TAU pieces together ‘Cairo Genizah’

Scientists at the Tel Aviv University have developed sophisticated software to piece together more than 350,000 Jewish texts known as the Cairo Genizah. The collection of historical texts in the Genizah is scattered among 70 institutions worldwide making it difficult …

Scientists at the Tel Aviv University have developed sophisticated software to piece together more than 350,000 Jewish texts known as the Cairo Genizah. The collection of historical texts in the Genizah is scattered among 70 institutions worldwide making it difficult for scholars to study them.

That’s where Professor Lior Wolf and Professor Nachum Dershowitz of TAU’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science come into the picture. Their new software, based on facial recognition technology, can identify digitized Genizah fragments thought to be a part of the same work and make editorial “joins.”

“Its big advantage is that it doesn’t tire after examining thousands of fragments,” Prof. Dershowitz says. A scholar must then review and verify the computer-proposed “joins.”

This is the first time in centuries that researchers are working to piece together the scattered pages.

The Cairo Genizah is considered an invaluable resource for Jewish studies as well as for the socioeconomic conditions of Middle Eastern life. The fragments include religious texts, social and commercial documents dating from the 9th to 19th century.

The TAU scientists worked in conjunction with the Friedberg Genizah Project, which has received permission to digitize most of the fragments of the Genizah collection worldwide.

Professors Wolf and Dershowitz are also using their technology to reconstruct the Dead Sea Scrolls in a project spearheaded by the Google. “It’s a more complicated challenge. The fragments are for the most part much smaller, and many of the texts are very unique,” explains Prof. Wolf. “These texts shed light on the beginnings of Christianity.”

 

About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.