EAJS Programme in European Jewish Studies 2017/18
EAJS Summer Laboratory for Young Genizah Researchers and those Interested in the Field
Conveners: Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (EPHE Paris), Ben Outhwaite (Genizah Research Unit Cambridge), Ronny Vollandt (LMU Munich)
Organiser: Friederike Schmidt (LMU Munich)
Venue: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Professor-Huber-Platz 2, Lehrturm W401
Date: 6th – 7th September 2017
Participants: Emma Abate, Jérémie Allouche, Monika Amsler, Dotan Arad, Neri Ariel, Estara J. Arrant, Zina Cohen, Meir Bar Maymon, Rebekka Denz, Saskia Dönitz, Alan Elbaum, Nathan Gibson, Wissem Gueddich, Helen Jacobus, Eve Krakowski, Corrado la Martire, Sebastian Metz, Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, Ben Outhwaite, Alexandra Pleşa, Joaquín Porras Ordieres, Michael Rand, Gabi Rudolf, Friederike Schmidt, Gregor Schwarb, Renate Smithuis, Sacha Stern, Peter Tarra, Lenka Uličná, Ronny Vollandt
From approximately the tenth to the nineteenth centuries the Jewish community of Old Cairo deposited their worn-out books and documents into the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, a storeroom for retired texts. Countless leaves, many written in Hebrew script and thus deemed too sacred for an ordinary disposal, were placed there, along with the remains of treasured books, personal and official letters, amulets, calendars, and all kinds of written text that a highly literate community might produce.
With the discovery of the so called “Cairo Genizah”, one hundred and twenty years ago, researchers from diverse disciplines and fields have gained access to an enormous and unprecedented collection of rare and original documents from the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, more than 200,000 pieces in Cambridge University Library alone, along with other collections scattered worldwide. This remarkable storehouse of primary sources has thrown a fresh new light on the medieval society of the Mediterranean world as a whole (including Islamic and Eastern Christian history) and particularly on Jewish history and culture from ancient to early modern times. Given the scope, scale and diverse character of the material recovered from the Cairo storeroom, the Genizah continues to provide a seemingly inexhaustible source of primary research materials for scholars from a wide range of disciplines.
Even with the essential tools that have been established over the last few decades to facilitate Genizah studies, gaining access to this vast field with its very specialized material is still a challenge to young researchers and thus calls for special training. The EAJS Summer Laboratory was therefore intended as a platform for advanced MA-students, PhD-candidates and Post-Docs who are interested in the field of Genizah Studies and wish to venture further into it.
Wednesday, 6th September
Opening remarks: In the opening remarks the conveners stressed that any work on Genizah fragments, despite the availability of microfilms in the past and digital images today, must take into consideration the physical aspects of manuscripts. Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (EPHE, Paris) highlighted the five ages of Genizah research: (1) “Orientalism and the Bible”, that was characterized by a link between Biblical and Judaic Studies (Solomon Schechter); (2) “Piecing together Jewish History”, that was marked by an awakened interest in Jewish history and liturgy (Jacob Mann); (3) “Economy and Society of the Mediterranean” (Shlomo Dov Goitein); (4) Manuscripts and the archival turn (New Philology); and (5) the Digital Age (multi-spectral imaging, ink analysis, Friedberg Genizah Project, Princeton Genizah Lab, automatic matching of fragments).
Panel 1: In her presentation, The Features of ‘Popular’ Bible Codex Fragments from the Cairo Genizah, Estara J. Arrant (University of Cambridge) argued for the importance of studying ‘scrappy’ specimens (i.e. children’s or non-professional copies), rather than the well-known calligraphic Bible manuscripts. She offered an in-depth, detailed, and systematic study of the codicological and linguistic features of “popular” or “non-standard” Hebrew Bible codices in the Genizah. Her research aims to document thoroughly the physical features of these codices (including everything from quantitative analysis of manuscript dimensions, codicological form to palaeographic dating and scribal practice). She sought to determine their typology/ies and connect any non-standard linguistic phenomena to the physical features of the documents. Michael Rand (University of Cambridge) presented A Quick Introduction to Genizah Piyyut. In order to understand the forms and functions of piyyut, Rand first established a number of fundamental, relevant facts about Jewish liturgical practice: 1) the festival cycle, and 2) the cycle of Scriptural lections. The earliest stratum of the piyyut literature, referred to as Pre-Classical, is represented by self-contained poems that are composed for recitation on different liturgical occasions in the festival cycle. Rand showed how the poems of the Pre-Classical Period were usually arranged in accordance with the alphabetic acrostic principle and lack rhyme. Poems are usually arranged in a quadripartite division of the poetic line into feet of two stresses each, with the line divided into two parallelistic hemistichs, as inherited from the biblical parallelismus membrorum. Furthermore, the metaphoric/figurative language is almost exclusively limited to tropes and figures attested in the biblical corpus. Wissem Gueddich (EPHE, Paris) presented a paper on Writing Legal Deeds in the Jewish Court: From the Scribe Draft to the Court Archive. She called attention to the fact that fragments catalogued as legal deeds often contain a variety of texts: deeds of sale, court records, or drafts. Furthermore, she elaborated on the actual use of these fragments and their production. Alan Elbaum (UC Berkeley-UCSF), in his Representations of Illness and Somatic Distress in Genizah Letters, investigated how ill people themselves (rather than physicians) represent illness. Noting how little scholarship on the impact of disease on ordinary life existed, he gave several examples of expressions used to describe physical and psychological pain that were found in Genizah letters.
Panel 2: Sacha Stern (University College London) opened with a paper on Calendars and Calendar Texts in the Cairo Genizah. He addressed the question as to what Jewish calendars looked like over the centuries. He demonstrated that the tabular mise-en-page, although common in the Roman tradition (i.e. the Fasti Antiates Maiores [84-85 BCE] and the Fasti Praenestini [1rst century BC]) and in continuity with them also later Christian Latin liturgical calendars, was not adopted by Jews until the 18th century. Previously calendars were in prose form. Furthermore, Stern showed that the Jewish calendar as it is known today, based on a fixed calculation and set of rules, is first attested in the ninth century, and probably reached its final form in the first half of the same century. Among the most important documents, all from the Cairo Genizah, are the texts that pertain to the calendar controversy of 921/922. Not much is known about the Jewish calendar in the preceding centuries. In her contribution The Palestinian Triennial Cycle and the Zodiac Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Helen Jacobus (University College London) summarized the contribution earlier scholars have made to the subject of the Palestinian Triennial Liturgical, from the end of the 19th century until the 1960s, with respect to the publication of manuscript fragments from the Cairo Genizah. She showed that the beginnings of the sedarim varied among different communities and that, furthermore, there is a need to update, edit and expand the last catalogue on this subject published by Jacob Mann and Isaiah Sonne. In addition, she presented findings of her own project that connects the zodiacal Aramaic calendars from Qumran with the Palestinian Triennial Cycle(s). Jérémie Allouche (EPHE, Paris), Going to Work in the Cairo Geniza: Surveying the Wage-Earners Conditions of Work, shed new light on neglected aspects of the socio-economic condition of Jews, especially with regard to salaried and manual labour. Showing that salaried labour is much better documented than previously thought, he drew attention to a number of legal deeds, and especially bilateral contracts of employment, that concern the hire of a person by someone else in exchange for a salary. Neri Ariel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) spoke on Unveiling Reconstructed Halakhic Genre: New Horizons, Contributions and Ramifications of Genizah Research. Previous scholars have pointed out remnants from the Judaeo-Arabic genre of adab al-qaḍā, i.e. manuals for judges on proper and improper behavior in court and the judges’ qualifications and disqualifications. In this presentation, Ariel shared new developments and discoveries in the research on relevant Genizah fragments. He presented the attribution of a number of fragments to several books by R. Shemuel b. Ḥofni, R. Hai b. Sherira Gaon or Ibn Aknin.
Panel 3: Gregor Schwarb (SOAS, London) provided A Toolkit for Genizah Scholars: A Practical Guide for Neophytes. He showed that the manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah have seen in the last decades a significant leap forward in cataloguing. For some collections of this material, such as the Bodleian Library and the Arabic Series in the Cambridge Taylor-Schechter collections, proper catalogues exist (see inter alia, Baker and Polliack 2001, Shivtiel and Niessen 2006). Further, relevant bibliographic information can be found printed in Shaked (1964), Reif (1988), Jefferson and Hunter (2004), and online (Krivoruchko 2016, https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/bibliographies). All of these efforts, as Schwarb showed, have now been incorporated and integrated into the portal of the Friedberg Jewish Manuscript Society with its various tools, including The Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP) (https://fjms.genizah.org/), which offers “images, identifications, catalogs, metadata, transcriptions, translations and bibliographical references” of “the entire corpus of Genizah manuscripts and Genizah-related materials”. As for the Firkovitch collections, he mentioned the cataloguing projects of the Ben-Zvi Institute. Sample catalogues are Sklare and Ben-Shammai (1997) and Ben-Shammai, Batat, Butbul, Sklare and Stroumsa (2000). There is also a now-outdated bibliography by Fenton (1991). Only a few months ago, the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts started to provide open online access to the Firkovitch collections, through Ketiv (http://web.nli.org.il/sites/NLIS/he/ManuScript/Pages/AdvancedSearch.aspx); this offers access to low-resolution images of most manuscripts from the Russian collections, which are not available through FGP. His handout is openly accessible: https://www.academia.edu/s/fbf2433678/toolkit-for-genizah-scholars-a-practical-guide-for-neophytes-2017
Keynote: The keynote lecture was delivered by Eve Krakowski (Princeton University) on Jewish Law in Practice: Genizah Legal Documents as Historical Records. She showed that the Genizah documents have to be seen in the much larger history of document preservation in Egypt, where exponentially more premodern everyday documents survived into modern times than anywhere else in the Middle East. These include vast numbers of Demotic, Greek, and Coptic papyri produced from the Ptolemaic era into the early Islamic period, and vast numbers of Arabic documents—produced first on papyrus and then from the 9th century on, on paper and occasionally parchment—from the Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk periods. All these documents offer a view of history different from, and often richer than, the view we get from literary sources. Documents reveal aspects of life beyond the purview of such texts, thus often termed history from below, as for example the mundane workings of state and local institutions; personal relationships between husbands and wives, or parents and children, or masters and slaves. In particular, Krakowski demonstrated how from the later 11th century on, Genizah legal documents transition from being either purely in Hebrew (or in the case of Ketubbot and Gittin purely Aramaic) or purely Judeo-Arabic into a trilingual format with a hybrid rabbinic-Islamicate character. These documents reproduce substantive rabbinic law and gain their legitimacy and value from their technical Jewish validity. These were, as she argued, produced by scribes naturally fluent in Islamic, or Islamicate, legal conventions and vocabulary.
Thursday, 7th September
Panel 4: Dotan Arad (Bar Ilan University), in his The Late Genizah: Historical Background and Main Characters, showed the important of fragments that are usually subsumed under the inappropriate label “Late Genizah”. These fragments are usually later than the classic, Fatimid or Ayyubid, stratum and were written in other languages than Hebrew, Aramaic and classical Judeo-Arabic, many of them in Judeo-Spanish, but also Yiddish and Turkish. These documents undoubtedly testify to the existence of the largest group of immigrants in Egypt in the 15th century and onwards. Arad argued for a new periodization of the Genizah in which the later fragments could be called the Ottoman Genizah. Lenka Uličná (Jewish Museum Prague) spoke on Genizah studies: Inspirations for processing of local European Genizot. She focused on findings in Moravian and Bohemian Genizot from the 18th to the 19th century and highlighted similarities and differences in the typology of items coming from the Cairo Genizah and local European genizot, especially the Bohemian ones.
Panel 5: Rebekka Denz (Freie Universität Berlin) and Gabi Rudolf (Universität Würzburg) opened with a paper on What to do with these snips? Experiences from the work with Genisot from Franconia. They presented their research on Franconian genizot (“Genisa-Blätter”) and showed how these Genizot may contribute to our understanding of Jewish regional history and everyday life in Franconia (http://v-j-s.org/projekte/genisaforschung/). Emma Abate (IRHT, Paris) presented on How to summon the spirits’. Instructions and manuscript tradition. She gave a survey of different types of magical fragments in the Cairo Genizah. Fragments can be divided into two main genres: amulets (understood as charms inscribed on different materials, such as parchment, paper or different kind of stones and metals, mainly for protective purposes) and segullot (referring to collections of magical prescriptions which should be performed in order to satisfy individual needs and desires). Abate further furnished examples of magical handbooks and books for summoning demons and spirits. Renate Smithuis (University of Manchester), speaking on Fifteen Thousand Fragments at Your Fingertips: The Genizah Collection at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, introduced one of the smaller and lesser known Genizah collections in Manchester. It holds about 15.000 fragments, which originally belonged to Moses Gaster (1856-1939). Gaster appears to have acquired his collections in two installments: the first around 1896, when the first “Egyptian papers” reached the market and the second around 1900. Most of its contents consist of small, single page fragments that tend to be late (18th and 19th century). Short Presentations followed by Friederike Schmidt (LMU, Munich), Nathan Gibson (LMU, Munich), Peter Tarras (LMU, Munich), Corrado la Martire (Humboldt Universität Berlin).
Panel 6: Zina Cohen (University of Hamburg and EPHE, Paris) furnished an Analysis on Writing Materials of Genizah Fragments written during the First Half of the XIth Century. She focused on ink composition on some fragments found in the Cairo Genizah and written by the leaders of the Jewish communities in Fustat during the first half of the 11th century (Ephraim ben Shemarya and Yephet ben David from the Palestinian congregation and Elhanan ben Shemarya, Abraham ben Sahlan and Sahlan ben Abraham from the Babylonian community). In her talk, she highlighted how such a project will provides insights on trade, local technologies and social structures. Though ink composition alone cannot be used as a direct geochronological marker, superposition of chemical, palaeographical, codicological, and textual data would help to date and localize and serve as an additional argument for a typology and dating of other Hebrew scripts. Alexandra Pleşa (Leiden University), with a paper on Owning Dress in Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt: Identifying Large-Scale Patterns of Dress Use through a Quantitative Study of Greek and Arabic Documentary texts, focused on the various roles that dress played in the social, economic, and religious lives of non-elites in the Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt (fifth to tenth century CE). Her presentation drew mainly on the study of archaeological textiles from three Egyptian sites (Matmar, Mostagedda, and Berenike), as well as an analysis of terminology of dresses and the background in which they appear in approximately 260 editions of Greek and Arabic documents from Egypt, datable within the same period. Monika Amsler (University of Zurich) presented on Nomina Sacra and Other Observations on the Manuscript of the (so called) 8th Book of Moses (PGM XIII/ Leiden I 395). She elaborated on the use of Nomina Sacra in Greek magical papyri and their possible Jewish roots. Short Presentations followed by Meir Bar Maymon (Tel Aviv University), Saskia Dönitz (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), Sebastian Metz (LMU, Munich).
The laboratory aimed at providing a platform for students who either have not yet started their PhD but are interested in working with Genizah material, or who are in an early phase of their Genizah-related dissertation and need some guidance by experts within the vast field. It was intended to give young researchers the opportunity to establish a network for future cooperation with others working in the same field.
Outcomes and future Projects
- As a continuation of the Summer Lab, a panel for Young Genizah Researchers will be organised at the EAJS Congress 2018
- A Toolkit for Genizah Scholars: A Practical Guide for Neophytes was prepared by Gregor Schwarb and is openly accessible: https://www.academia.edu/s/fbf2433678/toolkit-for-genizah-scholars-a-practical-guide-for-neophytes-2017
Attached PDF: Event Programme
Report by: Ronny Vollandt, firstname.lastname@example.org (Munich, October 2017).