I’m a social historian of the medieval Middle East, interested especially in family life and in how law and religion worked in mundane, everyday settings. My research focuses on urban Jews in Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt (969–1250), a population who accidentally left behind some of the most detailed and varied sources about ordinary life to have survived the premodern world: the Cairo Geniza documents, a cache of everyday writings (letters, legal documents, shopping lists, and so on) produced mainly in this period and preserved by chance in a synagogue in Fustat (old Cairo).
My first book, Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Women’s Adolescence, Jewish Law, and Ordinary Culture (Princeton, 2018) uses Geniza documents and Jewish and Islamic legal writings to examine how gender, kinship, and rabbinic law interacted to shape Jewish women’s coming of age and transition to first marriage in medieval Egypt and Syria. Coming of Age won the National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies and a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association of Jewish Studies, received an Honorable Mention for the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Historical Studies), and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship and the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean’s Dionisius A. Agius Prize.
I’m currently working on a second book tentatively titled Written Torah: The Reinvention of Judaism in the Islamic Mediterranean, a social history of early medieval Jewish writing (documents as well as literary works) that examines how and why new forms of Judaism developed and spread across the Islamic Mediterranean during the ninth and tenth centuries. Other topics I’m working on include responses to the death of children in Geniza letters; petitions sent to Jewish communal officials by socially isolated women; and several aspects of a longer-term project on the social history of rabbinic courts in the Fatimid empire. I’m also deeply committed to collaborative work aimed at making Geniza documents more accessible and historically legible. With Jessica Goldberg (UCLA), I recently edited an introductory handbook to Geniza research, its history, practice, and future prospects, which appeared as a triple issue of the journal Jewish History in 2019. I’m writing a different kind of handbook with a group of researchers involved in the “Documents and Institutions in the Medieval Middle East” project, which will trace common terms and features across Jewish and Islamic legal and administrative documents from the Fatimid period.
At Princeton I’ve taught courses on the Cairo Geniza and the history of everyday writing in Egypt; on religious conversion and the formation of the Islamic Middle East; on marriage in Near Eastern monotheistic traditions; and NES 300, the department’s Seminar in Research Methods. I also teach in the Humanities Council’s Near Eastern Humanities sequence, a year-long exploration of the rich literary and artistic traditions that have flourished in the Near East from antiquity until the present day.
Before coming to Princeton, I spent two years as a Blaustein post-doctoral fellow in the Program in Judaic Studies at Yale University, and one year as a Rabin post-doctoral fellow in the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University.
Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Female Adolescence, Jewish Law, and Ordinary Culture (Princeton University Press, 2018)
Documentary Geniza Research in the Twenty-First Century, Special issue of Jewish History (with Jessica Goldberg, 2019)
“Maimonides’ Menstrual Reform in Egypt,” Jewish Quarterly Review 110.2 (2020)
“The Geniza and Family History,” Jewish History (2019)
“Byzantine Judaism in early Islamic Palestine: Rethinking the gaonic model,” forthcoming in The Byzantine Near East: A New History (Cambridge University Press)
“The ‘oldest dated document of the Cairo Genizah’ (Halper 331): The Seleucid era and sectarian Jewish calendars,” forthcoming, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (with Sacha Stern)
“Jews and Diaspora in the Medieval Islamic Middle East,” in Oxford Handbook of the Jewish Diaspora, ed. Hasia Diner (forthcoming)
“Formula as Content: Medieval Jewish Institutions, the Cairo Geniza and the New Diplomatics” (with Marina Rustow), Jewish Social Studies 20 (2015).
“‘Many Days without the God of truth’: Loss and Recovery of Religious Knowledge in Early Karaite Thought,” in Pesher Nahum: Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature from Antiquity through the Middle Ages presented to Norman Golb, ed. Joel Kraemer and Michael Wechsler (Chicago, 2012).
“On the Literary Character of Abraham Ibn Da’ud’s Sefer ha-qabbalah,” European Journal of Jewish Studies 1 (2007).