Thursday, September 15, 2016

Friedberg Genizah Project update

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Completing the 118-Year-Old Puzzle of the Cairo Genizah (Abigail Klein Leichman, The Jewish Voice).
Israeli supercomputer is matching up 200,000 text fragment images in historic breakthrough for ancient manuscript scholarship.
Think of it as the world’s oldest and largest jigsaw puzzle: Images of about 200,000 fragments of ancient Jewish documents, held in 67 separate locations across the world, are being matched up digitally by a powerful computer network in the basement of Tel Aviv University.
At the rate of half a million comparisons per minute, the task ran from May 16 through the end of June.
This awesome accomplishment of the Jerusalem-based Friedberg Genizah Project finally will allow scholars – and anyone else with Internet access – to examine complete pages of documents retrieved more than a century ago from the legendary Cairo genizah.
In this crypt in the old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, Jews discarded records and religious writings between the eighth and 17th centuries. They range from sacred texts to letters, poems and receipts giving a glimpse into medieval life in the Middle East.
Most of the trove was in fragments that ended up scattered among libraries and private collectors over the years. Putting them together in their original form seemed impossible and only a few scholars found “joins” among the pieces.
“The project has been waiting 120 years until someone could solve the riddle of the Cairo genizah, and my heritage gives me a special connection to the project,” says Cairo-born Prof. Yaacov Choueka, chief computerization scientist for the Friedberg Genizah Project, launched in 2006 by Albert Dov Friedberg of Canada in a joint venture with the Jewish Manuscript Preservation Society of Toronto.

It's not entirely clear to me whether the article is saying that the matching up of the fragments is now entirely completed. But in any case it is clearly at least well underway. It's been a few years since I've seen an update on the project, so it's good to hear that it has made substantial progress. Past posts on it are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.