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The Cairo Genizah

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According to Jewish tradition, sacred Hebrew texts that are worn or damaged are not to be thrown away. Instead, they must be interred in a designated space (genizah) so that their holy contents are not desecrated. The term Cairo Genizah refers to the many sacred texts interred by the Jews of Egypt in adherence to this tradition.

​Location and Contents of the Cairo Genizah

 

Geographically, the term Cairo Genizah refers mainly to the designated storeroom in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat. There were however, other locations in Egypt where sacred documents were deposited, for example the Basatin Jewish cemetery.


The Cairo Genizah yielded a wide variety of materials and an exhaustive investigation of them has yet to take place. In ancient times, religious Jewish scholarship was based in Babylon and the land of Israel. As a result of the distance between the two, the Jews of Babylon were forced to import and copy holy texts. They did the same with questions on religious matters and answers provided by the sages, and other religious essays and literature. Given this necessity, the obligation to inter materials was expanded to materials written in Judeo-Arabic that pertained to sacred issues.