In 1896, intrepid twins Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson returned to Cambridge from a research trip to Egypt and Palestine. They brought with them a treasure lost for a thousand years: a page from the original Hebrew book of Ben Sira. The page had accumulated along with thousands of other documents in the Ben Ezra Synagogue, Old Cairo, in a chamber called a Genizah. The Jewish community had been placing their worn-out books and documents in the Genizah since at least the 10th century CE.
Cambridge lecturer Solomon Schechter was so excited by the sisters’ remarkable discovery he travelled to Old Cairo to see for himself what the Genizah held. The Chief Rabbi of Egypt gave Schechter permission to take whatever he liked. Schechter declared that he ‘liked all’, and shipped almost 200,000 manuscripts back to Cambridge.