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The Cairo Genizah

June 5, 1997-October 28, 1997
Location: Unspecified location
In 1897, Dr. Solomon Schechter, Reader in Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature at the University of Cambridge, made an exciting discovery in Fostat, Old Cairo, when he found an intact genizah (storage place for old documents, usually of a religious nature). There, in the Ben Ezra Synagogue, he found a wealth of documents relating not only to daily life in the vibrant Jewish communities of that area, but revealing a new understanding of the Mediterranean world, especially that of the 11th -13th centuries, and how Jews, Christians, and Moslems related to each other on a daily basis as well as in the context of religious debate. The huge cache of documents includes the Ben Sira text, texts hand-written by famous scholars like Yehudah Halevi, Joseph Karo, Maimonides, and Hai and many documents that reflect the ordinary literature of everyday life: trade documents, bridal dowries detailing jewelry, household items, mundane legal papers, etc. The latter provides a unique window on the activities of men, women and children in the Middle Ages. The exhibition The Cairo Genizah commemorating the discovery of the genizah coincided with the World Congress for Judaic Studies and the International Congress of the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls held at the Museum in July, 1997. The Damascus Covenant found in this genizah refers to the religious beliefs and practices of the unknown Jewish Essene sect also discussed in the scrolls found at Qumran in the Judean desert 50 years later. Both scrolls concerning the sect were exhibited together.