Sacred Trash by Adina Hoffman
The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Jewish Encounters)

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Synopsis

NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD FINALIST

Part of the Jewish Encounter series

One May day in 1896, at a dining-room table in Cambridge, England, a meeting took place between a Romanian-born maverick Jewish intellectual and twin learned Presbyterian Scotswomen, who had assembled to inspect several pieces of rag paper and parchment. It was the unlikely start to what would prove a remarkable, continent-hopping, century-crossing saga, and one that in many ways has revolutionized our sense of what it means to lead a Jewish life.
 
In Sacred Trash, MacArthur-winning poet and translator Peter Cole and acclaimed essayist Adina Hoffman tell the story of the retrieval from an Egyptian geniza, or repository for worn-out texts, of the most vital cache of Jewish manuscripts ever discovered. This tale of buried scholarly treasure weaves together unforgettable portraits of Solomon Schechter and the other heroes of this drama with explorations of the medieval documents themselves—letters and poems, wills and marriage contracts, Bibles, money orders, fiery dissenting tracts, fashion-conscious trousseaux lists, prescriptions, petitions, and mysterious magical charms. Presenting a panoramic view of nine hundred years of vibrant Mediterranean Judaism, Hoffman and Cole bring modern readers into the heart of this little-known trove, whose contents have rightly been dubbed “the Living Sea Scrolls.” Part biography and part meditation on the supreme value the Jewish people has long placed on the written word, Sacred Trash is above all a gripping tale of adventure and redemption.




From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Adina Hoffman

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Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Nation, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She lives in Jerusalem.
 
Published April 5, 2011 by Schocken. 306 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Sacred Trash

Kirkus Reviews

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Hoffman and Cole are adroit in their exegesis of the writings of figures like Ben Sira and poet and philosopher Judah Halevi, and the authors pay appropriate tribute to the devoted scholars who arduously sifted through the dust of centuries.

Apr 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

The New York Times

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Tattered documents, dating back centuries, endure in a synagogue.

May 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

Publishers Weekly

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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 2

May 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

The Wall Street Journal

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The synagogue once housed a remarkable treasure trove of written material, thrown any old how into a small room high up above the women's gallery and handed over, quite unlawfully, in 1898 by my grandmother's great-uncle, Moise Cattaoui, then head of the Cairo Jewish community, to a Cambridge sch...

| Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

The Wall Street Journal

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At least once a month, from the ages of 5 to 15, I would take the little train from suburban Maadi to Cairo and back.

Apr 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

Los Angeles Review of Books

GUIDED BY JUDAISM'S REVERENTIAL regard for — and fidelity to — the dignity of the written word, many Jewish communities, right up to the present day, keep a geniza, or repository for discarded sacred texts to gather dust or disintegrate.

Feb 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

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GUIDED BY JUDAISM'S REVERENTIAL regard for — and fidelity to — the dignity of the written word, many Jewish communities, right up to the present day, keep a geniza, or repository for discarded sacred texts to gather dust or disintegrate.

Feb 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Sacred Trash: The Lost and Fo...

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