You may think this is an arabic word, but it is not. It is a hebrew word for “resting place”. This is a room attached to a synagogue where documents bearing the name of god are placed, as they cannot be destroyed. It is usually a room or a basement but the Cairo Geniza, founded in the 9th century, had quite a few rooms, containing 280,000 Jewish, Muslim and Christian manuscript fragments.

The documents cover a large period of time and many topics. They cover marriage contracts, community minutes, debts, leases, title-deeds, rabbinical court records, wills, private letters as well as 200 unknown poems from Judah Halevi, personal papers from Moses Maimonides and religious tracts from the Old Testament, New Testament and Qur’an.

Most of the records are written in Aramaic, in hebrew script. By Jewish law, it was written in God’s language and can’t be destroyed once the purpose of the document is served.

More recent documents have poems in yiddish from the 13th-15th centuries. There is also documentation of the large-scale conversion of the Kingdom of Khazaria in the pages.

If interested Papyyri Pages has many links to follow to Universities and Libraries which are studying the documents. A book by Paul Kahle titled “The Cairo Geniza” is available for download here.

Cairo Geniza- Wikipedia
Jewish Virtual Library
Papyri Pages

One comment on “Geniza

  1. Teffania says:

    Did I tell you about this 6 volume book:
    A Mediterranean society : the Jewish communities of the Arab world as portrayed in the documents of the Cairo Geniza / S.D. Goitein

    ISBN * 0520056477 (v. 5)
    * 0520018672 (v. 2)
    * 0520081366 (v. 6)
    * 0520032659 (v. 3)
    * 0520221583 (v. 1)
    * 0520221613 (v. 4)

    Available from Melbourne, Monash, Latrobe, Deakin Uni librarys, and State Library.

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