haggai Ben-Shammai, especially on Saadiah's biblical translations and commentaries. Saadiah's poetry was enriched and studied through the reconstruction of his Siddur (S. Assaf, I. Joel, I. Davidson, E. Fleischer, R. Brody, and J. Tobi).

The search for lost writings of the gaon of Sura also led to the discovery of numerous legal responsa of the other geonim of Babylonia; many of the Hebrew ones were first edited by A. Harkavy, S. Assaf, and L. Ginzberg and later also those in Judeo-Arabic by Sh. Abramson, R. Brody, and M.A. Friedman. These fragments were of value not only for the legal discussions they contained, but also for the inadvertent descriptions which the geonim gave of the way of life pursued by their countrymen. L. Ginzberg and J. Sussman found old leaves of the Jerusalem Talmud, which were of service in clearing up numerous obscurities in the printed texts of this work. Letters of the geonim were recovered by Schechter, J. Mann, and B.M Lewin, and new discoveries were made in the field of midrashic literature. A work of considerable interest was the Book of Precepts by Ḥefeẓ b. Maẓli'aḥ, a tenth-century dignitary of *Mosul, which was published by Benzion Halper in 1915. Much work has been done on the legal and halakhic texts by S. Abramson of Jerusalem, who published works on R. Nissim Gaon and on other subjects, based mainly on Genizah manuscripts.

Another area of Genizah studies was initiated with Paul Kahle's arrival in England from Germany. A considerable number of biblical manuscripts were being discovered in the collections which exhibited different systems of vocalization from the one commonly in use (i.e., the so-called Tiberian system, with most of the vowel signs written below the line). Such texts, which possessed supra-linear punctuation, and which later were discovered to be of three different kinds, had indeed been known before. Specimens of the two "Babylonian" systems were published during the last half of the 19th century, and the third system, "punctuation of the Land of Israel," was mentioned as far back as the 12th century in Simḥah b. Samuel's Maḥzor Vitry. The Genizah fragments greatly supplemented the then-known collections of Babylonian texts and gave the first examples of the Palestinian variety. Kahle was the first to realize the possibilities inherent in the new finds and to take full advantage of them. During his several trips to England, where he settled after the advent of Nazism, Kahle copied and photographed large quantities of material, and in the course of the years was able to publish extensive studies on the biblical traditions of the Babylonian and Palestinian Jews. This was of importance not only for determining what were the various systems of punctuation, their probable dates of inception, and spheres of influence but also for arriving at the pronunciation of Hebrew, before the time of the Tiberian punctuators, in the various countries of the Arabic world where Jews lived. Furthermore, it was possible to see in what ways the ninth-century biblical scholars of Tiberias had been influenced by other traditions in evolving their own "standard" pronunciation of Hebrew.

The "punctuation of the Land of Israel" could be discovered in only a few of the Genizah biblical fragments. Kahle, however, found other kinds of texts which preserved this system – fragments of the Palestinian Aramaic translation of the Torah and a few leaves of the Mishnah and of early liturgic poetry (piyyut). Almost without exception, each of these proved to have its own particular value for the history of Hebrew vocalization. Kahle and his students contributed much to the understanding of these texts. The various texts of the Aramaic translation of the Jews which came to light were highly instructive, for they supported the view of scholars such as Geiger and Zunz that there were earlier substrata in the official Aramaic translations (Targum Onkelos to the Torah and Targum Jonathan to the Prophets). To a large extent these were preserved in Genizah manuscripts of the so-called Palestinian Targum, the author(s) of which version not only interpreted some passages differently but also added homiletic remarks. The standard Targum Onkelos itself was then able to be subjected to renewed scrutiny, as collections in the Genizah collections of fragments of this Targum were found that had been written and vocalized in Babylonia many centuries previously. This field enjoyed two more generations of scholars focusing their works on it – E.J. Revel, Y. Yahalom, I. Yevin, and I. Eldar.

The Genizah also supplied specimens of the Mishnah text vocalized in the Babylonian manner. There is, of course, no traditional Tiberian vocalization of the Mishnah, the pronunciation having been handed down orally from generation to generation. This Babylonian tradition of the pronunciation of mishnaic Hebrew, which differs considerably from that employed by Jews of the West, is corroborated to a very high degree by the living Yemenite tradition of pronouncing post-biblical Hebrew – a fact demonstrated later by H. Yalon and S. Morag.

Thus, even during the first few decades of Genizah research, outstanding discoveries were made in many fields of Jewish learning. The job of sorting out the Leningrad Fragments has been at the core of the work of several scholars over the last century, among them Harkavy, Strack, Kahle, Fenton, Sklare, Beit Arie, Glazer, Almagor, Ben-Shammai, Stroumsa, and Ben-Sasson, but it is still far from being completed. A large part of the Cambridge fragments was studied by Schechter, E.J. Worman (a librarian at Cambridge), and Hartwig Hirschfeld who published a considerable number of manuscripts. Not only the Hebrew fragments but thousands of Arabic documents were placed in their respective places in boxes, bound volumes, or – in the case of exceptionally valuable and fragile pieces – under glass. In the last decades the management of the Cambridge Genizah Research Unit has been allocating substantial attention and resources with the goal of intensive cataloguing of its collection according to subjects and fields. In Oxford, Neubauer and A. Cowley issued a catalog of the fragments deposited there; the same was accomplished at the British Museum by Margoliouth, and was eventually also done for the Adler collection at Dropsie College and the Freer Collection of Detroit (later removed to Washington). The collection given by the Russian archimandrite of Jerusalem, Antonin Kapustin, was fully described by Harkavy, who was in charge of the Hebrew collections at the Russian Imperial Library in St. Petersburg and was later published by A.I. Katsh.

The publication of important fragments from the Cairo Genizah, covering many aspects of Judaism, has continued. Many manuscripts and fragments in the various libraries of the world, particularly in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg [= Leningrad], the Schechter-Taylor collection in Cambridge and the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York (N. Danzig catalogue), have been catalogued and edited by different scholars. As a result of these, it has become possible to reconstruct the position of the Jews in Ereẓ Israel and the Middle East in the religious, cultural, and economic spheres from the 10th to the 13th centuries. On the other hand, a large number of texts and thousands of fragments remain un-catalogued, and it is estimated that there are no less than 250,000 Genizah items, of which about 50,000 deal with biblical exegesis, language, Jewish law, Talmud, and piyyut.

Liturgy and Poetry

The poetic literature of the Genizah was especially prominent and its discoveries enabled new understanding of the history of Jewish worship as well as of the diversity of Jewish literature in the late Byzantine and Muslim periods. A new field of research emerged which is credited to the discoveries of Cairo genizot – the study of the Ereẓ-Israeli [known also as Palestinian] rite of prayers and synagogue life. At an early date Kahle realized the value of the Palestinian liturgical fragments for the history of Hebrew vocalization, but the literary significance of these texts, in the minds of many scholars, was far greater. While it is quite frequently difficult to make sense of the hints and allusions of the early liturgists (paytanim), and to comprehend their poetic vocabulary, it is also true that what can be understood is often poetry of supreme beauty and fine religious feeling.

The first paytanic texts were published in facsimile at the end of the 19th century – but only for the Greek and Syriac writing which they contained underneath. Israel Davidson recognized in the later script five compositions of the early Palestinian poet Yannai, of whose writings only a single poem was known during the previous centuries. Davidson's publication (1919) marked the beginning of systematic investigations in the field of paytanic literature. Kahle's students took a considerable part in this work, as did Davidson himself. At the same time the most important step was taken with the founding, in 1930, of the Schocken Research Institute for Hebrew Poetry, which began its activities in Berlin and transferred to Jerusalem a short time after the rise of Nazism. In the first few years of its existence the Schocken Institute collected several thousand photographs of Genizah manuscripts, including many in Leningrad. Among them were scores of fragments containing the piyyutim of Yannai, on the basis of which Menahem Zulay published in 1938 a collection of over 800 compositions by this poet.

The scholars of the institute – H. Brody, J. Schirmann, A.M. Habermann, and Zulay – were chiefly responsible for knowledge of literary activities of the paytanim, and of the religious and secular poets of Spain. Brody discovered many religious poems and encomiums of Hai Gaon, Moses ibn Gikatilla, and Abraham Ibn Ezra among the Genizah fragments. A score of contemporary poems by Moses Ibn Ezra were described by Schirmann, whose success in this research was greatly aided by Genizah manuscripts. Schirmann was the first to systematically explore the poetic fragments in the libraries of England, and he catalogued these and had them photostatted for the institute. Zulay demonstrated that the paytanic literature was of a class seldom equaled in the poetic literature of the Jews. He not only discovered the writings of many of the unknown early Palestinian poets but also added immensely to the knowledge of those already known – Yannai, Kallir, and Solomon al-Sanjari. He also proved that the country which in the time of Zunz had been regarded as barren of all creative production during the early Middle Ages was in reality a center, if not the center, of paytanic activity that continued unabated until the Crusades. These poems, far from artificial, could not be considered as only a subterfuge by which the Jews sought to avoid the consequences of Justinian's decrees prohibiting the deuterosis (or study of the rabbinic exposition of Scripture). Zulay showed – on the basis of the Genizah texts – that the Jews of Palestine constantly had to add to the set prayers of the day, and inspire them with new vigor. Much important work on these texts was conducted by Ezra *Fleischer of Jerusalem through the second half of the 20th century. Fleischer represents the demand to publish broad scholarly works based on the genizot in contradiction to previous generations' work of publishing fragments and small pieces of information reflecting the excitement of the very early meeting with new material. His broad works consist of extensive reconstruction of complicated oeuvres of the time and their analysis in the broadest cultural and historical contexts. Among his works one may find an intensive analysis of the Palestinian rites based on earlier publications (J. Mann, N. Wieder, and N. Fried), correcting their partial pictures and drawing a fresh new representation of that forgotten rite; the profile of old-new poets like Sa'id Ben Babshad, Solomon the Babylonian, and even R. Judah Halevi. A group of students of Schirmann, Fleischer, and S. Spiegel of the JTS has continued the research and opened new venues: Y. Yahalom, Y. Tobi, R. Scheindlin, Sh. Elizur and T. Be'eri. In this discipline, as in any other of the Genizah research, typical publications of the fourth generation consist of two aspects – publication of extensive new material and the drawing up of a broad analysis of a substantial part of a scholarly field.

Historical Discoveries

In 1915, Jacob Mann began to search through the British collections. During 1915–20 he studied the fragmentary documents of the Genizah, gathering data for a history of the Egyptian and Palestinian Jews from the 10th to the 12th centuries. There were extant remnants of the copies of letters of the Jewish community of Cairo-Fustat, once one of the leading centers of Jewish population. On the basis of these fragments it was possible to reconstruct the personalities of the people and the significant events in their collective history.

The task that Mann first set out to accomplish was twofold: that of establishing a chronological sequence from the mass of data, and of describing the important religious and communal authorities of Egypt and Palestine during the period involved. These are the chief characteristics of his study, The Jews in Egypt and in Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs (2 vols., 1920–22). Later, when professor of history at Hebrew Union College, he was able to supplement this material in two additional volumes entitled Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature. Such outstanding figures as Solomon b. Judah and Ephraim b. Shemariah, leading dignitaries of Egyptian Jewry, were first fully revealed by Mann. It became clear from his work in what towns of Palestine and Egypt the Jews had chiefly settled. There was much that he elucidated about the communal ban (ḥerem), the ransoming of captives, the functions of the head of the Jews [= the *nagid], and the Palestinian custom of completing a Torah cycle only once every three years (to this latter subject he devoted his final book, The Bible as Read and Preached in the Old Synagogue, which is also based chiefly on Genizah material). Mann described the whole complicated story of the relations between the Rabbanites and Karaites – especially those in Jerusalem – and cast new light on the writings and activities of such Karaite notables as Daniel al-Qumisi, Sahl b. Maẓli'aḥ, and Salomon b. Jeroham. Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut was revealed as a statesman of the first rank, to whom appeals were sent from other lands, and who corresponded with Helena the empress of Byzantium. Mann also uncovered the story of the Norman proselyte to Judaism, Obadiah ha-Ger. His historical research in the Genizah treasures provided a scientific foundation which could be built upon and elaborated by later scholars.

The first scholars who explored the Genizah manuscripts pursued their own particular interests in studying the documents. They turned, in so doing, mainly to the documents written in Hebrew and Aramaic, languages which were prominent in the Genizah finds. Only a few researchers gave their attention to the mass of documents written in Arabic, which for hundreds of years had been the vernacular of the Jews of Egypt and the Near East. The score or more of Judeo-Arabic fragments which Hartwig Hirschfeld published were mainly of literary interest: remnants of the writings of Saadiah Gaon, some texts pertaining to the polemics between Karaites and Rabbanites, a few autograph fragments of Maimonides, and some short documents pertaining to Muhammad and the Jews of Khaybar. Samuel Poznański used some Judeo-Arabic fragments (some from the Russian genizot collections) for his own researches on the Karaites and leading rabbinic figures of the Middle Ages; and other scholars – I. Goldziher, W. Baecher, and G. Margoliouth – also made contributions. This work, however, was sporadic in nature, and gave few clues to the value of the Judeo-Arabic fragments. Even Mann relied mainly on Hebrew documents in producing his works; however, his appreciation of the Arabic texts grew in time, and considerably more of them were used in his Texts and Studies than in his first work. All agreed that the fragments were important, but little was done to make their contents known.

In the early 1930s the Genizah papers became a subject of interest in Jerusalem, mainly as a result of Mann's investigations and the establishment of the Institutes of Jewish Studies and Oriental Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. There it was possible to study the way of life of numerous communities from Arabic-speaking lands and to become intimately acquainted with their language. Some of the scholars in Jerusalem thus developed a close familiarity with the cultures of the Middle East, and under these conditions it was possible to make considerable advances in Genizah research.

D.H. Baneth did the most important work in establishing Arabic Genizah research on a sound philological basis. Philological correctness and exactitude were essential to the proper understanding of these texts; sometimes scholars who preceded Baneth had been led into making blunders in understanding the vernacular used in the manuscripts (which quite often differed considerably from the literary language). In conjunction with S. Assaf, Baneth published a series of Genizah studies which rank as exemplary specimens of such writing. The historical information he elucidated from them was also of value; he discovered in one document that it had been a prevalent custom among the Egyptian Jews to determine, through witnesses, whether a couple who planned to marry were of the same social and economic status (Heb. hagunim).

Assaf was mainly interested in the Genizah papers for the information they contained about the legal, social, and cultural history of the Jews. He found numerous documents about the Jews in Palestine from the time of its conquest by Omar until the period of the Crusades, and afterward as well. It was learned from a tradition represented in one document which he discovered that when the Arabs conquered Jerusalem, Omar allowed them to build or occupy only 70 homes (although they had asked for 200); they chose the southern part of the city as their quarter, and the first Jews to resettle there were some families from Tiberias. Other texts which Assaf published and elaborated upon provided information about the slave trade, in which he thought to confirm that the Jews of that time engaged in it (although they could not take Muslims as slaves); new information was derived about Jewish trade in the Mediterranean, as well as the main centers of learning in Palestine and elsewhere. Other texts of importance pertaining to Palestine were published by Braslavski, among them a "tourist guide" to Jews who came in pilgrimage to the holy city, mentioning local sites of interest. E. Strauss (later Ashtor), the historian of Jewish life during the Mamluk period, published a letter in 1940 which was written in Aden and addressed by the sender to a business associate in Fustat; it mentions Jews traveling to India on their own ships, taking various goods with them to sell in Malabar. Other texts, when finally deciphered and interpreted, revealed the economic and social life of the Jews of Egypt and neighboring lands in great detail, and, incidentally, matters pertaining to general Islamic history and economic development. Ashtor's later publications, including his History of the Jews of Muslim Spain, numerous articles on economic and social life, and his book-length study of prices and salaries in the medieval Near East (Histoire des prix et des salaires dans l'Orient médiéval, 1969), rely heavily on Genizah manuscripts.

However, with all the real importance of Mann's works as pioneering ones, which guided generations of historians, and his awareness of the uniqueness of these materials in comparison to whatever sources of Jewish history that had been known previously, and with his enthusiasm to publish this wealth of materials, he saw this history mainly as a rather formal history of texts, and not of concrete human and social actualities and processes, the like of Ashtor's works based on these documents.

The most important accomplishment, or achievement, in the field of history is no doubt the monumental oeuvre of S.D. Goitein. Goitein was initially educated within this unusual combination of deep rooted Jewish tradition and 19th-century German humanism. He was then trained as a philologist and developed it in the years he worked at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in the rigorous methods so typical of German universities. He later turned his attention to Islamic historical sources, and still later made another turn, to Genizah studies, mainly on the documentary material. In his works the extent to which the Genizah has shaped the picture of the medieval history of Jewish communities in the East came to its fullest manifestation. The uniqueness of his works is imaginable only as a result of the uniqueness of the material, namely the fact that here we have at our disposal direct sources that shed light not only on the actions and the views of the leaders of the communities, but also, and mainly, of many ordinary individuals that made up the rank and file of these communities. Already in his early Genizah studies Goitein paid special attention to the light shed on the social structure of the communities in the Genizah documents. He focused his attentionon individuals whose personalities and activities could not have been known from the formal, literary sources. Such was his study of Ibn ʿAwkal, a noble North African Jewish merchant who settled in Cairo in the early 11th century, conducted from there his international commercial ventures, and became a prominent figure in the local community. Already in the early stages of Goitein's work on the Genizah documents he also encouraged his students to work on individual personalities from the Genizah. At that stage it already became clear that certain segments of the Genizah documents were not just randomly disposed off by their owners, but constituted entire family "archives," or at least parts of such archives, while others were parts of court archives, mainly from Fustat. This recognition led Goitein and his students to pursue the remains of such archives. The first such archive that served as a subject of a Ph.D. thesis by Murad Michael was that of Nahray b. Nissim, another North African Jewish merchant who settled in Cairo in the middle of the 11th century. From there he directed his merchant banker activities that stretched virtually over three continents, from Spain, through North Africa and Egypt, to the Fertile Crescent and further through Yemen as far as India. When Michael finished his work on the archive over 30 years ago, he was able to trace about 260 documents. Since then over 100 additional documents from that archive have come to light through Goitein, Udovitch, and Gil, and enabled us to draw a fascinating picture of commercial and postal connections, banking practices of the High Middle Ages, transportation routes in the Mediterranean Basin, variations and prices of a very wide range of commodities, communal and family ties of the Cairene merchant banker and his agents who were stationed in many important ports and commercial centers, as well as in some important communal centers such as Jerusalem.

In the late 1940s S.D. Goitein began his researches in the field of Genizah manuscripts. He soon became convinced that they were of inestimable value for both general and Jewish history. He found eyewitness accounts of the crusaders' attack on Jerusalem: from one letter it was learned that the story of the massacre of the inhabitants, so widely accepted by students of the Crusades period, was really somewhat exaggerated – it had been a savage attack, but many lives were spared, evidently so that those taken prisoners could be ransomed for a handsome sum of money. Another letter made it evident that, contrary to the contention of many scholars, other nationalities than the French were represented among the crusaders, for in it mention was made of the "cursed ones who are called Ashkenazim." Other letters emanating from Palestine made it clear that the crusaders' attack on Beirut in February 1110 was a surprise attack, and that the Jews were driven out of Jerusalem during the second occupation by the crusaders, under the command of Frederick of Hohenstaufen. Goitein also found further fragments pertaining to Obadiah the Proselyte, from which it was learned that he was not a crusader, as had been contended by Mann and others, but a man of some learning who converted because his religious studies convinced him of the truth of Judaism and who was saved from Christian persecution by some fellow Jews who brought him to *Aleppo. One of the most unusual discoveries made by Goitein consisted of fragments from Cambridge and the Jewish Theological Seminary which turned out to be letters sent by Judah Halevi to his friend Ḥalfon b. Natanel al-Dimyati of Cairo, an affluent trader who engaged in large business with India. Three of the letters deal mainly with Judah Halevi's endeavors to raise the dinars necessary for the ransom of a Jewish woman kept in prison by the ruling authorities, while in a fourth he expresses the fond wish to travel to the East, as he indeed did some years later.

Goitein also gathered over 400 letters on the Mediterranean trade with India. This commerce, which went by way of Egypt, East Africa, and South Arabia, was the chief economic factor in the status quo of the countries of the Middle East. Not only did Goitein discover complete itineraries of the journey to India, descriptions of the dangerous voyage through the Indian Ocean, and the names and prices of numerous goods which made up that trade, but he also found eyewitness accounts of events barely known from the writings of the Arabic historians. One such account, in a letter from Aden to Egypt, gives a detailed description of the number of soldiers, the types of boats, and even the military tactics used by the rulers of the island of Kish (in the Persian Gulf) when they tried to extend their control over the sea route to India by conquering Aden.

Goitein collected all of the documents from the Cairo genizot that pertain to trade between India and the Mediterranean, and was preparing them for publication, translating the Judeo-Arabic documents and adding notes. Goitein did not finish preparing his work on Indian trade (referred to by him as the "India Book"), when he passed away. One of his leading students, M.A. Friedman, agreed to complete the work. The final book (scheduled for publication in 2006 by the Ben-Zvi Institute) will be the product of work by both scholars. The book, which contains more than 400 texts from the genizot in the original language, generally Judeo-Arabic and in Hebrew translation, is a remarkable source of information on the contacts – commercial, social, and cultural – between India and the Middle East in the Middle Ages. Because of the great interest in these matters in the scholarly world and among the educated public, the book will be published in both Hebrew and English versions.

Goitein published over 250 articles based on Genizah documents. This work was climaxed by his magisterial study, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Genizah, in five volumes enabling the description of a society and its daily life as well as its beliefs and views, based on their own writings – the documentary genizot.

Goitein's approach paved the way towards comprehensive historical studies that were focused on specific sections of the material, such as geographical ones (the most important one to date is by Moshe Gil on Palestine), or social ones (such as the studies of Menahem Ben-Sasson on the beginnings of communal organization in North Africa in the ninth century), or social and halakhic ones (the most important to date are M.A. Friedman's studies on marriage documents and practices). Such works resulted from a synthesis between the unique primary Genizah material and well-known literary materials from a wealth of Jewish and non-Jewish sources. On the solid basis of Goitein's approach and oeuvre, it is possible to conduct many and diversified cross sections, which can shed light on every imaginable aspect of Jewish life and culture in the Middle Ages, such as Joel Kraemer's projects on women's letters from the Genizah, the several projects dedicated to Maimonides and his descendants by P.B. Fenton, M.A. Friedman, and M. Ben-Sasson, and a new comprehensive collection of Maimonides' letters by J. Kraemer. In fact Goitein's first published book on the Genizah was a study on education. Goitein's final, concluding work in the field was the multi-volume A Mediterranean Society in five volumes. When Goitein started this work he had already been well into the studies of economic, social, and cultural history. This fact had a decisive impact on the structure and plan of this gigantic opus. It is basically planned along social lines – its five volumes corresponding to five social levels:

I: Economic Foundations; II: The Community; III: The Family; IV: Daily Life; V: The Individual (see below).

Goitein inspired many researchers, such as N.A. Stillman, Y. Khalfon-Stillman, M. Gil, M.A. Friedman, and M.R. Cohen.

The Genizah manuscripts also aided in the study of post-Inquisition Jewish history. Already S. Schechter, S. Assaf, and J. Mann published documents and other literary texts having to do with this period. A major contribution was made by Meir Benayahu who found on trips to England and the U.S. approximately 2,000 documents relating to the Jews of the Mediterranean after 1492. On the basis of photostats of these manuscripts in the possession of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, Benayahu made an extensive study of the Jewish communities during the 15th–18th centuries. He found that even at this late period the Jews were enterprising merchants, traveling to such places as India, North Africa, Spain, and Italy, carrying on an extensive trade in pepper and skins. During this period there was considerable migration to Palestine, and many talmudic academies were founded there; in some documents there are descriptions of the dormitories which the yeshivah students occupied, and in one dating from the 15th century there is an account of the rebellion staged by a group of students against their academy for having allowed poor living conditions to prevail in the dormitories. A most important document gives a detailed history of the Hebron community. Moreover, Judeo-German and Judeo-Spanish texts are included among these relatively late manuscripts, which have been studied by several scholars in recent decades. The work on the post-expulsion generations has been continued by I. Tishbi, J. Hacker, A. David, and E. Gutwirth (the latter extended the research to texts written in Judeo-Spanish).

There is rich information in the Genizah about many aspects of life, such as the role of women in society, loans and interest, the communal organization, the Jews as ahl al-dhimma (people of the covenant, or tolerated minority), their actual place in Muslim society, etc. Information on the following salient topics, inter alia, may be found in the Genizah texts: the Jews of Alexandria; Babylonian Jews; letters of Byzantine Jews; begging letters; book lists and letters about books; communal records and affairs; dated letters; diseases; Fustat and Cairo; geographical data; houses and housing; Jerusalem; Karaites; Maimonides; medicine – practice and theory; relations with Muslims and Christians; occupations; plagues; police; prisoners; letters of recommendation; seafaring and warfare; Sephardim, i.e., Spanish Jews; synagogues; Syria, including Ereẓ Israel; tenth-century documents.

Many additional topics are included, such as individual personalities of the time, place-names of Egyptian-Jewish settlements, artifacts, etc. On the other hand, a few topics deserve special treatment:

(1) Documents of European Provenience, or Containing Information about European History. The first to publish such fragments and documents were D.S. Schechter, L. Ginzberg, J. Mann, and S. Assaf – some enlightening events and phenomena back in the early ninth and tenth centuries. After a long pause in such publications it was N. Golb who drew attention to the Genizah's importance for the reconstruction of the history of these communities. He published an article (Sefunot, 8 (1964), 87–104) based on the U.L. Cambridge manuscript 1080 J, no. 115, in which he shows that the document is a letter of recommendation sent from a certain Samuel b. Isaac the Spaniard in Jerusalem to Shemariah b. Elhanan in Fustat at the beginning of the 11th century (more precisely c. 1006), and that it concerns a Jewish proselyte from a prominent Christian family who fled his homeland, arrived in Damascus, thereafter made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and from there, because of persecution by the Christian community in Jerusalem, decided to go on to Egypt, where, we may assume, he finally settled. On the basis of internal evidence, it appears that the proselyte is probably the Slovenian cleric Wecelinus (cf. Alpertus Mettensis, De diversitate temporum, 1.7; II. 22, 23), who converted to Judaism in 1005 C.E. This proselyte, who fled to Egypt, is the earliest of the 11th century converts to Judaism described in the Genizah fragments, and the manuscript in question furnishes additional evidence pointing to the phenomenon – already brought to light in prior Genizah publications – of conversion to Judaism on the part of prominent European Christians in the 11th century, who subsequent to their conversion left their homelands to settle in non-Christian countries. Other such proselytes of the 11th century were Andreas, the archbishop of Bari, who converted about 1070; an anonymous proselyte of the last half of the 11th century; an anonymous proselyte from a wealthy family who first settled in France during the same period; and finally, Obadiah the Norman proselyte, who had been demonstrated by N. Golb and A. Scheiber to be the scribe of a musical manuscript (Adler 4096b). Documents of actual European provenience include a Cambridge manuscript (T.S. 16.100), evidently from the town of Monieux, Provence (Golb, in: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 113 (1969), 67–94); and a British Museum manuscript (Or. 5544, Vol. 1), evidently written in Arles and concerning a wealthy Jew of Rouen.

(2) Illuminated Genizah Fragments. Still almost totally unutilized, and lying undisturbed among Genizah manuscripts of Cambridge, Oxford, and the British Museum, are approximately 60 illuminated fragments of the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods which, taken collectively, characterize both the quality and the content of the Judeo-Arabic culture during the period of its highest development. In addition, among the Genizah fragments one should count also around a dozen wood pieces engraved in the same period; fragments that testify to the history of the Ben-Ezra Synagogue and the Maimonidean circles (Ben-Sasson, Synagogue and Fortress). Artistic remains of any kind from the Fatimid period are rare; besides architectural subjects, all that have been previously known are illuminated Korans, some wood carvings, linens and decorated bowls, and a certain number of items of glass and metal. The addition to this material of a body of 60 illuminated fragments may therefore stimulate research not only in the field of medieval Jewish art (students of which have heretofore had no knowledge whatsoever of these manuscripts) but also in the general area of Islamic art and culture. The illuminated fragments, mostly at Cambridge, may be classified as follows:

(A) Marriage contracts, approx. 20 items; (B) Children's readers and school books, approx. 10 items; (C) Bible leaves and prayer book leaves, approx. 20 items; (D) Miscellaneous fragments, as follows: (1) Architectural plan of Ezekiel's temple, 1 page; (2) Leaf from an early materia medica, 2 folios; (3) Illustrations from a book of magic, 2 folios; (4) Child's drawing of a boat, 1 page; (5) Two warriors engaged in combat, margin of 1 page; (6) Painting of two water birds, standing on either side of a tree (of life?) within a decorative border, 1 page. The richness of this material is all the more surprising in view of the previously held opinion that for the entire Fatimid period only a single illuminated fragment had survived, namely, the Bodleian ketubbah of the 11th century.

(3) Historical Geography. E. Ashtor and N. Golb have studied the work of the historical geography of the Jews in medieval Egypt. The main purpose of this research has been to clarify the problem of the continuity, or lack of continuity, of Jewish life in Egypt between the Hellenistic period and the Middle Ages. The salient result of their study of Genizah fragments bearing upon this problem (in: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Summer 1965) is the conclusion that the Jewish community of medieval Egypt represents not a new phenomenon but the continuation of an ethnic and cultural pattern which stretched far back in time, and that in this respect it is very difficult to accept the view that the small number of Hebrew documents of the Byzantine period, "extending over 300 years, may serve as a good indication of the gradually declining importance of Egyptian Jewry in the Byzantine period" (Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, ed. V. Tcherikover et al., 3 (1964), 88). Just the contrary may be claimed – that there was a continuous, if necessarily irregular, line of development from ancient times through and despite cultural reorientation, political upheavals, and the assimilation of a fair proportion of the people. This is made especially manifest by the comparison of the known places of settlement of Egyptian Jews in antiquity with their more than one hundred communal settlements in the Middle Ages, which stretched from the very border of Egypt far up the river to Elephantine-Aswan.

It is thus apparent how valuable these preponderantly Arabic papers and the hundreds of others like them are for purposes of historical research. If studied together with the responsa and historiographic literature of that age, unparalleled source material can be found among them for this still obscure period in medieval life; and it may therefore be concluded that when all the material has been systematically edited and the texts brought into proper relationship with one another, there will be an integrative account of the Jewish community of medieval Egypt, and a reliable record of the general social and economic conditions prevailing at that time in Egypt and the Middle East.

Genizah Research, 1960s–1980s

The following survey reviews in more detail some of the specific work that has been done from the 1960s to the 1980s in fields of scholarship which rely extensively on *Genizah sources. Only books and monographs have been taken into account, since the inclusion of periodical publications would have swelled the survey beyond permissible bounds. A complete list of publications relating to the Genizah can be found in Published Material from the Cambridge Genizah Collections: A Bibliography, produced by the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit under the direction of Dr. Stefan Reif, published by Cambridge University Press for the University Library's Genizah Series. It should also be noted that G. Khan of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit is now preparing a more comprehensive description of publications relating to the Genizah, including both books and periodicals. Bibliographical details on the books discussed in the present survey can be found in the bibliography accompanying this article.


The private and legal documents of the Genizah have provided the primary source material for several studies in the socio-economic history of the medieval Near East. S.D. Goitein in Volume I of A Mediterranean Society made a synthesis of information gleaned from hundreds of Genizah documents in order to build up a comprehensive portrait of the economic foundations of the Jewish communities in the Arab world during the High Middle Ages. The bulk of this study concentrates on commerce and finance with special attention to overseas trade. This latter area of economic activity is particularly well documented in the many commercial letters that have been preserved in the Genizah. Such correspondence indicates that trade was conducted for the most part on the basis of mutual trust and personal friendship rather than formal agreements. Goitein also published a collection of 80 letters of medieval Jewish traders which reflect this personal aspect of overseas commerce. These letters show how a man's piety and fear of God were invoked when he was urged to adhere to good business practices. Moreover, although distant trade involved interaction between people of different social classes, it seems that the long months spent together in foreign parts or on perilous voyages brought people close together. Two of Goitein's research students, M. Michael and N.A. Stillman, have made a specialized study of Genizah letters which relate to specific Jewish traders. Michael's dissertation deals with the correspondence of the medieval businessman and community leader Nahray ben Nissim and includes an edition of many of his letters together with those of his son Nathan. Stillman analyzes and edits documents relating to Joseph ibn ʿAwqal, who likewise was both a trader and a leader of the community. The business correspondence of both Nahray and ibn ʿAwqalreveals the great diversity of goods which were handled by the traders of their time and gives a detailed picture of the organization of medieval business houses.

Ashtor in his Histoire des Prix et des Salaires dans l'Orient Médiéval made extensive use of Genizah documents as a basis for a detailed analysis of the standard of living in medieval (mainly Fatimid and Ayyubid) Egypt. The documentary portion of the Genizah furnishes a unique source for such a study, for it contains many specific references to contemporary prices. By contrast most Muslim sources for the period are literary texts that are often tendentious and prone to adapting figures that suit their purpose. The Genizah papers also give firsthand evidence of changes in currency. They demonstrate, for instance, that there was a shift from gold to silver during the Ayyubid period. The Egyptian scholar Hassanein Rabie has used Genizah sources for a large portion of his work on the financial system of Egypt between 1164 and 1341. He relied for the most part on Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter documents which are written in Arabic script (viz. T-S Ar. 38–42) as opposed to those in Hebrew script. Rabie has shown that the Genizah gives us valuable information on the poll tax (jawālī) and the mawārīth ḥašriyya, i.e., the law determining that property without heirs was to be confiscated by the state.

Volume II of Goitein's monumental Genizah synthesis, A Mediterranean Society, deals with the social and communal life of the Jewish minority in Egypt between the 11th and 14th centuries, with the most abundant information being provided for the earlier part of this period. The topics discussed include the communal authorities at the national, regional, and local levels. He not only brings a great deal of new material to bear on the nature of these institutions, their historical development, and their relations with the politically dominant Muslim authorities but, in the case of the nagid, has totally and conclusively revised the accepted view of the origin of this office. The description of the organization and operation of the local communities is particularly valuable, since the unmediated character of the Genizah documents makes them a unique source for information about everyday life and ordinary people. Goitein portrays the medieval Egyptian Jewish community as a "religious democracy" in which there was a balance between authority and communal sanction. The loosely structured and highly mobile Islamic society in which the community was situated also influenced its structure. There is, for instance, no reference in the Genizah to enactments restricting the entry of strangers into the community analogous to the ḥerem ha-yishuv of the communities in medieval Christian Europe.

M.R. Cohen in his book Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt develops Goitein's thesis with regard to the origin of the office of the Egyptian nagid. Goitein first showed by means of a wide selection of Genizah documents, that, contrary to the opinion of earlier scholars, the nagidate was not instituted by decree of the Fatimid caliph. Rather it evolved within the Jewish community in the second half of the 11th century. Cohen emphasized that the nagidate evolved in response to the political and spiritual vacuum created by the decline of the Palestinian yeshivah, to which a large portion of Egyptian Jewry had given allegiance.

A number of Goitein's research students have worked on Genizah documents relating to the communal life of the Egyptian Jewish community. The general format of these doctoral dissertations is similar to those of Michael and Stillman, in that considerable space is devoted to editing the documents which constituted their source material. G. Weiss has edited 255 legal documents written by the court scribe Ḥalfon ben Manasseh during the period 1100 to 1138. A large proportion of the legal documents which are preserved in the Genizah were written by this scribe. Apart from providing ample material for research on legal formularies, the study demonstrates the value of working on a corpus of documents written by the same hand. For instance, undated fragments can be more easily dated and a greater accuracy of reading achieved. A.L. Motzkin has made a study of Judge Elijah ben Zechariah (first half of 13th century) and his family on the basis of their correspondence which has been found in the Genizah. Genizah documents have been employed by M. Gil as a source for a detailed examination of the medieval Jewish institution of the kodesh or "pious foundation" which was essentially equivalent to the Moslem waqf. Although these Jewish foundations flourished during the Fatimid period there is no evidence of their existence under the Ayyubid dynasty. The chief motivation for the Jews to dedicate property to a pious cause was apparently religious, charity being one of the most important precepts of Jewish law. The institution was, however, also exploited to circumvent Islamic legislation, especially the mawārītḥašriyya (see above).

Volume III of Goitein's A Mediterranean Society is concerned with the family. The body of the book deals with the nuclear family and marriage, the main source for which are the many medieval ketubbot (see *Ketubbah) which have been preserved in the Genizah. From an examination of over 600 of these Goitein has illuminated the manifold economic and social aspects of marriage. He shows that divorce was common and that 45% of brides whose marriages are recorded were marrying for the second time. From the itemization of the dowry in the ketubbot of the High Middle Ages Goitein concludes that prices were remarkably stable during this period. The mobility of the population often disrupted family life; this especially applied to the long business trips which were undertaken by many members of the community. In general, the Genizah portrays a male-oriented society. Private letters and genealogical lists usually mention only sons. Nevertheless many women played an active role in economic life. They owned properties, took charge of them, and also made or took loans.

Since the Middle Ages the marriage contracts of all known Jewish communities have followed the basic model of the Babylonian geonim. Scholars assumed that the ketubbah formulary had remained uniform since early Talmudic times. M. Friedman, however, has discovered in the Genizah a substantial number of fragments of medieval marriage contracts, mostly emanating from Palestine, which reveal traditions of formulating the ketubbah distinct from that of the Babylonian geonim. He has made a thoroughgoing study of these Palestinian-style ketubbot in his book Jewish Marriage in Palestine. They contain many distinctive features. For instance, the woman is granted the right to initiate divorce proceedings and the husband is obliged to bury his wife, should she predecease him, or to care for her if she becomes insane. Friedman also shows that the Palestinian formulary influenced the marriage contracts of several Jewish communities along the northern shores of the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Y. Stillman, in her doctoral thesis, examines the female attire of medieval Egypt as portrayed in the trousseau lists of the Genizah ketubbot. These lists contain the names and details of many previously unknown garments and fabrics. Moreover, on the basis of the prices which are given for each item Stillman has been able to establish a relative scale of quality between many varieties of textiles. J. Sadan, in a similar manner, has made extensive use of Genizah trousseau lists in order to study household furniture in the medieval Near East. These two aspects of material culture, viz. clothing and furniture, are dealt with in Vol. IV of Goitein's A Mediterranean Society.

Several scholars have used Genizah documents as a basis for studies in the socio-economic history of medieval Palestine. Gil has studied many aspects of life in Palestine during this period on which the Genizah has shed considerable light. These include the institution of the Palestinian yeshivah together with the personalities who headed it and its relations with Jewish communities in Egypt, Syria, and the Byzantine Empire; the relationship between Karaites and Rabbanites; Jewish life in Jerusalem and in many other localities in Palestine; problems of taxation; pilgrimage and immigration, etc. Goitein has published a collection of studies on Genizah texts pertaining to the history of Palestine, in particular its Jewish population, in the century preceding the Crusades and during the Crusader period itself. The documents show that life in Palestine returned to normal relatively quickly after the Crusader conquest. Several documents refer to the activities of Moses Maimonides in the ransoming of prisoners captured by the Franks when King Amalric I took Bilbays, Lower Egypt, in November 1168. Goitein suggests that Maimonides' meteoric rise to the leadership of Egyptian Jewry, only a few years after his arrival in the Nile country, is partly to be attributed to his initiative in the ransoming of these captives.

In connection with the history of Palestine we should mention two works under the editorship of J. Prawer: The History of Eretz-Israel under Moslem and Christian Rule (634–1291), some of whose contributions employ Genizah documents as source material, and Sefer Ha-Yishuv. The latter work presents a wide variety of source material, much of it from the Genizah, relating to the Jewish community in Palestine during the period from the Crusader domination until the Ottoman conquest at the beginning of the 16th century.

In the course of Gil's research on the history of Palestine he published a short study on the Tustarī family which had considerable influence on Palestinian Jewry. The information about this family is pieced together largely from Genizah documents. Its two most illustrious members were the two sons of Sahl, Abū Naṣr Faḍl (Ḥesed) and Abū Saʿd Ibrāhīm (Abraham). They engaged in trade and banking and involved themselves in the political affairs of both the Fatimid court and the Jewish community. Gil attributes the Tustarīs' influence on Palestinian Jewry to the fact that Ḥesed was secretary to a Fatimid general much involved in Palestinian affairs. He also argues that the Tustarīs belonged to a distinct Karaite sect known as Tuṣtarians or Dastarians.

The documentary portion of the Genizah has also furnished sources for the history of Jewish communities outside the Mediterranean area. Goitein has published a collection of articles about the Jews of Yemen, several of which had previously appeared in a variety of periodicals. The section on medieval Yemenite Jewry is based almost entirely on Genizah sources. These documents show that the Yemenite Jews enjoyed considerable prosperity in the High Middle Ages, since they formed the link between the Mediterranean and the India trade, and that they remained in close contact with the Jewish academies of Iraq and Palestine.

N. Golb and O. Pritsak have made a contribution to the history of the Jewish *Khazars in their book Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century. This work contains an edition and detailed analysis of a recently discovered Genizah document relating to the Khazars together with a re-edition and reassessment of the Genizah letter from a Khazarian Jew to the Spanish dignitary Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut which was published by Schechter in 1912. All the sources which refer to the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism are reexamined with special attention to the extent to which they reflect the historical and geographical background of Khazaria in the Crimea. The newly discovered document (T-S 12.122) is the autograph of a letter of recommendation written by Khazarian Jews residing in Kiev in the first half of the tenth century. It is signed by Jews with Khazarian names and contains a remark in the Khazarian language written in runic Turkic script. This document proves conclusively that the judaization of the Khazars is a fact and not a forgery or romance, a view which has been canvassed by many scholars. Golb and Pritsak also show that the text which was edited by Schechter could have been written only by a Jew of Khazaria who had firsthand acquaintance with the historical and geographical circumstances of his country during the first half of the tenth century.

We must also include Volume III of Ashtor's History of the Jews in Egypt and Syria under the Rule of the Mamluks, published in 1970 (the first volume appeared in 1944). This final volume contains the texts of the Genizah documents referred to in the preceding volumes. Finally, the sources for Ashtor's A Social and Economic History of the Near East in the Middle Ages and Stillman's The Jews of Arab Lands include Genizah documents, principally in sections which deal with the socio-economic realities of the Southern Mediterranean in the High Middle Ages.

The focus of M. Ben-Sasson's research has been the social and intellectual history of medieval Jewry in Muslim lands from the 7th to the 14th centuries; based on work integrating legal, historical, and literary Genizah fragments. In examining social structures of Jewish public life from the perspectives of both the central leadership and the local community, each in its special locations and each with its special expression, institutional form, intellectual achievements, and self-consciousness, he pointed to the shift of power from the Eastern centers to the Maghreb, the building of the local Jewish community through a reconstruction of the Genizah corpus related to the community of Kairouan. He also found that the Maghebri-Jewish immigrants became involved in the central Jewish leadership in the East starting in the second half of the tenth century. Their involvement signified the beginning of a process of building a regional and local functional leadership. In this venue he published sources on the history of the Jews of Sicily. The analysis of the Babylonian-Iraqi center was done by means of research on the activities and personality of Saadiah Gaon. With Prof. R. Brody (Dept. of Talmud, The Hebrew University) he prepared a critical edition of the first halakhic book written in Judeo-Arabic. It is the "lost" Book of Deeds and Decrees of Saadiah Gaon, compiled in the year 926. They reconstructed the book almost in toto, on the basis of more then 100 Genizah pieces scattered over 25 libraries in the East and in the West. This book was written according to the order and with the terminology of Islamic legal works. Like many of Saadiah's books, this had great influence on most of the Jewish legal monographs and on the practical life of world medieval Jewry in its formative years.

Then Ben-Sasson turned to a Genizah study of the Maimonidean dynasty that headed the Jewish communities of the East from the 12th to the early 15th centuries.


The commentary of Isaac ibn Ghayyat to the Book of Ecclesiastes was published from fragments in Cambridge and New York and the commentary of Samuel ben Hophni Gaon to the Pentateuch was published by Aaron Greenberg in Jerusalem (1979).


1. Abraham I. Katsh has published Ginze Talmud Babli (Vol. 1, 1976; Vol. 2, 1979). The first volume includes 178 pages of the Babylonian Talmud from nine tractates from the Antonin Collection in the National Library of Leningrad, and the second, 90 pages from 11 other tractates. A comparison between these fragments and the printed edition, as well as the Munich manuscript, reveals important variations. 2. Tractate Bikkurim with a list of the variae lectiones, which indicates the extent to which the readings differ from those in the printed texts. 3. Fragments of the Mishnah with Palestinian vocalization. 4. Mishnah fragment of Berakhot 1:1–3:1; Peah 4:3–6:3, written in the tenth century. 5. Tractate Shevi'it. 6. Fragments of the TJ Berakhot, Chap. 3; Shabbat, Chap. 12; Kiddushin, Chap. 3, written in the early style of the Jerusalem Talmud. 7. A fragment of TJ Shabbat, Chap. 10. 8. Fragments from tractates Bava Mezia, Bava Batra, and Sanhedrin, revealing considerable variants from the standard texts.

Texts from the Talmud provide readings that approximate more closely those of Rashi and Alfasi than the printed version. Scores of ketubbot include an undertaking by the bridegroom not to take a second wife, even though legally he was permitted to do so. When an additional wife was taken, a detailed agreement was made binding the husband to treat all his wives equally.

An example of the wealth of new material in this sphere is seen in the recent publication of tractates Ketubbot and Sotah by the Institute for the Complete Israel Talmud (see *Talmud, Recent Research). Altogether 150 pages or fragments of the tractate Ketubbot from the Genizah were collated (pp. 75–91) for this purpose. Genizah Fragments of Rabbinical Literature; Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash (1973), edited by N. Aloni, contains no less than 219 facsimile pages of 60 Genizah manuscripts in the various libraries. This collection is of special importance in that it includes rabbinical texts with the Palestinian system of vocalization. Genizah Bible Fragments with Babylonian Masorah and Vocalization (5 vols., 1973), edited by Y. Yeivin, provides the scholar with all the ancient sources with the Babylonian vocalization.


Of particular interest is Ginze Midrash by Z.M. Rabinowitz (1977). The author deals with the early form and style of the Midrash as revealed in the texts, which are written in the early Palestinian script and belong to the 11th and 12th centuries. The copyists later changed the text – both the Hebrew and Aramaic – to conform with the Babylonian usage. Although the majority of the fragments are from well-known Midrashim, they also include a few hitherto unknown ones.


S. Abramson's Inyanot be-Sifrut ha-Geonim (1973) includes an appendix (pp. 319–89) on the text of the She'iltot of *Aḥa of Shabha and deals with the variae lectiones therein. The Genizah fragments have vastly increased the knowledge of the development of the halakhah in Ereẓ Israel after the completion of the Jerusalem Talmud. The publication of Hilkhot Ereẓ Israel min ha-Genizah by M. Margaliot, set up for publication by I. Ta-Shema (1973), disproves the theory that the gaonate in Ereẓ Israel was reestablished in the 10th and 11th centuries in order to fight against Karaism. There was an unbroken chain of authority and heads of yeshivot until the end of the geonic period, and it seems that there was a separate halakhic tradition in Ereẓ Israel, deriving from the Jerusalem Talmud and differing from the Babylonian tradition. Various fragments of this tradition have now been published (cf. Sefer ha-Ma'asim li-Benei Ereẓ Israel). The Hilkhot Ereẓ Israel includes an appendix on another Ereẓ Israel work, Perek Zera'im, edited by J. Feliks, which is the most complete work on agricultural products and nature found in ancient Jewish literature. M.A. Friedman was the latest to publish additional fragments of Sefer ha-Ma'asim.

Other items on the geonic period, also published by M.A. Friedman, are (1) Additional material on Pirkoi Ben *Baboi. (2) Fragments of a large collection of geonic responsa which include the following: the intervention of the authorities in Kairouan in the case of the divorce of a betrothed woman; the concluding portion of a responsum dealing with the complaint of a woman whose marriage settlement had been sold by her husband, or lost. It provides data on the custom of Kairouan with regard to a moredet (a wife who "rebels" against her husband), and on the community and the relationship between the civil authorities and the Jewish leader. There have also been found fragments from the Siddur of R. *Amram Gaon, providing details of the compilation of the work. 3. Fragments of geonic commentaries to tractate Shabbat which are ascribed to Sherira Gaon and Hai Gaon.


1. Fragments of the Mishneh Torah written by Maimonides himself. It has been shown that these fragments are from a first text of the Mishneh Torah, whereas all later editions were based on a second edition which he wrote. The differences between this holograph and the printed are considerable, including the order of the books and the chapters, and sometimes even the order of the individual laws in the chapter, and there are also differences in language. 2. A commentary by Maimonides on the Laws of Tefillin from the Sefer ha-Menuhah of Manoah of *Narbonne. M.A. Friedman and Sh. Abramson added new findings from the genizot reflecting students' shorthand writings in Maimonides' school as well as the school's traditions.


1. Fragments from the novellae of Yom Tov b. Abraham Ishbili (the *Ritba) to tractate Beẓah. 2. New fragments from the commentary of Ḥananel b. Ḥushiel on Bible and Talmud. They consist of many pages, partly fragments of complete works and partly fragments of commentaries on individual chapters. They include commentaries on tractates Berakhot, Kiddushin, Sotah, Bava Kamma, Bava Batra, and Sanhedrin, as well as portions of his commentary to tractate Zevaḥim. 3. A complement to a commentary of a pupil of Naḥmanides to tractate Pesaḥim.


Following the publication of "An Unknown Blessing on the Reading of the Chapter Bameh Madlikin (Shabbat 2) from the Genizah," N. Wieder has come to the conclusion that the inclusion of this chapter in the liturgy was the result of the controversy between the Rabbanites and the Karaites. This blessing, which has been completely forgotten, was in the nature of a public declaration of faith in the authority of the rabbis and the continuation of tradition, and of the authority for kindling lights for the Sabbath which was forbidden by the Karaites. N. Wieder deals with the formula of the ʿAmidah in early Babylonian usage and shows that the words "Possessor of heaven and earth" were included in the formula of both Israel and Babylon.


The last two decades have seen the publication of many critical editions of early piyyutim and of medieval religious and secular poetry, the majority of which draw to a greater or lesser extent on Genizah sources. The Genizah has preserved not only many previously unknown poems of the famous poets but also a substantial number of the works of forgotten or little-known poets.

J. Schirmann published an anthology of Hebrew poems discovered in the Genizah. This collection includes secular and religious poetry from the Jewish communities of the East and from Spain, North Africa, Italy, and Byzantium. Especially worthy of note are the oldest example of a Hebrew poem in praise of a beautiful youth; the full text of a muwaššaḥ (muwashshaḥ, see 13: 684) of Samuel ha-Nagid, of which previously only a few lines were known; three secular poems of Judah Halevi which are not known from other sources; several muwaššaḥat of Abraham Ibn Ezra including one which describes his flight from Spain; and Hebrew maqāmāt (see *Maqāma) including a section of maqāmat Yamīma, an allegorical love story, of which Israel Davidson published some fragments in the 1920s. This new fragment enabled Schirmann to identify the author of this work as Joseph bar Judah ben Simeon, the famous pupil of Maimonides. Also noteworthy are a number of rhymed proverbs, many of which show that their authors must have been familiar with the Hebrew version of Ben Sira.

Several scholars have collected the works of various paytanim which have been preserved in the Genizah. A. Mirsky used Genizah sources extensively in his edition of the piyyutim of the early paytan Yose ben Yose. These piyyutim show that Yose ben Yose was one of the first Hebrew poets to make the oral law a basis of his works. Wallenstein published and analyzed a number of *Yoẓerot by Samuel ha-Shelishi (10th–11th century), discovered in the Genizah, to which Ezra Fleischer and Yoseph Yahalom dedicated substantial scholarly work. E. Fleischer has critically edited 580 short liturgical compositions from the Genizah which were all written by the same anonymous author (called "Anonymous" by Zulay). These poems (called pizmonim by the copyist of the Genizah manuscript) were composed in the late tenth century and were intended to serve as choral additions to several pieces of a cycle of kedushtaot written by R. Simeon ha-Kohen b. R. Megas, an early Palestinian paytan who was active in the seventh century. They reflect the increase in the participation of the choir in synagogue worship towards the end of the first millennium C.E. Fleischer has also used Genizah sources in his edition of the piyyutim of the tenth-century Italian paytan Solomon ha-Bavli, who was one of the first Hebrew poets to write in Europe. His works molded the Italian Ashkenazi school of paytanim. The Genizah has also preserved many of the poems of his pupil Elya bar Shemaya, which have been edited by Y. David.

Owing to the ties between the Andalusian and Egyptian Jewish communities, manuscripts of religious and secular poems written in Spain found their way into the Genizah. Consequently scholars who have collected the works of the Spanish medieval Hebrew poets have found abundant source material among the Genizah papers. This applies to the following collections: the liturgical poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol, the religious poems of Judah Halevi and the Diwan of Samuel ha-Nagid by Jarden; the collections of the secular poems of Ibn Gabirol by Allony and Jarden and by Brody and Schirmann; the religious poems of Abraham Ibn Ezra by Levin; the poems of Isaac ben Abraham Ibn Ezra by Schmelzer; the poems of Levi Ibn al-Tabban by Pagis, and the poems of Joseph Bensuli by David. Mirsky has published a collection of poems by Isaac Ibn Khalfun (10th–11th century), almost all of which were recovered from the Genizah. These poems show that Ibn Khalfun played an innovative role in the development of Hebrew verse in that he was one of the first to compose secular poems and introduce elements of personal experience into his poetry. D. Jarden published an anthology of medieval Hebrew verse Ẓefunei Shirah. This includes several poems of little-known or anonymous authors which have been discovered in the Genizah: 1. A list of secular poems by Solomon ibn Gabirol hitherto unknown from any other source. 2. A kerovah of the liturgical poet *Yannai to the portion Ha'azinu (Deut. 32). 3. Piyyutim to the Avodah on the Day of Atonement. They include a "bibliographical" piyyut giving a detailed list of the titles of ten such orders of service. 4. Early Yemenite piyyutim and Seliḥot for the Day of Atonement.


S.D. Goitein devoted himself particularly to the economic life of the Jews as revealed in the Genizah documents and fragments. He points out that as a result of the economic changes which took place in the Middle East as a whole, in which trade superseded agriculture as the basis of the economy, Jews tended to abandon agriculture and engage in skilled occupations and trade. In one text a Jewish girl writes to her widowed mother urging her to see that her brother, in addition to studying Torah, also learn a trade, adding "if he will have a trade, he will be a man."

Other published material includes (1) Documents appertaining to the life of the Jewish community of Egypt. (2) M. Gil's Documents of the Jewish Pious Foundations from the Cairo Genizah (1976) gives the religious and sociological motivation behind them, the halakhic aspect, income and expenditure, etc. (3) Horoscopes from the Genizah (1977). (4) A letter from the community of al-Mahdiya in Tunis to Fustat in Egypt in the 11th century reflects the commercial movements between the ports on the Mediterranean Sea in which Jews played a prominent role. The letter was addressed to Nahray b. Nissim, originally of Kairouan, who later settled in Egypt, and reflects the golden period of the Fatimids in the first half of the 11th century. (5) There has been discovered the earliest document emanating from *Salonika, a letter from an Egyptian scholar who immigrated there, dated approximately 1090. (6) Three documents from the beginning of the Crusades, consisting of letters from Tyre and Tripoli in Lebanon and Arqa in northern Syria which reflect the need of the Jews for mutual assistance in the difficult circumstances which prevailed at the end of the 11th century, and lastly, evidence of the connection between the Jews of *Yemen and the Babylonian communities. (7) Additional material concerning the Jews in Ereẓ Israel and the role of the ketubbah is to be found in a book by M.A. Friedman, Jewish Marriage in Palestine: A Cairo Genizah Study in two volumes (1980/81), Vol. 1, Ketubbah Tradition in Ereẓ Israel; Vol. 2, Texts.


In A. Kupfer's Konteros Ereẓ Israel (1968) are included pages from a work written by a sage desirous of immigrating to the Land of Israel, for which purpose he composed a pamphlet to serve as a guide for those contemplating immigration. A. David published new documents from the "late" Genizah illuminating life in Ereẓ Israel and its vicinity after the Spanish expulsion.

Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
David Bridger, Ed., The New Jewish Encyclopedia, NY: Behrman House, Inc. 1976;
Geoffrey Wigoder, Ed., The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, NY: Facts on File, 1992.


DOCUMENTS: S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, Vols. I (1967), II (1971), and III (1978); idem, Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders (1973); M.A. Michael, The Archive of Nahray ben Nissim, Businessman and Community Leader in Egypt in the 11th Century (Hebrew), Ph.D. thesis, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1967); N.A. Stillman, East-West Relations in the Islamic Mediterranean in the Early Eleventh Century – A Study in the Geniza Correspondence of the House of Ibn ʿAwkal, Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania (1970); E. Ashtor, Histoire des Prix et des Salaires dans L'Orient Médiéval (1969); H. Rabie, The Financial System of Egypt A.H. 564–741/A.D. 1169–1341 (1972); M.R. Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt (1980); G. Weiss, "Legal Documents written by the Court Clerk Halfon Ben Manasse (dated 1100–1138)" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1970); A.L. Motzkin, "The Arabic Correspondence of Judge Elijah and his Family (Papers from the Cairo Geniza)" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1965); M. Gil, Documents of the Jewish Pious Foundations from the Cairo Genizah (1976); M. Friedman, Jewish Marriage in Palestine (1980); Y. Stillman, "Female Attire of Medieval Egypt: According to the Trousseau Lists and Cognate MaterialImmanuel Freiburger from the Cairo Geniza" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1972); J. Sadan, Le Mobilier au Proche Orient Médiéval (1976); S.D. Goitein, Palestinian Jewry in Early Islamic and Crusader Times (Hebrew, 1980); Y. Prawer (ed.), The History of Eretz-Yisrael under Moslem and Crusader Rule (634–1291) (Heb., 1981); M. Gil, The Tustaris: the Family and the Sect (Heb., 1981); S.D. Goitein, The Yemenites (Heb., 1983); N. Golb and O. Pritsak, Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century (1983); E. Ashtor, History of the Jews in Egypt and Syria under the Rule of the Mamluks, vol. 4 (Heb., 1970); idem, A Social and Economic History of the Near East in the Middle Ages (1976); N.A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands (1979). POETRY: J. Schirmann, New Hebrew Poems from the Genizah (Heb., 1965); A. Mirsky, The Poems of Yose ben Yose (Heb., 1977); M. Wallenstein, Some Unpublished Piyyutim from the Cairo Genizah (1956); E. Fleischer, The Pizmonim of the Anonymous (Heb., 1974); E. Fleischer, The Poems of Solomon ha-Bavli (Heb., 1975); D. Jarden, The Liturgical Poetry of Rabbi Solomon ibn Gabirol (Heb., 1971); idem, The Liturgical Poetry of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (Heb., 1978); idem, Divan Samuel ha-Nagid (Heb., 1966); N. Allony and D. Jarden, A Collection of the Secular Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol (Heb., 1969); H. Brody and J. Schirmann, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Secular Poems (Heb., 1974); I. Levin, The Religious Poems of Abraham ibn Ezra (Heb., 1975); M.H. Schmelzer, Isaacben Abraham ibn Ezra, Poems (1980); D. Pagis, The Poems of Levi ibn al-Tabban (Heb., 1967); Y. David, The Poems of Joseph Bensuli (Heb., 1979); A. Mirsky, The Poems of Isaac Ibn Khalfun (Heb., 1961); Y. David, The Poems of Elya Bar Shemaya (Heb., 1977); D. Jarden, Ẓefunei Shirah (Heb., 1967). MASORAH: I. Yeivin, "The Babylonian Vocalization and the Linguistic Tradition it Reflects" (Heb., Ph.D. thesis, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1968); idem, Geniza Bible Fragments with Babylonian Massorah and Vocalization, 5 vols. (1973); L. Diez Merino, La biblia babilonica (1975); M. Dietrich, Neue Palästinisch Punktierte Bibelfragmente (1968); E.J. Revell, Hebrew Texts with Palestinian Vocalization (1970); idem, Biblical Texts with Palestinian Pointing and Their Accents (1977); B. Chiesa, L'Antico Testamento Ebraico (1978); N. Allony, Geniza Fragments of Rabbinic Literature, Mishna, Talmud and Midrash, with Palestinian Vocalization (1973); H. Diez Macho, Manuscritos hebreos y arameos de la Biblia (1971). GRAMMAR: N. Allony, Ha-Egron: Kitāb 'Usūl al-Shiʿr al-ʿibrāni by Rav Saadiah Gaon (Heb., 1969); idem, Jacob ben Eleazar; Kitāb al-Kāmil (Heb., 1977); S. Abramson, R. Judah b. Bal'am's Book of Homonyms (Heb., 1963); A. Dotan, The Dikdukei ha-Teʿamim of Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (Heb., 1967); A.S. Halkin, Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, Kitāb al-Muāḍara wal-Mudhākara (Heb., 1975). TARGUM AND VERSIONS: M. Klein, The Fragment Targums of the Pentateuch According to their Extant Sources (1968); S. Lund and S.A. Foster, Variant Versions of Targumic Traditions within Codex Neofiti I (1977). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: GENERAL: M.A. Friedman, Cairo Genizah Studies (1980). This work is the first stage in assembling the research on the Genizah in various fields; Talmud, Midrash, poetry, and language. Among the 19 entries are the following: S.D. Goitein: "The Life of our Forefathers as Reflected in the Documents of the Cairo Genizah," Y. Sussmann, "Talmud Fragments in the Cairo Genizah," Z.M. Rabinowitz, "The Importance of the Genizah Fragments for the Study of Talmud and Midrash," E. Fleischer, "The Contribution of the Genizah to the Study of Medieval Hebrew Religious Poetry," Y. Schirmann, "Secular Hebrew Poetry in the Genizah Manuscripts," M. Gil, "Palestine During the First Period of Muslim Occupation (634–1099) in Light of the Cairo Genizah Documents," M. Benayahu, "The Significance of the Genizah Documents of the 16th–18th Centuries"; N. Aloni, in: Sinai, 79 (1976), 193–210; Sh. Morag, in: Tarbiz, 42 (1973), 60–78; Ginzei Jerusalem – The Teaching of Gaonim and Earlier Rabbinic Sages as compiled from the Ms. stored in the Genizah in Egypt, I, new edition by A.J. Wertheimer (1981); A. Scheiber, "' Al Ḥeqer Genizat Kaufmann ve-Ḥashivutah," in: Evkonyu (1977/78), 310–28. BIBLE: S. Abramson, in: KS, 52 (1977), 156–72; G. Weiss, in: Beth Mikra, 23 (1978), 341–62. MISHNAH, TALMUD, AND HALAKHAH: J. Agus, in: JQR, 62 (1971/72), 314–6; N. Friedmann, in: Tarbiz, 40 (1971), 320–59; N. Aloni, in: Sinai, 72 (1973), 11–29; G. Weiss, in: Gratz College Annual of Jewish Studies, 2 (1973), 29–42; idem, in: Mehkarim be-Toldot Am Israel ve-Ereẓ Yisrael, 4 (1978), 161–73; R. Mirkin, in: Sefer Zikkaron to Ḥ. Yalon-Bar Ilan, 2 (1974), 371–84; E.Z. Melamed, ibid., 385–417; Z.M. Rabinowitz, ibid., 499–511; A.I. Katsh, in: JQR, 61 (1970/71), 1–74; 63 (1972/73), 39–47; 66 (1975/76), 129–42; 69 (1978/79), 16–26, 193–207; 71 (1981), 181–84; idem, in: Sefer Shazar, Zer li-Gevurot (1973); S. Abramson, Koveẓ al Yad, N.S. 8 (1976); M. Krupp, Immanuel Freiburger Rundbrief (1976), 172–76; N. Aloni, in: Sefer Ya'akov Gil (1979), 249–55; S. Morag, in: Sefer Zikhronot Baneth (1979), 111–23; M.A. Friedman, in: Mimizraḥ u-mi-Ma'arav, 2 (1980), 19–25. MIDRASH: M.B. Lerner, in: KS, 48 (1973), 543–9; A. Scheiber, in: Acta Orientalia Budapest, 32 (1978), 231–43; Z.M. Rabinowitz, in: Mikhtam le-David (Sefer Zikkaron le-ha-Rav D. Ochs) (1978), 106–19; idem, in: Bar Ilan, 16–17 (1979), 100–111. GEONIC PERIOD: Z.M. Rabinowitz, in: Tarbiz, 41 (1972), 275–305; M.A. Friedman, in: Sinai, 74 (1974), 14–36; ibid., 83 (1978), 250–51; idem, in Michael, 5 (1978), 215–42; A. Hurwitz, in: Hadorom, 46 (1978), 123–227. MAIMONIDES: A. Hurwitz, in: Hadorom, 38 (1974), 4–44; ibid., 40 (1975), 57–122; M.A. Friedman, in: Tarbiz, 46 (1977), 145–49. RISHONIM: in: Hadorom, 42 (1975), 107–56; A. Hurwitz, in Hadorom, 44 (1977), 5–78; ibid., 46 (1978), 4–13; J.H. Lipschitz, in: Moriah, 7 (1978), 5–12; ibid., 8 (1978), 2–12. LITURGY: A. Scheiber, in: Tarbiz, 42 (1973), 209; N. Wieder, in: Sinai, 77 (1975), 116–38; ibid., 82 (1978), 197–221; ibid., 78 (1976), 97–122. POETRY: Z. Malachi, in: Tarbiz, 42 (1973), 328–36; idem, Yahadut Teman (1976), 321–27; D. Yarden, in: Sinai, 79 (1976), 97–101; Z.M. Rabinowitz, Shai le-Haiman (1977). HISTORY: S.D. Goitein, in: JQR, 56 (1975/76), 69–88; idem, in: Sefunot, 11 (1978), 11–33; B.Z. Kedar, in: Tarbiz, 42 (1973), 401–18; D. Baneth, in: Sugyot be-Toldot Ereẓ Yisrael, 4 (1976), 103–21; D. Pingree, in: JNES, 36 (1977), 113–45; 38 (1979), 153–76, 231–56; M.A. Michaeli, in: Michael, 5 (1978), 168–87; Z. Malachi, ibid. 188–91; S. Shaked, in: Studia Orientalia in memory of Baneth (1979), 239–44. ALIYAH: S. Abramson, in: Sinai, 81 (1977), 181–227. OTHER: M.L. Klein, in: HUCA, 49 (1978), 73–87; 50 (1979), 149–64; A. Scheiber, 277–87; idem, in: AOB, 33 (1979), 113–19; E. Fleischer, in: Sefunot, N.S. 47–25 (1979); idem, in: Kobeẓ al Yad, 9 (19), (1979), 25–127; idem, in: KS, 55 (1980), 183–90; Z. Falk, in: Sinai, 85 (1979), 145–49. MISCELLANEOUS: M. Margalioth, Sefer ha-Razim (Heb., 1966); P. Fenton, The Treatise of the Pool: al-Maqāla al-Ḥawḍiyya (1981); H. Dimitrovsky, Seridei Bavli: Fragments from Spanish and Portuguese Incunabula and Sixteenth Century Printings of the Babylonian Talmud and al-Fasi (Heb., 1979); L. Fuks, The Oldest Known Literary Documents of Yiddish Literature (c. 1382) (1957); H.J. Hakkarainen, Studien zum Cambridger Codex (1967); S.A. Birnbaum, The Hebrew Scripts (1971); M. Beit-Arié, Hebrew Codicology (1976); D. Sklare (with H. Ben-Shammai) (eds.), Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts in the Firkovitch Collections: The Works of Yusuf al-Basir, 1997; D. Sklare (with H. Ben-Shammai) (eds.), Center for the Study of Judaeo-Arabic Culture and Literature: Publications (series): Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts in the Firkovitch Collections: The Commentary on Genesis by Yefet ben `Eli (Heb., 2000); P.B. Fenton, "Leningrad Treasures," in: Genizah Fragments, 10 (1985), 2–3; M. Ben-Sasson, "Firkovich's Second Collection: Remarks on Historical and Halakhic Material," in: Jewish Studies, 31 (1991), 47–67 (Heb.); G. Khan, "Documents support Firkovitch theory," in: Genizah Fragments, 28 (Oct. 1994), 2; G.D. Cohen, "The Reconstruction of Gaonic History: Introduction to Jacob Mann's Texts and Studies," in the reprint of Mann's Texts and Studies, 1, (1972); M. Gil, The Tustaris: The Family and the Sect (Heb., 1981); idem, Palestineduring the First Muslim Period (634–1099), 1–3 (Heb., 1983); M. Ben-Sasson, The Jews of Sicily 825–1068 (1991); E. Bareket, The Jews of Egypt 1007–1055 (1995); M. Ben-Sasson, The Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World – Qayrawan, 800–1057 (Heb., 1996); M. Friedman, J ewish Marriage in Palestine (1980–1981); S.D. Goitein, Jewish Education in Muslim Countries: New Sources from the Geniza (Heb., 1962); S.C. Reif, Published Material from the Cambridge Genizah Collections: A Bibliography (1988), 243; H. Ben-Shammai, "Saadya's Introduction to Isaiah as an Introduction to the Books of the Prophets," in: Tarbiz, 60 (1991), 371–404 (Heb.); S.D. Goitein, Palestinian Jewry in Early Islamic and Crusader Times (Heb., 1980); Y. Yahalom, "The Leningrad treasures and the Study of the Poetry and Life of Yehuda Halevi," in: Pe'amim, 46–47 (1991), 55–74 (Heb.); idem, "Anthology of Ha-Levi poems," in: Genizah Fragments, 30 (October 1995); S. Hopkins, "An unpublished autograph fragment of Maimonides's Guide of the Perplexed," in: Bulletin of the School of Asian and African Studies, 50 (1987), 465–69; S. Stroumsa, Dawud ibn Marwan al-Muqammis's Twenty Chapters (1989); M. Zucker, Saadia's Commentary on Genesis (1984); G. Vajda, "Le commentaire kairouanais sur le 'Livre de la Creation'," in: REJ, 105 (1940), 132–40; 107 (1946–47), 99–156; 110 (1949–50), 67–92; 112 (1953), 5–33; 113 (1954), 37–61; 119 (1961), 159–61; 122 (1963), 149–62; A.E. Harkavy, Zikhron Rav Shemuel ben Hofni (Studien und Mittheilungen, 31) (1880).

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