Sacred Trash

The Jewish Theological Seminary to Sponsor Library Book Talk with Authors Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole

Press Contact: Eve Glasberg
Office: (212) 678-8089

March 9, 2011, New York, NY

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), with the cooperation of Nextbook and Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, will hold an afternoon Library Book Talk on Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, featuring the book’s authors, acclaimed essayist Adina Hoffman and MacArthur Foundation Award–winning poet and translator Peter Cole. Sacred Trash is a story of buried scholarly treasure that rivals in drama, scope, and importance the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and sheds profound light on 900 years of Jewish life. The Sacred Trash event will be held on Sunday, April 10, 2011, at 4:00 p.m., in JTS’s Women’s League Seminary Synagogue, at 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City. Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS, will serve as moderator. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Email Hector Guzman at for more information or to register. Please arrive early and have photo ID available.

One day in May 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, one that in many ways has revolutionized our sense of what it means to lead a Jewish life.

In Sacred Trash, Hoffman and Cole tell the story of the recovery from a Cairo genizah (a repository for sacred texts) of the most vital cache of Hebrew manuscripts ever discovered. Weaving together unforgettable portraits of Solomon Schechter and the other scholar-heroes of this drama with explorations of the medieval documents themselves—letters and poems, wills and marriage contracts, prescriptions, prayers, trousseau lists, bibles, money orders, children’s primers, rabbinic responsa, amulets, and receipts—the authors present a panoramic view of a vibrant Mediterranean Judaism. 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.

Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood and My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, which was named a best book of 2009 by the Barnes & Noble Review.

Peter Cole’s most recent book of poems is Things on Which I’ve Stumbled. His many volumes of award-winning translations include The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007. Ms. Hoffman and Mr. Cole are a couple and live in Jerusalem.

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