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A geniza [ geˈniːza ], in German mostly written Genisa ( Hebrew גניזה gənīzā , pl . : Genizoth ; meaning: warehouse, depot, memory), is a sometimes walled-in cavity for storing used Jewish liturgical writings. Torah scrolls that were no longer legible or other texts that were no longer used were locked here. Texts that contain the Tetragrammaton ( YHWH ) or other designations of God must not simply be thrown away. Important documents from the Jewish liturgy and history have survived. There were also numerous profane writings, mostly in Judeo-Arabic.

Geniza of the Ben Esra Synagogue in Cairo

Probably the most famous geniza was in Cairo and was discovered in 1890 during a renovation of the Ben Esra Synagogue , which was rebuilt in 1025 after its destruction under the Fatimid caliph al-Hākim bi-amr Allāh († February 13, 1021). In a separate crawl space under the roof, which could only be reached by a ladder, were found during the last renovation works around 200,000 documents from the year 800 , such as The Book of Sirach (Old Testament) in Hebrew or the famous Damascus Document , which Parts were later also found in Qumran , a Yiddish manuscript with a fragment of a German heroic saga ( Dukus Horant ), marriage certificates and other profane letters that provide information about the siege of Jerusalem ( crusades ) from the perspective of the Jewish population at the time. The room, which could only be reached through a hatch, was apparently never emptied from the 11th to the 19th century, while the holdings of other synagogues were solemnly "buried" from time to time. Further collections have been discovered in the cemetery, in the so-called Basātīn (gardens), near the Ben Esra Synagogue .

Knowledge of the existence of the Cairo geniza began to spread in the west from the second half of the 18th century. In 1752 Simon von Geldern , a great-uncle of Heinrich Heine , visited Egypt and noted in his diary that he had been in the Elias synagogue and had searched the Geniza there. On his second Middle East expedition (1863–65), the Karaean clergyman, traveler and manuscript collector Abraham Firkowitsch (1787–1874) from Russia visited the Ben Esra Synagogue in 1864, accompanied by the Chief Rabbi Elias Israel Shirizly. He searched the local geniza and brought numerous valuable manuscripts to his place of residence Çufut Qale in the Crimea , from where they were sold to the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg in 1876, two years after his death, and there to date with over 10,000 copies worldwide form the largest and most important collection of Judeo-Arab manuscripts. Around the same time, in the late summer of 1864, the scholar Jakob Saphir from Jerusalem spent two days in the synagogue and briefly described the desolate condition of the Geniza room. Its roof had collapsed, the written materials covered with dust and stones. However, the content of the materials could not be verified precisely. The discovery, which is important for scientific research, is connected with the name of Solomon Schechter . He arrived in Cairo in December 1896; after his acquaintance with the Cairo Chief Rabbi Raphael Aaron Ben Shimʿon (1848-1928), who asked Schechter to transfer the material inventory to Cambridge for conservation, he had unrestricted access to the synagogue's collection and was allowed to take any amount with him. One of the most important discoveries at the time was the identification of numerous fragments from the book by Simeon ben Jeshua Ben Eleazar that would occupy research for decades.

The originals of the Cairo Geniza are scattered today; for example (around 110,000 alone) in the Taylor-Schechter collection of the Cambridge University Library , in Princeton University , where Mark R. Cohen (Near Eastern Studies Department) conducts research on the subject, in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and in Saint Petersburg . David Kaufmann († 1899) acquired around 700 items from the Cairo holdings, which after his death were donated by the family to the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences . The American Semitist and professor of rabbinical literature Richard Gottheil , together with William H. Worrell, described the Geniza fragments preserved in the Freer Collection (Washington DC).

The German orientalist Eugen Wednesday acquired fragments from the inventory in 1899. With the exception of the liturgical texts and some poems, the documents in the Cairo Geniza are in Arabic but with Hebrew letters. One of these fragments acquired by E. Wednesday deals on four pages with the inadmissibility of engaging with science. The treatise was written after Maimonides' creative period , about whom and whose father the anonymous author makes a few remarks.

The Cairo Geniza made a decisive contribution to the understanding of medieval Jewish history as well as the scientific development of Judaeo-Arab and to knowledge of the culture of the Mediterranean region. It is to the merit of the orientalist Shlomo Dov Goitein to have made these important materials accessible to the public with his five-volume work A Mediterranean Society .

Not only is the language of most profane Geniza texts Arabic; The style and structure of many petitions, the so-called "beggar's letters", have also been borrowed from the corresponding literature of Arab supplicants of the Fatimid period: a) Presentation, b) Basmala , in Aramaic : bi-shmakh raḥmanā , c) blessings for the ruler; Expression of submission: the servant / your slave kisses the floor, d) introduction, e) application / request, f) indication that the decision rests solely with the master / ruler, g) conclusion. There are also letters in which the Islamic Basmala appears in Arabic letters, once also in Hebrew letters. These documents go back to the first half of the 12th century.

The structure and structure of these petitions and petitions speak in favor of a practice recognized by petitioners in the 12th and 13th centuries in order to be able to appeal to the charity of individuals or communities in their emergency situations. They are not to be equated with the so-called "Schnorrerbriefe" that emerged in Central and Eastern Europe in the middle of the 17th century.

The German orientalists Werner Diem and Hans-Peter Radenberg published a dictionary of the materials in the Geniza in Arabic according to Goitein's A Mediterranean Society in 1994 (see literature). Shaul Shaked from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has bibliographically recorded the state of research up to 1964 .

Geniza finds in Germany

Fragment (p. 46r) of the Yiddish Bible paraphrase Tze'ena u-Re'ena (Frankfurt / Main approx. 1750) from the geniza in the synagogue in Schwabach (Middle Franconia)

In recent years, especially in southern Germany - and here in Franconia in particular - geniza finds have been recovered from former synagogue buildings. One of the most extensive Franconian genizoths is kept in the Jewish Culture Museum Veitshöchheim . The Veitshöchheim Geniza was located in the attic of the former synagogue in Veitshöchheim and was occupied from around 1730 to 1900. Numerous prints and manuscripts are older, which suggests that the texts were used for a long time. The written inventory consists of religious writings such as Bibles, prayer books, individual prayers or rabbinical interpretations, but also non-religious literature such as fairy tales, edification literature or historical treatises.

The literature found in the Veitshöchheimer Geniza is mainly written in Hebrew, Yiddish or German. About a third of the texts are written in Hebrew, another third in Yiddish. Some German texts are written in Hebrew letters.

In addition to the printed works, which also include spelling tables, textbooks in the Hebrew language, pocket and wall calendars, as well as texts in German (newspapers), there is also a larger part of handwritten texts. The majority are letters, rabbinical reports, receipts, invoices or private notes such as notebooks.

Textiles such as Torah pennants , tefillin bags , prayer robes , kippot and other headgear and items of clothing or shoes were also found.

Due to its size, the Veitshöchheimer Geniza can be an example of other sites in southern Germany. The importance lies above all in their complex structure, which can be clearly assigned to a specific socio-cultural environment. Furthermore, a dating and chronological classification using the construction data of the respective site is quite possible. This is also shown by other geniza finds from Franconia such as those from Urspringen, Westheim near Hammelburg, Altenschönbach, Memmelsdorf or Mönchsroth.

In the Veitshöchheim genizaproject set up in 1998, all accessible genizas from synagogues in Lower Franconia have been viewed and inventoried. Completed the inventory of Genizoth of Urspringen (distr. Main-Spessart) Altenschönbach (distr. Kitzingen) Memmelsdorf (distr. Hassberge) Wiesenbronn (distr. Kitzingen), Small Steinach (distr. Hassberge) Goßmannsdorf am Main (distr. Würzburg) and Gaukönigshofen (district of Würzburg). Subsequently, the project was expanded to Upper Franconia and Middle Franconia: the recovery, inventory and digitization of the geniza, which was only discovered in November 2009 in the Bayreuth synagogue , as well as the inventory of the largest German geniza from the Reckendorf synagogue (Upper Franconia) and some smaller ones have been completed Finds, e.g. B. from the synagogue Lichtenfels (Upper Franconia) , the Synagogue Altenkunstadt (Upper Franconia) and the Synagogue Cronheim (Middle Franconia).

One of the most extensive new discoveries in recent years is the Genisa Niederzissen in the district of Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate . The finds are at the Chair of Jewish Studies at the Johannes-Gutenberg University together with the finds from the Genisot of the old synagogues of Alsenz (Donnersbergkreis), Weisenau (Mainz) and Bruttig (Lkr. Cochem-Zell) developed.

Hidden manuscript heritage in fragments of the binding

“Genizat Germania” is a recent research project headed by Andreas Lehnardt at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz , in which Hebrew binding fragments are cataloged in German archives and libraries. Although this is not a geniza in the strict sense, the expected results allow conclusions to be drawn “about the composition of the 'library' of Ashkenazi Judaism at the end of the Middle Ages”. There are comparable projects in other European countries; Of particular note is the “Ghenizà italiana”, which has been researched since the early 1980s under the direction of Mauro Perani (University of Bologna).


Cairo Geniza

  • Joshua Blau , Stefan C. Reif (Eds.): Genizah research after ninety years. The case of Judaeo-Arabic . University of Cambridge Press, Cambridge 1992.
  • Moshe Gil : Documents of the Jewish pious foundations from the Cairo Geniza . Brill, Leiden 1976.
  • Mark R. Cohen: Poverty and charity in the Jewish community of medieval Egypt. Princeton University Press 2005.
  • Shlomo Dov Goitein : A Mediterranean Society , Volume 1; The Jewish communities of the Arab world as portrayed in the documents of the Cairo Geniza, 6; University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles 1967-1968; ISBN 0-520-03265-9 , pp. 1ff
    • that. in one volume: University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1999, ISBN 0-520-21734-9 .
  • Shlomo Dov Goitein, Norman A. Stillman (Ed.): Studies in Islamic History and Institutions. Cape. 14: The Documents of the Cairo Geniza as a Source for Islamic Social History. P. 279ff. Brill, Leiden 2009.
  • Shlomo Dov Goitein: Art. Geniza , in: The Encyclopaedia of Islam . New Edition. Brill, suffering. Vol. 2 (1991), pp. 987-989.
  • N. Allony: Geniza Fragments of Rabbinic Literature, Mishna, Talmud and Midrash, with Palestinian Vocalization. Jerusalem 1973 (Hebrew).
  • N. Allony: Genizah etzel ha-yehudim. In: Sinai 89 (1976), pp. 193-201.
  • Richard JH Gottheil, William H. Worrell: Fragments from the Cairo genizah in the Freer collection . London / New York. Macmillan and Co. 1927. ( digitized UB Frankfurt)
  • Stefan C. Reif: A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo. Curzon, Richmont 2000, ISBN 0-7007-1312-3
  • Stefan C. Reif, Shulamit Reif (Ed.): The Cambridge Genizah collections: their contents and significance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002.
  • Werner Diem and Hans-Peter Radenberg: A Dictionary of the Arabic Material of SD Goitein's A Mediterranean Society. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1994 (see: Joshua Blau: Werner Diem and Hans-Peter Radenberg, A Dictionary of the Arabic Material of SD Goitein's A Mediterranean Society , in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 19 (1995) 287-295).
  • Simon Hopkins: The discovery of the Cairo Geniza (in Honor of AM Lewin Robinson). In: Bibliophilia Africana 4 (1980), pp. 137-178.
  • Joseph Sadan: Genizah and Genizah-like practices in Islamic and Jewish traditions. In: Bibliotheca Orientalis 43 (1986), pp. 36-58.
  • Shaul Shaked: A tentative bibliography of Geniza documents. The Hague 1964.
  • Monica Strauss: Maritime Trade: Arabia and India. Between Cairo and Mangalore. In: Structure . Main topic: The myth of the Silk Road . Searching for traces: the beginning of globalization. No. 7/8, July / Aug. 2010. pp. 19–21 - With further articles about Benjamin von Tudela , silk weaving , etc. a. In German, abstract in English (about Shlomo Dov Goitein's role in researching the Genizah, as well as Amitav Ghosh )

Geniza finds in Germany

  • Martina Edelmann: The Genisa of the Veitshöchheim synagogue. In: Depot finds from buildings in Central Europe. Bamberg Colloquium on the Archeology of the Middle Ages, Berlin 2005, 147ff.
  • Martina Edelmann: Story (s) of the attic. Genisa finds from Franconian synagogues , in: Folia in memoriam Ruth Lindner collecta, Dettelbach 2010, 199ff.
  • Martina Edelmann, Elisabeth Singer, Beate Weinhold: The Genisa of Bayreuth - Discovery and Recovery. In: Jüdisches Bayreuth, Bayreuth 2010, 42ff.
  • Martina Edelmann, Elisabeth Singer, Beate Weinhold: The Lichtenfels Genisa. In: The Lichtenfels Synagogue, Lichtenfels 2011, p. 42ff.
  • Martina Edelmann, Elisabeth Singer-Brehm, Beate Weinhold: Genisot: Finds from synagogues . In: Otto Lohr, Bernhard Purin (Ed.): Museum building blocks. Jewish cultural assets: recognizing, preserving, communicating . Berlin, Munich 2017, 97–110.
  • Andreas Lehnardt, The Geniza of the Synagogue Weisenau - Hidden Jewish Memories Rediscovered, in: Joachim Schneider / Matthias Schnettger (eds.), Hidden - Lost - Rediscovered. Places of remembrance in Mainz from antiquity to the 20th century , Darmstadt, Mainz 2012, pp. 84–95, ISBN 978-3-8053-4527-9
  • Andreas Lehnardt: The Genisa von Alsenz - a long hidden treasure is now in the Landesarchiv Speyer, in: Our Archives. Messages from the Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland archives 57 (2012), pp. 51–52.
  • Andreas Lehnardt: “Mazzal tov” - The Torah pennant from the Genisa of the synagogue Weisenau, in: Mainzer Zeitschrift. Middle Rhine Yearbook for Archeology, Art and History 109 (2014), pp. 103–112.
  • Andreas Lehnardt, Genisa. Findings of Jewish book remains in attics and in book covers, in: Ulrike Gleixner, Constanze Baum, Jörn Münkner, Hole Rößner (Eds.), Biographien des Buches, Kultur des Sammelns 1, Göttingen 2017, 349–366.
  • Andreas Lehnardt, The Genisa of the former Freudental Synagogue. Documentation of the finds, Freudentaler Blätter 11, Freudental 2019.
  • Martin Przybilski: On some Yiddish fragments from the Veitshöchheim Genisa. Ashkenaz 11, 2001, 233ff.
  • Elisabeth Singer: The Genisa of Obernbreit. In: The former synagogue Obernbreit - a place of remembrance and encounter. Edited by Markt Obernbreit - Supporting and Supporting Association of the Former Synagogue Obernbreit eV 2013 .
  • Elisabeth Singer: The story of the fisherman and his son. In: Bayerische Blätter für Volkskunde 33/34, Würzburg 2006/07, 18ff.
  • Elisabeth Singer: Sulzbacher prints in South German Genisa finds. In: Johannes Hartmann (Ed.): Former Synagogue Sulzbach, Festschrift for the opening on January 31, 2013. Sulzbach-Rosenberg 2013, 193ff.
  • Erika Timm: Yiddish Literature in a Franconian Genizah. Jerusalem 1988
  • Anette Weber, Evelyn Friedlander: Mappot - blessed who comes. The bond of Jewish tradition. Exhibition catalog, Osnabrück 1997, ISBN 3-929979-38-1
  • Falk Wiesemann (Ed.): Genisa - hidden legacy of the German rural Jews. Exhibition catalog, Bertelsmann, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-570-10501-6
  • Falk Wiesemann (ed.): Evidence of Jewish life in Niederzissen. Genisa finds in the former synagogue . Kultur- und Heimatverein Niederzissen, Niederzissen 2012, ISBN 978-3-00-039493-5
  • Wolfgang Fritzsche: A Genisa Fund in Wiesbaden-Delkenheim. In: Rolf Faber, Wolfgang Fritzsche: Jewish buildings in Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden 2012, pp. 77-97. ISBN 978-3-8442-4537-0

Hidden manuscript heritage in fragments of the binding

  • Andreas Lehnardt / Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (eds.): Books within Books. New Discoveries in Old Book Bindings , European Genizah: Texts and Studies 2, Leiden, Boston: Brill 2014; ISBN 978-90-04-25849-5
  • Andreas Lehnardt (Ed.): 'Genizat Germania'. Hebrew and Aramaic Binding Fragments from Germany in Context , European Genizah: Texts and Studies 1, Leiden, Boston: Brill 2010; ISBN 978-90-04-17954-7
  • Andreas Lehnardt: Hidden treasures in book covers. Hebrew and Aramaic manuscript fragments as a source of Jewish culture ; in: Church books and libraries. Yearbook 2007/08, pp. 89-100; ISSN  1617-4674
  • Andreas Lehnardt / Annelen Ottermann: Fragments of Jewish culture in the Mainz city library. Discoveries and interpretations , publications of the libraries of the city of Mainz 62, Mainz 2015; ISBN 978-3-00-046570-3
  • Andreas Lehnardt, The Hebrew Binding Fragments in the Scientific City Library Trier, Descriptive Directory of the Manuscripts of the City Library in Trier 4, Wiesbaden 2016; 978-3-447-10698-6
  • Andreas Lehnardt, catalog of the Hebrew binding fragments in the Gotha Research Library. From the collections of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and the Gotha Foundation for Art and Science , Die Manschriften der Forschungsbibliothek Gotha 4, Wiesbaden 2019; 978-3-447-10990-1

Web links

Commons : Geniza  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Genisa  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Both spellings are common according to Duden, Genisa is recommended ( Duden online )
  2. ^ A b Heinz Halm: The caliphs of Cairo: the Fatimids in Egypt 973-1074. P. 130. Verlag CH Beck. Munich 2003
  3. Yehoshua Horowitz / Menahem Ben-Sasson in: Encyclopaedia Judaica , 2nd edition, article Genizah, Cairo , p. 462
  4. SD Goitein (1967–1968), vol. 1. p. 395. Note 3.
  5. ^ Stefan C. Reif: A Jewish archive from old Cairo: the history of Cambridge University's Genizah Collection. Cruzon Press 2000. pp. 78-79
  6. Pancratius Cornelis Beentjes: The book of Ben Sira in modern research: proceedings of the first international Ben Sira conference 28-31 July 1996. de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, 1997. (supplements for Journal of Old Testament scholarship band 255th)
  7. ^ Max Weisz: Catalog of Hebrew manuscripts and books in the library of Prof. Dr. D. Merchant . Frankfurt am Main 1905. MS Löwinger: Report on the Hebrew Mss in Hungary with special regard to the Hungarian fragments of the Cairo Genizah. In: Actes du XXIe Congrès International des Orientalistes. Paris 23-31 Juillet 1948. Paris 1949. pp. 117-123; Solomon Dob Fritz Goitein: A Mediterranean Society ... , Volume 1. S. 3
  8. ^ Mark R. Cohen: On the interplay of Arabic and Hebrew in the Cairo Geniza letters . In: Jonathan P. Decter, Michael Chaim Rand (Eds.): Studies in Arabic and Hebrew letters: in honor of Raymond P. Scheindlin ; Gorgias Press 2007; Pp. 17-36
  9. Eugen Wednesday: A Genīza fragment . In: Journal of the German Oriental Society (ZDMG), Vol. 57 (1903), p. 61ff
  10. Alexander Scheiber: Beggars' Letters from the Geniza In: Alexander Scheiber: Geniza Studies. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 1981. pp. 75-84
  11. ^ Geoffrey Khan: The historical development of the structure of medieval Arabic petitions. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) 53 (1990), pp. 8-30. ( Digitized at JSTOR)
  12. ^ Mark R. Cohen: Four Judaeo-Arabic petitions of the poor from the Cairo Geniza. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam (JSAI), 24 (2000), pp. 446–471; here p. 450, note 13. - Samuel Miklos Stern (1920–1969) has already examined and published further documents: Three petitions of the Fatimide period . In: Oriens 15 (1962), pp. 172-209.
  13. ^ Mark R. Cohen: The voice of the poor in the Middle Ages: an anthology of documents from the Cairo Genizah. (Introduction). Princeton University Press 2005; ders. Poverty and charity in the Jewish community of medieval Egypt . (Pp. X-XI). Princeton University Press 2005.
  14. See the complete copy from the Frankfurt / Main University Library; Signature: Jud. Germ. 948: [1]
  15. The Genisa Project . Jewish culture museum / Veitshöchheim municipal administration. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  16. ^ Professorship for Jewish Studies . Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  17. Geniza project Weisenau . Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  18. ^ Geniza project Bruttig . Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  19. Genizat Germania . Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  20. ^ The Italian Genizah ( English ) University of Bologna. Retrieved April 19, 2019.