cover image Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza

Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza

Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole. Nextbook-Shocken, $31 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4258-4

Hoffman and Cole deliver a riveting true account following a series of scholars in the late 1890s who attempt to unveil pieces of original scrolls from the Sirach, a book that dates to approximately 200 BCE. The race beings as a adventurous Scottish sisters Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson investigate an Egyptian repository, or "geniza," a "barely translatable Hebrew term" ultimately meaning "hoard" or "hidden treasure." What originally appeared to be little more than a dusty room filled with countless barely-legible documents, was actually host to numerous ancient Hebrew texts. While some were benign, like shopping lists, others were soon proven to have been written by the infamous Ben Sira around 175 BCE. It takes no time for the friendly rivalry between the Scottish sisters and Solomon Schecter to turn sour, as all involved vie for the same accomplishments and notoriety. It isn't long before Schecter stations himself in Cairo and devotes all his time to researching the original geniza, along with a second genzia that was discovered nearby. Hoffman and Cole offer an invigorating account of success coupled with eye opening documentation that was nearly left to rot in the bowels of an abandoned Egyptian building. Photos. (Apr.)