Institut für den Nahen und Mittleren Osten



Masterclass on Geonic Responsa in Munich with Dr. Zvi Stampfer (Hebrew University Jerusalem)

10.05.2023 – 11.05.2023

The Responsa literature (Heb. she’elot u-teshuvot, "questions and answers") has been an important Jewish literary genre since the eighth century. As the name indicates, Responsa are queries sent by individuals and communities to a Jewish authority, and the responses the latter sent back. TS-NS-309-033-BThe Islamic conquest brought most of the world’s Jews under the aegis of one political regime, thereby enabling rabbinic Jews to establish and maintain a central authority in the form of two Jewish academies (Heb. yeshivot) in Baghdad. The head of each rabbinic academy in Baghdad was called Gaon (pl. geonim). Hence, Geonic Responsa stand for the correspondence of individuals and communities with the central yeshivot in Baghdad during the 8th-11th centuries.

Over the course of the Middle Ages, many thousands of questions and answers in the lands of Islam were compiled into collections and in this form constituted a source for study. The topics discussed cover all aspects of Jewish life, including law, theology, language, biblical and Talmudic interpretation. Hence, the Responsa literature represents an extraordinary resource for knowledge about the history and culture of Jews in the Medieval Islamic countries.

In this workshop, we will examine various aspects of the Geonic Responsa, including their physical features, their cultural contexts, and their contribution to the study of medieval Jewish scholarship and of Jewish history. During each session, different sources will be used. Participants will work with reference material and samples of both published and unpublished responsa.

Geonic Responsum of the Cairo Genizah

 © Cambridge University Library, T-S NS 309.33

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Place: Edmund-Rumpler-Straße 9, 80939 München, Room: A 119

First Session
The Characteristics of Geonic Responsa

BREAK 12:30-14:00

Second Session
Responsa as a Source for Medieval History

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Place: Edmund-Rumpler-Straße 13, 80939 München, Room: B 109

Third Session
Dossier Reconstruction: The Circulation of Geonic Responsa in the Middle Ages

BREAK 12:30-14:00

Fourth Session
Responsa on Theology and Biblical Interpretation