Remembering Moshe Gil, Historian of Medieval Jewry

tags: obituaries, medieval history, Moshe Gil, Judaica




Moshe Gil, who died in January at 92, was born in Bialystok, Poland in 1921 and raised in Romania. He moved to Palestine in 1945 and was a kibbutznik, later becoming a professor at Tel Aviv University and a prolific historian of medieval Jewry in the Islamic world. What follows is a personal recollection by Gil’s former classmate, friend, and colleague, Noam Stillman.

Although there were a number of older (today politely called “non-traditional”) students in our graduate program in Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, Moshe Gil certainly was—or seemed to be—the oldest. He was old enough to be my father. But with his easygoing manner and wry sense of humor, he quickly became a friend. He had come to Penn to work with the doyen of Geniza studies, Shelomo Dov Goitein, and already had his research topic mapped out.

His devoted wife Shoshana, whom everyone called by her nickname Mausie, took care of the apartment and their three daughters with military efficiency, making sure that he was not disturbed when working. He finished his coursework and dissertation in just two years, and we marched side by side at commencement in 1970. The 600-page book that grew out of his dissertation was published six years later and titled, Documents of the Jewish Pious Foundations from the Cairo Geniza. Many such weighty works were to follow in the decades to come....



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