Did you know?
A Genizah is the storeroom or depository in a synagogue or in a cemetery used to collect worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics before they can receive a proper cemetery burial. It is forbidden to throw away writings containing the name of G-d. In the Talmud (Shabbat 115a) our sages direct that holy writings in other than the Hebrew require “Genizah,,” that is, preservation.
Anything from a worn-out Siddur to a contract written in Hebrew (that includes the name of G-d) should be put in the Genizah when it is no longer useful.
In addition to papers, articles connected with a ritual, such as Tzitizt, Lulabim, and sprigs of myrtle, are similarly stored.
Most synagogues clean out their Genizot every few years by burying the contents in a Jewish cemetery as a sign of reverence and respect. Some communities even have cemetery plots that have been donated expressly for the purpose of burying the Genizah. It is considered a great sign of respect to bury a Torah scroll or other sacred work near a prestigious Torah scholar.
Synagogues in Jerusalem buried the contents of their Genizot every seventh year, as well as during a year of drought, believing that this would bring rain.
The most famous Genizah, by far, is the Cairo Genizah, a room attached to the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. The room contained over 200,000 documents and ritual objects from as far back as the 10th century, including commentaries and letters written by Maimonides, and Rabbi Judah Halevy. In the 1890s, Solomon Schechter, a lecturer at Cambridge University, convinced synagogue officials to allow him to ship most of the contents of the Cairo Genizah to Cambridge, and since then thousands of documents from the Genizah have been restored, translated, and studied.