UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Prof Stern awarded a new research grant

3 September 2018

Professor Sacha Stern has been awarded a grant of €190k by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation to research the calendar disputes at the heart of the Qaraite-Rabbanite controversies.

The Qaraites broke off from mainstream, Rabbanite Judaism in 9th-century Iraq, and became a powerful Jewish movement in the following centuries. Their main tenet was to reject the authority of the Talmud and rabbinic tradition, and to rely instead on a fresh reading of the biblical scriptures. At the heart of their disagreements and polemics was how to reckon the Jewish calendar, and thus, when to observe the fasts and festivals. The centrality of the calendar to Qaraite-Rabbanite controversies has long been recognized, but its investigation has been largely neglected until now. As we hope to demonstrate, the origins and history of these competing calendars were mutually intertwined. This project focusses on the 9th-12th-centuries Near East and Byzantine Empire, and draws on literary and documentary manuscript sources in Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Arabic, Aramaic, and other languages. It concerns ideological and social divisions between Qaraite and Rabbanite movements, but also leads to sociological reflections on how people run their lives with different time-frames and calendars, and how this impacts on their sense of social belonging and identity.

The project, initially funded for two years, will employ Dr. Nadia Vidro as Research Associate.