Saadiah Gaon and the Jewish Golden Age


How and when did Judaism come to the brink of complete disintegration?  In the early Middle Ages, while most Jews lived under the Islamic Caliphate in relative peace, Judaism was being torn apart from within. As Rambam wrote, “the Divine religion might as well have disappeared.  What was endangering the Jewish community at this time? Under whose leadership was stability restored? How did he do it?   This resource explores how one man, Saadia Gaon, responded to the existential threats to the Jewish community of his time and paved the way for the Golden Age of Judaism.   Learners will have the opportunity to discuss how  Saadia Gaon’s contributions to Jewish thought and law impacts Judaism to this day, by learning in small groups and teaching it to their peers using the jigsaw method.  Readings about the Karaite sect and the documents found in the Cairo Genizah which are the source of our knowledge about Saadia expand the learners’ knowledge of this period of Jewish history, while creation of a “facebook” page for Saadia Gaon provides an opportunity for a graphic application of  what they have learned.

The learners will: 

  1. understand why Judaism is endangered if it does not address the need to engage with  modernity while still respecting tradition and Jewish law.

  2. know how groups such as the Karaites threatened the existence of Judaism from within and how Rabbi Saadiah Gaon met that challenge through his synthesis of rationalism and traditional belief.

  3. be able to identify  ways in which Judaism can adapt to a modern world while still staying true to its laws and traditions.

Unpacked for Educators materials include:

  1. An educator’s guide that  contains many rich components. These are organized under the following titles: 

  • review (questions that relate to the video)

  • discussion

  • activities

  • reflection

  • further learning

  1. A video designed to spark interest in the topic.

A lesson plan (link in the attachment above) that incorporates additional building blocks for the construction of an engaging and interactive lesson.

Computer, Projector, student handout

The website link includes a “further learning” section in the educator’s guide.

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