The Friedberg Genizah Project
Depositing worn out texts 
in the Cairo Genizah; Diorama, 
Museum of Jewish Diaspora

Executive Summary

he Cairo Genizah, discovered at the end of the 19th century, is a collection of over 200,000 fragmentary Jewish medieval texts (which may well equal three times that number of folios) that were stored in the loft of the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt between the 8th and 17th centuries. These manuscripts outline a 1,000-year continuum of Middle-Eastern history and comprise the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts in the world.

Upon discovery, the fragmented manuscripts were hastily procured by private collectors and university libraries from Europe and North America. As a result, to date there is no exact accounting of the Genizah's contents or their whereabouts.

The Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP) was established to facilitate and rejuvenate Genizah research. It is achieving this goal by locating the Genizah manuscripts and then identifying, cataloging, transcribing, translating, rendering them into digital format (i.e., photographing) and publishing them online. FGP is operating in a joint venture with the Friedberg Jewish Manuscript Society Toronto, Canada.

The high-resolution digital images of the manuscripts (600 DPI, or dots per inch, the standard set by the Research Libraries International Organization) are, in a certain sense, "better" than the original manuscript because they can be visually enhanced by computer-generated viewing tools and can be accessed from any computer with internet access at the FGP's online research platform.

The huge academic interest generated by FGP is evidenced by the fact that the most prestigious university libraries in the world have signed copyright agreements with FGP, are participating in the project and are sharing their invaluable manuscript collections with the world.

For the academic community, FGP is indeed an historic boon. Until now, the Cairo Genizah manuscripts were largely inaccessible since a scholar wishing to study a specific manuscript often had to travel to one university to view one fragment of it, and then to a different university (sometimes in a different country or continent) to view another section of the same manuscript. The manuscripts' brittleness and poor condition compounded the difficulties encountered by scholars.

Yet another obstacle to efficient Genizah research was the virtual isolation in which research groups in various universities worked, as there was no unified, efficient Cairo Genizah "channel" through which they could share knowledge with their colleagues in other universities who had access to different collections. FGP now serves as this channel, enabling scholars to share information and exchange knowledge and ideas. In this manner, FGP is creating important and unprecedented collaboration between academic institutions, resulting in the creation of more qualitative and cost-effective research study.

FGP is also making a significant contribution to the academic world by collecting, identifying and preserving all research done on the Cairo Genizah since 1895. This wealth of information is being uploaded to FGP's online research platform and appended to the relevant manuscript images, making it easily available to scholars worldwide.

The result of all this activity is reawakened interest in the Cairo Genizah manuscripts within the academic community, and a remarkable surge of activity among scholars worldwide.


Image: Depositing worn out texts in the Cairo Genizah ,Diorama at the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv; Beth Hatefutsoth, The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora; This image should not be copied/downloaded. For details: +972-3-7457851