The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ben-Sasson, Menahem (emeritus)

Personal: Born 1951, Jerusalem; Ph.D. 1984, Hebrew Univ.; Lect. 1985; Sen. Lect. 1988; Assoc. Prof. 1991; Prof. 1996; Rector, Hebrew University, since 1997.

Research Interests:

Medieval Jewish history in Muslim lands. Social and intellectual history. Geonic Responsa and texts. Geniza research.

Research Projects:

1. Oriens Judaicus: Historical texts of the Jews in Muslim countries. (with some 20 other scholars and an international advisory committee). Funding: Basic Research Foundation, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

2. The impact of Maimonides and his descendants on medieval Eastern Jewry. Funding: Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (initial support).

3. Tradition and change among Jews of the Muslim world in the early Middle Ages in light of Saadya Gaon's social and literary activity. Funding: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Abstracts of Current Research:

Oriens Judaicus:

This project involves the search for manuscripts and other sources on the Jewish communities in the East, as well as translation, compilation, commentary and publication of these sources. The project is unique in its overall scope and methodology, and will make often inaccessible sources readily available to the scholar. The first four volumes have been published, and two more are in press.

Saadya Gaon's Book of Deeds and Decrees: (with R. Brody)

Research focuses on (a) locating book fragments that had survived in the Cairo Geniza and preparing a scientific edition for publication; and (b) examination of the sources which were available to Saadya Gaon when he composed his book and the influence the book had as a practical handbook for Jewish communities in Muslim countries. It appears that this work was Saadya Gaon's first halakhic book, as well as the first such work in the rabbinic world to be written in Arabic. Saadya explained that he wrote it because of the pressing need for such a handbook. Saadya's book holds a major place in legislative-judicial tradition, as well as in everyday practice.

This research is innovative in that it seeks to compile the earliest literature pertaining to deeds, and re-creates Saadya's work, the first of its kind, which, although lost for centuries, was used extensively by medieval writers, without reference. (This project is part of a broader planned project devoted to "Tradition and Changes among Jews of the Muslim World" (see Research Projects above), to be conducted at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University.

The Maimonidean family's influence among the Eastern Jewish communities:

This study examines the history of the Maimon dynasty in light of the decline of Eastern Jewry (12th-15th centuries). The study uncovers new sources of the Maimon family's public activity. A history of the family (both intellectually and politically) and its impact on Eastern Jewry is being prepared for publication (first as a series of articles, to be followed by a book with new sources appended). (Part of a wider program dealing with "Law and Spirituality," during the 1993/94 academic year at the Center for Judaic Center [formerly the Annenberg Institute], Philadelphia.)

The Ben-Ezra Synagogue and Jewish neighborhood in Qasr el-Rum, Cairo: (with J.R. Hacker; and C. Le-Quene and P. Sheehan, Canada)

The purpose of this project is to study the life and social world of the Jewish community in Cairo in the Middle Ages. Research is supplemented by archaeological findings and combines multidisciplinary research techniques, making use of newly authorized archaeological studies. It thus complements what has been discovered through the Geniza fragments and sheds light on the history of Cairo, both Jewish and Muslim.

Several hundred Geniza documents and other sources have been located, deciphered, translated and analyzed.

key words: Medieval Jewish history; Jews in Muslim lands; Responsa; Geniza; Maimonides

Recent Publications:

Ben-Sasson, M. (1991) The Jews of Sicily, 825-1068 - Documents and Sources. Jerusalem, Ben-Zvi Institute, 735 + viii pp. (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1991) A family at a time of transition - A study of the encounter between Halakha and history in North Africa with new evidence on Dunash ben Tamim. In: Sefunot, vol.20, Jerusalem, Ben-Zvi Institute, pp.51-69 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1991) Firkovitch's Second Collection: Notes on historical and Halakhic material. Jewish Studies, 31: 47-67 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1992) La soci?t? m?di?vale en pays m?diterran?en. In: La Soci?t? juive ? travers les ages - La Fabrique du peuple, I, ed. S. Trigano, Paris, Fayard, pp.427-460.

Ben-Sasson, M. (1992) Maimonides in Egypt - The first stage. Maimonidean Studies, 2: 3-30.

Ben-Sasson, M. (1992) The prayer of the Anusim. In: Sanctity of Life and Martyrdom, eds. I.M. Gafni and A. Ravitzky, Jerusalem, The Zalman Shazar Center, pp.153-166 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1993) The History of the Jews in Muslim Lands during the Middle Ages. In: The Historical Atlas - The History of the Jewish People (Editor-in-chief: E. Bar-Navi), London, Hutchinson, pp.74-75, 80-83, 86-93, 116-117.

Ben Sasson, M. (1993) Banque et negoc? dans le haut Moyen Age. In: La Soci?t? juive ? travers les ages - Le passage d'Israel, III, ed. S. Trigano, Paris, Fayard, pp.205-240.

Ben-Sasson, M., ed. (1994) Religion and Economy. Jerusalem, The Zalman Shazar Center, 439 pp. (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1994) Ben Ezra Synagogue during the medieval period. In: The Ben Ezra Synagogue, ed. P. Lambert, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pp.200-226.

Ben-Sasson, M. (1994) Appeal to the congregation in Islamic countries in the early Middle Ages. In: Knesset Ezra, eds. S. Elizur, M.D. Herr and A. Shinan (eds.), Jerusalem, Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and the Ben-Zvi Institute, pp.327-350 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1994) Mutual relations between religion and economics through the ages. In: Mutual Relation between Religion and Economics, ed. M. Ben-Sasson, Jerusalem, The Zalman Shazar Center, pp.11-29 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1995) Varieties of inter-communal relations in the Geonic period. In: Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society and Identity, ed. D. Frank, Leiden, pp.17-31.

Ben-Sasson, M. (1996) The Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World: Qayrawan, 800-1057. Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 584 pp. (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1996) The Eretz Israel-Syria axis: The formal aspects. Peamim, 66: 5-19 (Hebrew).

Ben-Sasson, M. (1995 - in press) Varieties of inter-communal relations in the Geonic period. Jewish-Muslim Relations, 4: pp. - ???.

Ben-Sasson, M. (199? ) The Jews of Damascus and Cairo in 1019-1020 Events. In: Moshe Gil Festschrift, eds. Y. Erder et al., pp. - (25pp.)

'War in the Palaces Peace for the Minorities - When Empires Fade (the Jewish case in the Medieval Mediterranean)', in: B. Cooperman et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference "When Empires Fade", 30 pp.

'The Jews of Sicily in the Mediterranean Society' Jewish Muslim Relations, 20 pp.

'To the Polemical Methods of Maimonides Descendants', Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of the Society for Judeo-Arabic Culture (Ramat Gan 1993) 25 pp

Moral and Philosophy in Ibn Aqnin's Works', in: M.Abitbol and M.Kenbib (eds.), Judeo-Musulims Relations in Morroco - Perceptions and Realities (Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the Centre International de Recherche sur les Juifs du Maroc), Marrakech and Paris

'Poplulation-Movement and Perceptions of Identity - the Case of Fez under the Idrises and the Zirides', in: M.Abitbol and M.Kenbib (eds.), Judeo-Musulims Relations in Morroco - Perceptions and Realities (Proceedings of the 1st Int ernational Conference of the Centre International de Recherche sur les Juifs du Maroc), Marrakech and Paris

'The Jewish Autonomy in Muslim Lands - 10th-12th Centuries', in: A. Grossmann and Y. Kaplan (eds.), The Jewish Autonomy through the Ages, 46 pp.

Ben-Sasson, M. The "Corpus of Early Islamic Sources for West African History" and the History of the Jewish People. In: I. Gershuni (ed.), Africa - Islam, Christianity and Judaism, 12 pp.

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