Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Expedition Genizah 2010, Update # 6: The Final Countdown
Only Four Days Left!

February 16, 2010

Hello Everyone,

The schedule continues to get finalized, the suitcases are open and ready, and we’ve gotten all of our shots. Expedition Genizah will soon begin!

This will be the final update before Jacob and I leave on our trip, and I hope it will be briefer than its predecessors. That said, I am a rabbi, and in my line of work verbosity is a professional hazard.

Expedition Genizah in Cyberspace

• The Blog

With some trepidation as to my technological limitations, I have opened a blog about this trip:

As of now, all that I’ve posted on the blog are the updates I’ve been sending you – I haven’t even figured out how to link to the attachments. If any of you have suggestions as to how I might spiff it up, please feel free to let me know. This blogosphere place is a new and foreign world for me, and I would welcome any help you could offer.

• Facebook

Also, Jacob tells me that he has opened a Facebook fan page about our trip. I’m not a Facebook person, but I am confident that you who are will be able to find the page that Jacob has set up.

Media Coverage

• The first news article about my trip and book appeared this weekend in the Bainbridge Island Review: Although it gets several of the details wrong, it does give a good sense of the spirit of the project.

• Also, I have been approached by a reporter from PRI’s The World, a nationally syndicated public radio news program, who wants to do a story about the trip and my project after I return. Keep watching for updates.

Fun Stuff to Read

• Jacob recently received some questions about our trip from a reporter. For a variety of reasons, his answers didn’t get included in the story, but I found Jacob’s response to be articulate, inspirational, and touching. I’ve attached them to this email as “Thoughts on an Expedition.”

• Among the many groups in which I am blessed to participate is an interfaith association called “Northshore Interfaith Leaders.” At our most recent meeting, the group gave me a wonderful sendoff –a delightful “Bon Voyage” card, a generous donation to the project, and kind words of encouragement.

Then, to top it off, Ken Williams, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, pulled out his ukulele and sang the song I’ve attached as “Ghost Rabbi in the Sky.” You can read the words for yourself, but know that my favorite lyric in it is:

For whether it's for manuscripts, or corn when hunger's strong,
When Jews head for Egypt, their stay can be quite long.

As I told Ken later, I am pretty confident that I’m the only rabbi in history ever to be sent off to Egypt by Mormon playing a ukulele. It was terrific!

Most Important of all, Thank You!

A complete set of acknowledgements will appear in my book, but I have been utterly overwhelmed by the support so many of you have shown. Now that I am on the eve of my departure, I would be remiss not to express my gratitude.

• First, I thank the members of Congregations Kol Shalom and Kol Ami. Not only have many of you been financially supportive of this project, but, even more important, the enthusiasm you have shown for it has energized and inspired me. I am grateful for your ongoing support. The interest you have taken in this project and the blessings you have given to my participation in it make me proud beyond words to know and work with you, and I hope that this work will only add to my ability to serve as your rabbi.

• I also thank the many people who have helped me prepare for my upcoming trip. The complete list would be too long to include here, but a few people have given of themselves in particularly generous ways. Many thanks to Jere Bacharach, Barbara Fudge, Sara Perez Kemp, Michael Strong, and “Dr. Shaloha” (you know who you are).

• Most of all, thanks are due to my wife, Caron. She has tolerated my months-long obsession with this project, encouraged me when I needed it most, and has somehow remembered that she, and not some lady named Genizah, is the woman I love most of all. Words could never adequately express how grateful I am for her presence in my life.

• Finally, I thank all of you for your ongoing interest and support. It is your interest that energizes me in my work. Together, I like to think that we are opening the Genizah and letting its people come out of the dust to join us today. This process is, in the words of Solomon Schechter, “an act of resurrection in miniature,” it is a true mitzvah; and I feel honored to be able to perform it with you.

And now, with gratitude to you all, I’m off to the Cairo Genizah. Thank you once again.


Rabbi Mark S. Glickman


Donations may be sent to:

Rabbi Mark Glickman
15030 232nd Ave. NE
Woodinville, WA 98077

These funds will be used to cover costs for writing the book; additional monies will be donated to organizations housing and caring for the documents of the Cairo Genizah.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Genizah Update #5: The Countdown Continues


12 Days …And Counting!

February 8th, 2010

Hello Everyone!

As the Expedition Genizah departure-date approaches, preparations and writing continue at an increasingly feverish pace. I’m getting very excited and, of course, growingly nervous. The fact that I had to deal with a major computer-crash last week didn’t help, but my good friends at HP fixed my machine, and now I’m back on track and eager to share with you some highlights the upcoming adventure.


Last week, I sent some promotional information to the folks at Jewish Lights Publishing, and I also had a telephone conference about the book-cover with their production team. Those discussions and emails added a new and exciting dimension of reality to this project. The book will be about 300 pages long, a six-by-nine inch hardcover, and it will be released this fall.

I even have an ISBN…and ISBN!!! I’ve never had an ISBN before, and having one now is quite the thrill!


I also sent the editor my selection of title “finalists.” She discussed it with “the team,” they weighed in on behalf of one of my choices, I responded, and now we’re getting really close to a decision. It looks as if we are down to three very similar possibilities:

• Longest The Cairo Genizah: Unfolding the Story of the Greatest Literary Treasure Ever Discovered
• Shorter The Cairo Genizah: The Story of the Greatest Literary Treasure Ever Discovered
• Shortest The Cairo Genizah: The Greatest Literary Treasure Ever Discovered

Hmm…I like the brevity of the “shortest,” but I also like the words “unfolding,” and “story.” I’m also reluctant to begin both title and subtitle with “The.”



I am pleased to announce that, during several key moments of our trip, Jacob and I will wear the world’s very first Genizah T-Shirts. Yes, with the help of my younger brother and budding fashion designer, Larry Glickman, we have developed a stunning design for this garment. It is attached as “T-Shirt.pdf”above , and will be silkscreened onto a stonewashed blue background as pictured in “Shirt Example.pdf.” (Despite the similarity of the man in the picture to Jacob and me, he is not related to us, and he will not be accompanying us on our trip.)

For now, I am only having a dozen shirts printed – one for me, one for Jacob, and the others to give as gifts to supporters during the expedition. However, if you are interested in having one for the low, low cost of $20, please let me know, and I’ll arrange for printing after we return. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to organizations preserving the documents of the Cairo Genizah.


Late last night, I received an email from Rabbi John Schechter, the great-grandson of Rabbi Solomon Schechter. He had heard about my book and was interested in speaking with me. Rabbi Schechter serves at a Conservative congregation in New Jersey, and we are arranging a meeting during the New York leg of the expedition.

As it turns out, Rabbi Schechter and I grew up no more than three miles from one another, and during the 1970’s he may have been my camp counselor at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, in Wisconsin. I told him that I was the gangly 13 or 14 year-old with curly brown hair and zits – didn’t he remember me? 

I am looking forward to meeting Rabbi Schechter very much.


• In Cairo, we will be meeting with Dr. Mohamed Hawary, professor of Jewish studies at Ain Shams University (180,000 undergraduates). He is an accomplished scholar, and has done a lot of research using Genizah documents. Here are two interesting articles about him:
o (Focuses on the divisive issue of his stance on Israel, but gives a good sense as to his academic stature and accomplishments.)
o (Press coverage of a fascinating incident involving Dr. Hawary. These articles refer to him as Muhammad al-Hawari.)


On Sunday morning, Jacob and I had a long telephone conference with Michael Strong, a literary agent in New York who will be producing the DVD version of the book. Mike briefed Jacob on camera angles, lighting, sound, choice-of-shots, etc. As expedition cinematographer, Jacob certainly seems to be a Scorsese in-the-making. Or is it a Spielberg? Maybe a Woody Allen…?


Many of you have donated generously to this project, and I appreciate it more than words can say. But unexpected costs seem to be arising every day –a $400 “fee” for photography in the Ben Ezra Synagogue, another photography fee for the Cambridge library, expensive fares to get from London to Cambridge, $300-$400 for a driver in Cairo, etc. I remain in search of funds.

More important, the overall goals of this project are to raise awareness of the treasures of the Cairo Genizah, to help ensure that the documents are properly stored and preserved, and to encourage students and scholars to draw from the deep wells of knowledge they can offer. I am deeply dedicated to these causes; I believe that advancing them is sacred work; and I hope you share my commitment.

Please remember that all funds remaining at the conclusion of this project will be donated to organizations that care for and/or advance our knowledge of the documents of the Cairo Genizah. Please give generously.

You can send your donations to me at my home:

15030 232nd Avenue NE
Woodinville, WA 98077

Thank you!


Rabbi Mark Glickman

P.S. Depending on how my preparations go, this may or may not be my final update before the expedition. Assuming I have internet access, however, you can count on further updates as the trip progresses.

Genizah Update #4 - Expedition Genizah: The Countdown Begins


25 Days …And Counting!

January 26, 2010

Hello Everyone,

The excitement grows; the schedule fills; and there are reports that the dust-clouds in the Genizah have halted mid-billow in anticipation of the arrival of Expedition Genizah.


The schedule for this two week expedition is filling rapidly. In fact, my full itinerary, replete with phone numbers, contact information, addresses, etc., is now almost five pages long. Here are some highlights of the recent additions:


• We have arranged for a full, behind-the-scenes tour of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit at the Cambridge University Library, home of Cambridge’s 193,000 Genizah Manuscripts.

• At the library, we will see the “Mosseri Collection” – 7,000-8,000 Genizah fragments discovered in Cairo shortly after Solomon Schechter’s 1897 visit. The collection is still raw, clumped and jumbled together just as it was in the Genizah. Conservators are now working to “declumpify” the documents so that they can be studied. It is painstaking work, and they only separate three or four documents each day. Here’s a sample:

These manuscripts will give us a glimpse of what all of the manuscripts looked like just after they emerged from centuries of Genizah storage.

EXCURSUS: The Genizah and Adam Sandler

For many years, the Mosseris were among the largest and most prominent of all Egyptian Jewish families. In fact, their name was probably derived from Mitzri, the Hebrew word for “Egyptian.” Most or all of the Mosseris have left Egypt for other countries, such as France and Israel. One of the Israeli Mosseris is an actor, Ido Mosseri, who recently had a large supporting role as Adam Sandler’s Israeli sidekick in that paragon of cinematic excellence “Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”

Yes, my friends, the web of Genizah connections extends far and wide. Even as far as Adam Sandler.

• In Cambridge, we also plan to meet with several scholars:
o A Maimonides scholar
o An Israeli Arabist
o An expert on Middle Eastern Jewish languages who has written a detailed history on the pronunciation of the tzere – the Hebrew vowel beneath this alef: אֵ. Another source I studied contained nine pages on the pronunciation of the sheva – אְ. Knowing what I do now about horizontally arrayed tzere and the vertically aligned sheva, all that’s left is to learn about the shuruk – אֻ – and I’ll be all set.

• I’ve been invited to speak about my research to the Cambridge Jewish Residents Association.

• Finally, I had long been looking forward to retracing Solomon Schechter’s footsteps on May 13, 1896, the day he first say the manuscript that led him to the Cairo Genizah. Here was his path:

o Home
o Errands on Kings Parade – Cambridge’s main shopping district. It’s still there.
o Visit to Castlebrae, the home of Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis, where they showed him their newly acquired manuscripts. Now a dormitory, we’ve arranged a tour.
o Research at the University Library. Arrangements for the visit already made.
o Home

As you can see, we’d made arrangements to visit each of Schechter’s stops that day, except for home.

Well, last week, in an email from a woman who has been helping me make these arrangements she said, “…and, by the way, I should introduce you to my friend, Sue. She’s Jewish, and she lives in Solomon Schechter’s old house.”

Ding! I contacted Sue. I arranged a visit. The loose ends are loose no more. Thank God for good friends!


• The Genizah: As I mentioned in previous updates, I do have official permission to visit the Genizah room at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo. However, a friend in Egypt warned that many people visit the country with great plans…”and Egypt laughs.” I am therefore in the process of arranging plans B, C, and D to ensure my access to that room.

• The other night, I spoke on the telephone with Carmen Weinstein, the president of the Jewish Community of Cairo, and I look forward to meeting her during our visit.

• The Egyptian government has recently done a complete and magnificent renovation of the Maimonides Synagogue – not the Ben Ezra of Genizah fame – and it will be dedicated only a few days after our departure. It’s an exciting event, and it’s too bad we’ll have to miss it.

New York

• I will be speaking about my at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, Long Island. We plan to film the session for possible use in the DVD.

• I have also set up a meeting with Dr. Burton Visotzky, at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is the author of a novel based on Genizah texts. He also appeared in the Bill Moyers series on Genesis, and was a consultant for Dreamworks on their movie, “The Prince of Egypt.”


Many of you sent suggestions as to a title for the book – I received dozens of them! They all got me thinking, and I appreciate your input very much. Here, in edited form, are a few of my favorites:

1. Under the Dust in the Attic: Rediscovering Cairo Genizah
2. Forgotten Treasures: The Fantastic Tale of the Cairo Genizah
3. Unfolding History: The Story of the Cairo Genizah
4. Another Man’s Treasure: The Amazing Tale of the Cairo Genizah
5. Sacred Scraps: The Cairo Genizah Rediscovered

Of course, we could recombine the various titles and subtitles above, I may go back to one of my original ideas, and my editor may very well veto them all.

Your input, as always, is welcome.


Amidst all of this excitement, of course, I still need to write the book! I’ve attached an excerpt – the DRAFT of the first section of the chapter about one of the greatest Genizah scholars of all, Dr. Shelomo Dov Goitein. The rest of the chapter will discuss Goitein’s biography and the lasting significance of his work.

I would love some feedback on this excerpt. Please don’t hesitate to be brutal – I welcome your input on anything from tone to wording to sentence structure to the overall flow of the piece. I may not agree with all of your suggestions, but I promise that I will take them all seriously.

Thanks in advance.


As blog on Expedition Genizah will be opening soon – just as soon as I can figure out how to open a blog. Keep watching your email for announcements.


A couple of interesting Genizah related news stories have come out of Israel recently:

1. Billboards in the Genizah

Here is a billboard advertising an Israeli TV show called S’rugim, a program about Modern-Orthodox families living in Jerusalem.

It may not show in this picture, but the background behind the woman is an image of a Torah scroll.

You can probably guess where this is going.

A group of rabbis pointed out that the Torah in the billboard is a sacred text bearing the name of God, and, as a result, they insisted that the billboards all be put into genizahs. Rather than enter into a full-blown religious smackdown, the advertising agency responsible for the billboards agreed. I believe, however that it will just be the paper advertisements that will end up “going-genizah,” and not the structures holding them up. In other words, the bills will end up in genizahs, not the boards.

2. Genizahs Fall Prey to Budget Cuts

For many years, there have been public genizahs scattered throughout Jerusalem’s Orthodox neighborhoods – special receptacles into which observant Jews could deposit their no-longer-needed sacred texts. However, with the economy being what it is these days, Jerusalem’s municipal government recently announced that it is eliminating the program. The religiously observant community is up in arms over the decision, and rumor has it that privately owned pay-genizahs will soon open throughout the city.


I remain in search of funds to support the costs of publishing this book – travel, reprint permissions, etc. As I have mentioned, I will donate any remaining monies at the conclusion of the project to one or more of the main organizations now housing and caring for the manuscripts. The list includes, but is not limited to:

• The Taylor Schechter Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University
• The Jewish Theological Seminary Library
• The Friedberg Genizah Project, which is now digitizing the entire corpus of Genizah manuscripts

The more research I do, the more I realize that the people who run these organizations care for these priceless treasures on a shoestring budget, and they need our help and support. I hope that my book will demonstrate the vital importance of what they do and thus encourage readers everywhere to give. And I also hope that, with your help, my project can offer some gifts directly, as well. Please contribute as you are able – your gifts will go far in preserving the precious treasures of the Cairo Genizah.

Thank you so much for reading this far. More updates will come your way as news develops.


Rabbi Mark S. Glickman

Genizah Update #3: Expedition Plans Coalesce

January 14, 2007

Dear Friends,

Shalom! Since my last email, plans for the Glickman Genizah Expedition 2010 have been progressing - quickly in some areas, and at a snail’s pace in others.

As you know, I’ll be traveling with my assistant/cameraman, the almost-16-year-old Jacob Glickman, and our expedition will take us too three foreign countries: England, Egypt, and New York.

Due to the complexities of the trip, I’ve been working with three travel agents – an American in America, and American in Egypt, and an Egyptian in Egypt – and in the process I have learned that working with three travel agents for a single trip is really quite foolish.

Here, however, are some of the details:


At 4:12 AM yesterday, I received an email from Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, giving Jacob and me special permission to visit the Genizah room at the Ben Ezra Synagogue. As I mentioned in a previous update, I don’t believe that any westerners have been in that room for many, many years. I’d been told that this permission was on its way some time ago, but then I hit a couple of bureaucratic bumps, and I had to resubmit my request. Now, finally it’s official, and I am very excited…and relieved!


I’ve been approached by a reporter from a nationally syndicated public radio news program interested in doing a story on my trip. It’s still not a sure thing, but I will keep you posted.

CAMBRIDGE – Feb 21-26

• The university community is just back from its “Winter Holiday,” and as a result, it has been difficult to connect with the caretakers of Cambridge’s collection of more than 140,000 Genizah manuscripts. I’ve sent several emails, however, and I am confident that I will be able to connect with them soon to make all of the necessary arrangements.

• I have, however, arranged for us to visit Castlebrae. Pictured below, Castlebrae was the home of Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis, the identical-twin Scholars-Collectors-Explorers who first showed Rabbi Solomon Schechter the documents that alerted him to the treasures of the Cairo Genizah. In fact, it was in the Castlebrae dining room (behind the cones in the picture below) that Schechter first examined these documents. Today, Castlebrae is a dormitory for Clare College at Cambridge, and we have arranged with the college archivist and head porter to see the building during our visit.

• When Solomon Schechter first returned to Cairo from Cambridge, the University assigned him a workroom in the library that afforded him some quiet and good lighting by which he could study the manuscripts. The library has since moved, but I am working to determine whether the Schechter Genizah Garret is still there. If so, I hope to visit it. By then, I may look even more overwhelmed that he does in this picture:

• Jacob and I will be staying at the De Vere University Arms Hotel in Cambridge. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bore you with a detail like that, but this hotel was originally built in 1834 in preparation for Queen Victoria’s coronation. It overlooks a field called Parker’s Piece where, according to the Great Sages of Wikipedia, many of the rules of soccer were first formulated (such as the “no hands” dictum). And I think it looks really cool.

• Finally, in Santa Monica last week, I met with Mr. Gifford Combs, an investment banker who owns one of the last remaining private collections of Genizah documents. Mr. Combs’ collection is now in a vault at Christie’s in London, and he has graciously offered to arrange for us to see it when we are in England.

CAIRO – Feb 26-March 2

• There are literally dozens of people around the world who have helped me make the necessary connections in Cairo, and I am grateful to them all. Because of the complexities of the way things work in Egypt, I won’t mention them by name, but you all know who you are, and I thank you very much. I hope to meet several of you during my visit.

• I have hired an agent to meet us at the airport, and a driver/guide to shlep us around for the duration of our stay.

• On February 28th, we are scheduled to visit the Ben Ezra synagogue, Pictured below from outside and in. Evidently, the Supreme Council of Antiquities will be sending a government representative with us during our visit to the Genizah “to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

Here is a picture of the Genizah room at the Ben Ezra. I have no idea what lies behind that dark opening, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I find out.

• I am in the process of arranging meetings with representatives of Cairo’s small Jewish community, and also, I hope, with a leading scholar of Islamic history – a former high-ranking university official – who has used Genizah materials in his research.

NEW YORK – March 2-6

• Our time in New York will be spent interviewing scholars at the Hebrew Union College (Reform) and Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative).

• We will also be working on the DVD with Michael Strong of the Regal Literary Agency, who will be producing it.

• Finally, the night before we depart, I plan to speak at a local synagogue about the Genizah and my trip. The local congregation gets what I hope will be a good talk. We get some film footage, I hope, of people becoming fascinated with the Genizah story.


• In my last update, I issued a call for suggestions as to a title for my book. I received many responses – some were wonderful, others came from my family. A few of you even liked my original title ideas. I have attached the list and, although I won’t say who suggested which title, I will tell you that my youngest brother’s name is Jimmy.

Of course, your further thoughts on the matter would be quite welcome.


• I have been seeking funds to help cover the costs of travel and other expenses involved this project (although Jacob is traveling at our family’s expense). Many of you have been very generous in your support, and I have also received a grant from the Fritz and Adelaide Kaufmann Foundation in New Jersey. Thank you! I am , however, still in search of funds; I plan to direct whatever monies remain at the end of the project to organizations now housing and caring for the Genizah documents.

If you’d like to send a donation, please mail it to me at my home:

15030 232nd Ave. NE
Woodinville, WA 98077

I thank you all for your ongoing support and interest. Your enthusiasm is a powerful inspiration to me as I strive to write a book that does justice to the fantastic story of the Cairo Genizah.

With Best Wishes,

Rabbi Mark Glickman

Cairo Genizah Update #2: Exciting Develompents; Title Search

Dear Friends,

Greetings once again! Things continue to develop rapidly with regard to the upcoming Genizah Expedition and the book.


On December 19th, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, signed a letter giving me special permission to enter the Genizah room at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo. The room is ordinarily off-limits to visitors, and, to my knowledge, no westerners have entered it for many, many years. This, therefore, is a major coup.

The visit will be of symbolic – rather than archaeological – importance. The synagogue was completely renovated in the late 1990’s, and I am certain that the literary treasures of the Genizah room are long gone. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what is up there nowadays, but you can rest assured that I’ll let you know when I find out.

Dr. Hawass has also expressed interest in meeting with me personally. As I believe I mentioned in my previous update, his position puts him in charge of ALL of Egypt’s antiquities – the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings – the whole shmear. Also, President Hosni Mubarak recently named him Vice Minister of Culture. Often a controversial figure, Zahi Hawass is frequently featured on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic documentaries. Under his leadership, the Supreme Council of Antiquities has recently put a great deal of effort into renovating several centuries-old synagogues in Egypt, one of which, the Maimonides Synagogue, will be rededicated on Maimonides’ birthday this coming march.

For more information about Dr. Hawass, check him out on Wikipedia or at his website,


• On the expedition, I plan to take photographs to use in the book, and to do some filming for the DVD version that is in the works. This weekend, Michael Strong, the literary agent who will be producing the DVD, went on my behalf to B & H photo in New York and purchased a camera that does both still shots and video – including DVD. I’m a photographic klutz, so I’ll have to learn how to use this thing. But I also love gadgets, so I’m looking forward to it.

• Also, I am pleased to announce that I will be bringing an assistant/cameraman with me on the expedition – my son, Jacob. Jacob will be almost 16 years old when we take this trip, he prides himself on being amongst the world’s foremost teen Genizah experts, and he has chosen to forego summer camp this year, and instead use those resources to finance this trip. (Donors, rest assured that Jacob will be traveling completely on the Glickman family “dime,” and that we are being very careful to keep the expenses separate – documentation is available upon request).

• Just this minute, I received an email from Peter Johnson, the head porter at Clare College, Cambridge – I’m not sure what a head porter is, but it sounds very important. I had asked his help in arranging a visit to Castlebrae, the 23-room mansion belonging to Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson where Solomon Schechter saw his first Genizah documents. Castlebrae is now a Cambridge University dormitory, and Mr. Johnson told me that he will be glad to help arrange my visit. It’s all starting to fall into place.


The story of the Cairo Genizah has fascinated me for many years. But it was only when I read Solomon Schechter’s account of what he found when he entered it that I began thinking that the story would make a good book. In fact, it was one particular phrase in Schechter’s description that got me thinking this way. Schechter described the Genizah as “a battlefield of books.” He used that phrase to depict the corpses and body-parts of books that he found scattered about the Genizah (see attachment). Reading that phrase, I thought, “Hey, that would be a good title for a book.”

So, my first idea for a title was, “A Battlefield of Books: The Amazing Story of the Cairo Genizah.” I shared the idea with Michael Strong (mentioned above). Very politely, Mike told me that this would be a lousy title (my words, not his). “A Battlefield of Books,” he said, doesn’t tell readers anything about the book or the story. Bookstore browsers who don’t know what a Genizah is (of whom there will probably be a few) won’t have any idea what the book is about.

OK. Plan B. If my first title won’t work, I thought it might be fun to try to convey the enormity of the Genizah in the very title of my book. What I came up with was, The Cairo Genizah: The Story of the Largest Heap of Medieval Letters, Receipts, Recipes, Schoolbooks, Bibles, Torah Scrolls, Poems, Prescriptions, Doodles and Other Old Scraps Ever Discovered.

I mentioned that idea to the editor I’m working with at Jewish Lights Publishing. She saw the humor in it, but politely reminded me (everyone is being very polite here) that the book will probably be a 6”X9” hardcover, and that a title such as this one might not…uh…fit.

So, dear friends, I turn to you for your sage wisdom. If I push it, I could very well be able to get either of my ideas through. But maybe there are some better possibilities. If you get a chance, please vote for one of the following options in reply to this email:

A. Battlefield of Books: The Amazing Story of the Cairo Genizah
B. The Cairo Genizah: The Story of the Largest Heap of Medieval Letters, Receipts, Recipes, Schoolbooks, Bibles, Torah Scrolls, Poems, Prescriptions, Doodles and Other Old Scraps Ever Discovered
C. Other_[INSERT BRILLIANT NEW TITLE SUGGESTION HERE]_____________________________________________________

Thank you for your input.


I was recently informed that Congregation Kol Shalom on Bainbridge Island will soon receive a generous grant from the Fritz and Adelaide Kauffmann Foundation to support this project. This does take some of the edge off, but the project is still in need of funds, and any gift you could offer would be very helpful.

Also, In my previous email, I neglected to mention that any funds remaining after the project concludes will be donated to one or more major Genizah-related organizations – the Friedberg Genizah Project (which is digitizing the collection) and/or one major libraries that houses Genizah manuscripts. More than simple travel funds, in other words, this money will serve to support knowledge and preservation of the Genizah, its story, and its priceless contents.

That’s all for now. Unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll keep sending updates as they develop. Future updates, I hope will be briefer than this one.


Rabbi Mark Glickman

Cairo Genizah Update #1 - The Expedition

December 16, 2009

Dear Friends,

Shalom! This is the first in what I hope will be a series of updates about the exciting project I have been working on recently – my book about the Cairo Genizah. As you may know, for many months I have been researching and writing about Cairo Genizah story, and recently there have been some very exciting developments:


The book I am writing will be published by Jewish Lights Publishing ( The book is due to them by June 1, 2010, and they tell me it will be released the following November.

Also, Michael Strong, of the Regal Literary Agency in New York, is planning to produce a DVD version book, and an audio version, too.


After months of planning, which is now only partially completed, I have finally booked my flights for my upcoming Genizah Expedition. Here are some highlights of the trip:

February 20-26 – Cambridge England, where the modern Genizah story began.
• Meet with some of the world’s leading Genizah scholars, many of whom are affiliated with Cambridge University.
• A behind-the-scenes tour of the Genizah collection, seeing how the documents are stored and cared-for in one of the world’s leading library facilities.
• Examine some Genizah manuscripts up-close – the earliest known piece of Jewish sheet-music, handwritten letters and writings of Maimonides, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.
• Visit Castlebrae – the grand mansion where Solomon Schechter saw the manuscript that first directed his attention to the Cairo Genizah. Then, it was owned by Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis, wealthy Scottish twin sisters; now, it is a college dormitory.

February 26-March 2 – Cairo, Egypt, home of the Cairo Genizah
• Visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the original home of the Genizah.
• At the Ben Ezra, enter the actual Genizah room – see details below.
• Meet with leaders of Cairo’s Jewish community. The Jewish community of Egypt once numbered in the tens-of-thousands; today, there are only a few dozen indigenous Jews living in the entire country.
• Meet with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Chairman of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Dr. Hawass, who often appears on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc., is in charge of all of Egypt’s antiquities – the Pyramids, the Sphinx, tombs and mummies, etc.

March 2-March 6 – New York, NY
• Visit the Jewish Theological Seminary, examine more exciting manuscripts.
• Meet leading scholars
• Begin work on filming the DVD that will be released in conjunction with the book.


It occurred to me today that Solomon Schechter first became aware of the Genizah in Cambridge, England. He then traveled to see it in Cairo. After studying its contents for several years, he moved to New York to become president of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Cambridge – Cairo – New York…sound familiar?


In Cairo, Schechter had to shmooze his way into the Genizah by wooing local Jewish leaders, government officials, and others. In my own attempts to get access to that room, I’ve found myself walking in Schechter’s footsteps. To get permission to enter it, I’ve been in contact with people all over the world – in Jordan, France, Egypt, England, New York, and elsewhere!

It has been a fascinating experience, and here is some of what I’ve learned:

• The leaders of Cairo’s Jewish tiny community are wary of foreigners – Jewish and non-Jewish – coming to Egypt and messing with their Jewish antiquities.
• There is also a huge worldwide Egyptian Jewish Diaspora. Many of its members feel strongly that these sites and these relics belong to the Jewish people, and that they need to be cared for not by the small remnant of local Egyptian Jews, but instead should be preserved professionally and by experts.
• In reality, the Ben Ezra Synagogue is owned by the Egyptian government. I have had to apply to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for permission to enter that room. I’m told that it looks good, but I don’t expect a final OK until the end of this week.

It begs an interesting question: When a civilization departs a place it has lived for centuries, who owns what it leaves behind? The dispersed community? The tiny fraction that stayed? The local government? I’m not sure of the answer to that question, and I’d be interested your thoughts.


Clearly, the cost of this trip will far exceed the money I will make from the book. Several generous donors have contributed funds to support the expedition, and I am waiting to hear from some others, as well as from a foundation in New York. However, to take this trip, I still need to raise more money. If you would like to help support the cause, please send a donation to my home (address below). I would greatly appreciate whatever you can offer.


I have attached a draft of the brief prologue I have written for this book – a couple of pages that will precede the introduction and, I hope, whet readers’ appetites to read the book. I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts.

Thanks so much for your interest in, and support of, this project. I will keep you posted as it continues to develop


Rabbi Mark Glickman
15030 232nd Ave. NE
Woodinville, WA 98077