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Cairo Genizah : Letter

Cairo Genizah

<p style='text-align: justify;'> The so-called ‘Kiev letter’, a 10th-century letter of introduction, probably from the Jewish community of Kyiv, accrediting Jacob b. Ḥanukka to raise funds for his redemption from non-Jewish creditors. Jacob is described as generous and of good family. His brother had borrowed money from gentiles and had then been robbed and slain by brigands, whereupon Jacob was held liable for his brother’s debts. The Kyiv community had paid part of his debt, enabling him to be released from prison, and he is now travelling to other communities to raise funds and repay the remainder. The letter is regarded as proof of the existence of a Jewish community in the Ukraine in the Middle Ages. Of the document’s signatories, a number possess names of apparently non-Semitic origin, and these have been interpreted as Khazars who had converted to Judaism. The letter was authorised by a Isaac the parnas, who signed in Hebrew, and another official who endorsed it in Turkic runes (in the Khazarian language). This use of Khazarian suggests that the document was written before the conquest of Kiev by the Rus in about 950 CE. The interpretation of the letter is not without controversy however, as both the reading ‘[Qi]yyov’ and the interpretation of the runic endorsement have been questioned. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Multispectral images courtesy of <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>The Early Manuscripts Electronic Library</a> and <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>The Lazarus Project</a></p>

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