Archival Initiatives

Many of the most important discoveries in Jewish studies are hiding in plain sight in libraries and archives, waiting for scholars to find them on shelves or to bring the right kinds of questions to them. The Katz Center aims to advance such research by connecting scholars with unpublished or understudied materials in Penn’s extensive Judaica collections.

Its chief effort in this regard is a partnership with Penn’s Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, SIMS-Katz for short. Together, the two centers have embarked on an annual manuscript match-making program that brings leading scholars to Penn in order to study medieval or early modern Jewish manuscripts in the Institute’s collection and to share the resulting insights with a broader scholarly public.

The Center is currently seeking to expand this model to other collections, and is also seeking to encourage the study of unpublished documents by supporting Penn Libraries in its efforts to make its Judaica-related collections freely accessible online.

The SIMS-Katz Partnership

In 2015, the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies created an invitational fellowship, funded in part by the David B. Ruderman Visiting Scholar fund, that allows us to bring a scholar of pre- and early modern Jewish studies to the University of Pennsylvania each year to use our manuscript collections for research. Fellows are paired with a manuscript or group of manuscripts, selected in conversation with the committee. The result, we hope, is an enriched understanding of the significance of the manuscript(s) to Jewish studies and an opportunity for the scholar to engage with these unique artifacts of our intellectual heritage in a direct and meaningful way.

Each year a scholar of international renown takes up a brief residence at Penn, works closely with the manuscript or manuscripts, and interacts with the community to share his or her findings in a range of venues. The scholar gives a public lecture sponsored by Penn’s Jewish Studies Program, prepares a video course (MOOC) about the manuscript and its value for Jewish studies and beyond, and is invited to publish his or her findings in the Jewish Quarterly Review or Manuscript Studies.

Meet the SIMS-Katz Fellows

  • Shalom Sabar (2020-2021), Professor in the Departments of Jewish and Comparative Folklore and Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. You can watch Professor Sabar's lecture on these gorgeous marriage contracts here.
  • Fabrizio Lelli (20192020), Professor of Hebrew language and literature at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy. You can watch Professor Lelli's online mini-course here.
  • Elisabeth Hollender (20182019), Professor of Jewish studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, in Frankfurt, Germany explores the margins of a medieval Jewish prayer book here.
  • Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (20172018), Professor of Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic Manuscript Studies, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France and Head, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. You can take Professor Olszlowy-Schlanger's online mini-course in medieval Hebrew paleography here.
  • Alessandro Guetta (20162017), Professor of Jewish thought at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris, France: Professor Guetta guides us through the manuscript in his online course here.
  • Y. Tzvi Langermann (20152016), Professor of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, Israel: The publication that emerged from this fellowship is Y. Tzvi Langermann, Transcription, Translation, and Annotation: Observations on Three Medieval Islamicate Medical Texts in University of Pennsylvania MS Codex 1649,” in Manuscript Studies 1.1 (2016): 135–50. Watch Professor Langermann interact with this manuscript in his online mini-course here.

Watch the SIMS-Katz Lectures

Visit our Recorded Programs page to see the SIMS-Katz fellows deliver public lectures on their research.