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An Accidental Collection

Updated: Apr 14

– by Susan Weinberg –

As a genealogist, I am a keeper of stuff. I would hazard a guess that most genealogists are pack rats, as they know that gems are hidden in the materials that others with a less historical bent would blithely discard.

With this orientation at my core, it is not surprising that I have recently become enamored by the Cairo Genizah. In a few days I head off to an international conference on Jewish genealogy in London. They will be showing the film From Cairo to the Cloud and Dr. Ben Outhwaite, the head of the Genizah research at Cambridge will be at the conference. I’ll have an opportunity to visit with him over dinner so decided it was time to learn more about this topic.

So, what is a genizah? The word comes from the Hebrew word ganaz which means treasure house or hiding place. In Jewish tradition, holy writings are held within a genizah when they have been retired from use. Holy was often taken to mean containing the word "God." As was the custom at that time every document contained the words "with the help of God," hence many secular documents found their way into the genizah as well, painting a picture of bygone centuries. Read more at

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