Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interesting CFP


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harvard Theological Review

Congratulations to Lia on her article in HTR!

World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Congress starts in a little more than a week. Some highlights (besides what I noted here):

Session 213, on 13th century Ashkenaz. Ephraim Kanarfogel will discuss attitudes towards apostates and ramifications for the requirement of levirate marriage. Elisheva Baumgarten will discuss time-bound commandments, which women are exempt from according to Talmudic law, but which made a comeback in Northern France during this period. Yehuda Galinsky is suggesting a framework for considering the halakhic works that were composed in Northern France in the 13th century (possibly developing a theme of Simcha Emanuel's at the Rashi conference of 2005). And Simcha Emanuel is pondering the question of continuity in Germany in the 13th century.

Session 214 is also on Ashkenaz - wider time range and different themes. Jeffrey Woolf on the Shechinah in Ashkenaz. Matania Ben Gedaliah, who completed his dissertation last year under Woolf's guidance, will reopen the question of Haside Ashkenaz and martyrdom. Knowing Matania, it is sure to be lively. Simcha Goldin on Piyut-commentary and its sociological significance - he's the only one in the lot that I have never met, but it sounds interesting. And Anat Kutner, who wrote her dissertation on the night in Ashkenaz, with Elliott Horowitz and Elisheva Baumgarten, will speak about night-spirits and ghosts.

Session 311 will be about literary readings of legal sugyot in the Talmud. All the speeches sound interesting - Mira Balberg from Stanford will plunge into corpses and bodily fluids.

In session 340, Gideon Bohak will discuss a manuscript at the NYPL. Session 341 includes Ofer Elior attempting to identify the author of Ruah Hen. Udi Abramowitz will talk about censorship in Rav Kook's writings in session 352. Session 402 will be devoted to double themes in piyutim - the speakers are Shulamit Elitsur, Avi Shmidman, Michael Rand and Peter Lehnardt.

Several academic projects will be showcased at the Congress. One of the major ones is the Friedberg Genizah Project. Here is a description of their session:

On Wednesday, August 5, 2009, 17:30 - 19:30, at the upcoming Fifteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, there will be a session devoted to "The Friedberg Genizah Project: Objectives and Accomplishments". The congress takes place at the Hebrew University, on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem.

Director of the Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP), Menahem Ben-Sasson, Professor of History and President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will lead off the session.

Yaacov Choueka, Chief Computerization Scientist of FGP and Professor Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University, will speak on "The Computerization of the Genizah World and its Impact on Genizah Research: A Vision and its Implementation". Several exciting developments will be described (see below).

Haggai Ben-Shammai, Professor of Arabic at Hebrew University, will speak on “Judaeo-Arabic Bible Exegesis: Preliminary Mapping”.

Discovered in 1896 in the attic of a synagogue in the old quarter of Cairo, the Genizah is a large collection of discarded codices, scrolls, and documents. These were written mainly in the 10th to 15th centuries, and mainly in Hebrew and Arabic (usually in Hebrew characters). The documents and fragments are now dispersed in over fifty libraries and collections around the world.

The philanthropically-funded Friedberg Genizah Project is in the midst of a multi-year process of digitally photographing (in full color, at 600dpi) most of the extant manuscripts. The entire collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, the recently rediscovered collection in Geneva, and many other collections from Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest, and elsewhere have already been digitized. They comprise about 90,000 images (recto and verso of each fragment).

All the images are being made available to researchers online at www.genizah.org. That site provides a very convenient web interface, with zoomable images, bibliographic and catalogue data, transcriptions and translations, search facilities, and discussion forums.

In his talk, Choueka will announce three recent achievements of the project:

1. A few months ago, FGP signed an agreement with Cambridge University Library, for a joint three-year project, funded by FGP, during the course of which Cambridge will digitize their entire Genizah collection. This will result in some 400,000 additional images, to be delivered at the rate of 10,000 per month (starting soon), in what is probably one of the largest ever digitization efforts attempted in the world of manuscripts.

2. FGP has begun applying computerized image processing to the digital photographs. This effort -- directed by Dr. Roni Shweka and realized by Rotem Littman -- includes separating the document from its background, segmenting the image into written areas and blank space, straightening the image, and automatically inferring the dimensions of the fragment, the written area, and the individual lines.

3. Because of the unique circumstances of the Cairo Genizah, the leaves of most of the original documents were recovered unbound and are to be found today dispersed among different libraries. Over the past century, scholars have expended a great deal of time and effort on identifying such pages and rejoining them. Despite the few thousands of such joins that have been found by researchers, very much more remains to be done. In this regard, FGP has embarked on an ambitious project -- in collaboration with Professor Nachum Dershowitz and Dr. Lior Wolf of Tel Aviv University and their students -- to use modern machine-learning techniques in a bold computer-aided effort to identify new joins. A highlight of the talk will be a sampling of the hundreds of new joins discovered by the computer in this fashion, based solely on image similarity, including several joins of noteworthy interest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The Taylor-Schechter Unit is back with its 'Fragment of the Month', for July and August. The August piece was written by a doctoral student at Hebrew University named Dotan Arad. I recently heard him give a fascinating speech (at this conference) about the ways in which Sefardi immigrants, refugees from the Spanish expulsion, did or did not learn Arabic in their new homes in Syria and Egypt.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emet Prize

It hasn't appeared on the official site yet, but according to the Hebrew University website, the Emet Prize in Talmud has been awarded to Prof. Menahem Kahana. Who recently became the head of the Talmud department at HU. The prize for Jewish Thought went to Prof. Warren Zev Harvey.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Benayahu - addenda

The eulogy delivered by Prof Yehuda Liebes, and comments that he added later, can be found here. Liebes makes the point that often, the titles of Prof Benayahu's works say little about the range of topics dealt with in the small print.

And R Chanan Benayahu pointed out to me that his father's manuscript collection was completely independent of that of his father's, Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim. And the two collections are still kept in separate locations.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Meir Benayahu - bibliography

A bibliography of the works of the late Prof Rabbi Meir Benayahu has been prepared by his family. They have graciously allowed me to make it available here.

Please note that this is a preliminary version of the bibliography. Problems with the numbering will be fixed in the future.

New Tarbiz

I haven't seen it yet but here's the TOC. For the purposes of this blog, it is worth noting that the new fragment of Megillat Ta'anit was found in Genizat Austria. I look forward to reading the article by Yoel Marciano, on the development of what is known as the Spanish Iyun, a dense and daunting hermeneutical method that flourished in Castile in the 15th century.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Hebrewbooks.org really cheered me up this afternoon with their list of new books. Many items are important, particularly for the literature of the Geonim. For now I'll mention Otzar ha-Geonim, Benjamin Manasseh Lewin's crucial (if imperfect) compendium of Geonic writing on the Talmud. Also, Victor Aptowitzer's Mehkarim be-Sifrut ha-Geonim.

More later, I hope.