Rescue or Ransack? Unraveling the Complexities of the Cairo Geniza Chain of Custody

For the Public
Thursday, April 4, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT

Zoom Webinar


How did the transfer of Cairo Geniza fragments from Egypt to Western institutions impact our understanding of the Jewish practice of geniza, of storing away unused documents? What does the Cairo Geniza discovery story reveal about Eastern and Western attitudes toward Jewish heritage materials? And how did the subsequent treatment of geniza fragments by libraries and museums obfuscate their chain of custody and perpetuate myths about this storied repository?

This program was reschduled from February 28.

About the Series "Books of the People"

Jews are often called the “people of the book,” but what about the books of the Jewish people? Who owns the contents of the Cairo Geniza, the books taken from Holocaust victims, or the uniquely beautiful manuscripts of major private collectors? Who can or should preserve these items and provide or prevent access to them, materially or digitally? Undeniably, Jewish books from across the world and history form a collective heritage—but they also have particular, local, and sometimes fraught histories of possession. This series offers perspectives on the management of books as Jewish cultural property, looking at past events and current practices—and the difficult questions that attend both.


Rebecca J. W. Jefferson

Rebecca J. W. Jefferson

University of Florida

Rebecca Jefferson’s ongoing research concerns the history and provenance of Hebrew manuscript collections. Her book, The Cairo Genizah and the Age of Discovery in Egypt, was published by I. B. Tauris in 2022.


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.