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The Kindness of Strangers

Discarded History

Provision for the poor organised by the Jewish community of Fustat was remarkable, and included the distribution of bread, wheat, cash, clothing and the payment of the discriminatory poll taxes imposed by the Muslim government on the Jewish and Christian minorities. It clearly stemmed from the community’s deep piety, from its sense of communal inclusion and its social responsibility. Letters appealing for charity are common in the Genizah – the inevitable consequence of a large indigent community and the presence of institutions and charitably-minded individuals to which they could turn. Sometimes help in a time of crisis also came from the Muslim authorities.