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Pilgrimage and Charity in the Geniza Society

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Chapter Summary

The author shows the intricate connections between pilgrimage and charity in the Geniza society as well as the way both operated within the broad system of social exchange. As is attested by many Geniza documents, pilgrimage was a widespread phenomenon in Jewish society in the medieval Islamic world. While it was clearly integral to religious discourse and practice, it also played important social roles. He also discusses how pilgrimage was embedded, primarily through the communal charity system, in the social fabric of Jewish life. He starts by describing the reverent attitude toward pilgrims, manifested in the overwhelming eagerness to support them without hesitation or regard for their socio-economic status. He then shows that this attitude was not a one-sided act of pure altruism, but rather part of a reciprocal exchange through which the donors and ancillaries of charity could also benefit.

Keywords: communal charity system; Geniza Society; Jewish; medieval Islamic world; Pilgrimage



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