Oxbridge to Jointly Purchase Ancient Jewish Archive

Two of the world's most prominent universities, and oldest rivals, come together to buy a trove of 1000-year-old Jewish manuscripts, including a handwritten parchment by Maimonides.

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Preeminent British universities Oxford and Cambridge raised 1.2 million pound to purchase the Lewis-Gibson genizah collection, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The universities, two of the oldest and highest-ranking institutions for higher education in the world, decided this February to put aside their historic professional rivalry and launch their first joint fund-raising campaign. With the immense sum raised, the "ancient universities" can now purchase the collection from its current owner, the United Reform Church's Westminster College.

According to Oxford's library announcement this February, the The Lewis-Gibson collection contains 1,000 years worth of Jewish manuscripts hand-picked from the Ben-Ezra synagogue genizah, which historically served as a storage space for sacred writings discarded by the Jewish community of Fustat (now a suburb of Cairo).

The collection also holds other treasures, such as a handwritten scroll by Moses Maimonides, and an autograph poem by the medieval Spanish Hebrew poet Joseph ibn Abitur.

According to the BBC report, the manuscripts will be sent to Cambridge for conservation work and then digitized. The hardcopies will be divided between the two universities.

Text from the Cairo geniza.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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