Cairo Genizah

Historically, the term genizah commonly refers to an informal storage area where fragile Jewish documents, considered religiously significant, but ritually unfit, are put away until they are brought to a cemetery for dignified burial. The trove of over 350,000 medieval manuscript fragments once held in the attic genizah of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Fustat, Old Cairo, dating from the 9th century CE and spanning over a thousand years, is the most famous and important of the extant collections. Its contents - so-called Cairo genizah fragments, which came to light during the 19th century - subsequently were scattered around the world. Some appeared on and then disappeared from the antiquities market; the largest segment went to Cambridge University, where they became the object of intensive scholarly study.

In the late 1990s, thanks to a significant gift from a Penn alum named Jeffrey Keil, W' 65 and PAR '91, Penn initiated a project, in collaboration with Cambridge University Libraries, to apply digital technologies to discover new intellectual matches among these physically dispersed fragments. Through this initiative we were able to demonstrate how digital technologies may serve as discovery tools to identify matches among a global diaspora of thousands of fragments of medieval manuscripts (see: This collection of Cairo genizah fragments consists of Penn manuscripts that were part of this project.


The manuscripts in this collection were digitized and made accessible through the unwavering support and concerted efforts of the following contributors. Mr. Jeffrey Keil (W '65 and Library Board Overseer) embraced this project from the outset and funded its realization.

A special thanks to following contributors:



All images and their contents from the Cairo Genizah project are free of known copyright restrictions and in the public domain. See the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark page for more information on terms of use:


For all manuscript descriptions and other cataloging metadata, the copyright holder is the mansucripts' holding institution. For example, if the manuscript is from the Free Library of Philadelphia, then the copyright for the manuscript descriptions and other cataloging metadata is ©2017 Free Library of Philadelphia. The metadata is licensed for use under a Creative Commons CC0 Licensed version 1.0 (CC0-1.0):

For a description of the terms of use, see the Creative Commons deed:

Intended Users

The Cairo Genizah data presented on OPenn is intended for aggregators, digital humanists, and scholars who have been directed here to procure high-resolution images and their associated metadata. It is presented in a manner most likely to ensure its long-term digital preservation. The images of these manuscripts are accompanied by detailed manuscript descriptions in machine-readable TEI format. Images and TEI manuscript descriptions are added frequently, so check often to see new additions.

The documents on OPenn

University of Pennsylvania Books & Manuscripts