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(gāō`nĭm) [Heb.,=excellencies], title given to the heads of the Jewish academies at Sura and Pumbedita in Babylonia immediately following the period of the SaboraimSaboraim
[Heb.,=expositors], in Judaism, title given to the Jewish scholars of the Babylonian academies in the period (6th–7th cent. A.D.) immediately following the Amoraim and preceding that of the Gaonim. Little is known about them.
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 until the middle of the 11th cent. Thereafter the title was adopted by the heads of the Palestinian academies; later it was used as an honorific title to indicate a great scholar. The Gaonim asserted the primacy of the Babylonian Talmud over the Palestinian Talmud and contributed to the standardization of Jewish law and liturgy. The greatest Gaon at Sura was Saadia ben Joseph al-FayumiSaadia ben Joseph al-Fayumi
, 882–942, Jewish scholar, b. Egypt. He was known as Saadia Gaon. He was the head of the great Jewish Academy at Sura, Babylonia, which under his leadership became the highest seat of Jewish learning, and a vigorous opponent of the Karaites.
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. Of those who held office at Pumbedita, Sherira Gaon (968–98) and his son Hai Gaon (998–1038) are most notable. Under Sherira the waning prestige of the Babylonian academies was restored, and it was maintained by Hai until his death. Thereafter European Jewry came to play an ever more dominant role in Jewish life.


See J. Neusner, There We Sat Down (1972).

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References in periodicals archive ?
It was a problem that the Geonim had been facing since the Islamic conquest of the area three centuries before and which was threatening to split Jewish practice from Jewish law as the society came to depend on trade rather than farming.
(10.) Jacob Mann, "The Responsa of the Babylonian Geonim as a Source of Jewish History," Jewish Quarterly Review 7 (1917): 457-490, esp.
Yehuda traces changes that took place among Iraqi Jews during the 16th to 20th centuries CE, a time he characterizes as a period of major transformation following the Golden Age of the Talmud and the Geonim. He begins with a history, then focuses on political issues: the Jewish blood-libel against Christians in Basra (1791), the struggle of Iraqi Jewry for control of Prophet Ezekiel's tomb at Kifil (1860), events surrounding the burial of Rabbi Abdalla Somekh (1889) and their consequences, and reexamining the pogrom (farhud) of 1941.
Thus, the commentaries, the responses to questions, and the settled laws that the Geonim wrote, which had once seemed clear, have in our times become hard to understand, so that only a few properly understand them....
While the inquiry addressed to the Geonim is mainly concerned with determining the sincerity of the convert, the inquiry addressed to Adurfarnbay is implicitly concerned with the salvation of the soul of the repentant convert, who is prevented from publicly professing his adherence to Zoroastrianism by wearing the kustig: will the good deeds performed by him when repentant go to his "account"?
He also showed that his boundaries agree with various other sources, such as the Geonim.
The answers are: (1) yes, even animals (Geonim and Mu'tazila); (2) only humans (Maimonides' interpretation of the Torah); (3) not even humans (the rationale implied in some of the prophetic dicta).
"The Byzantines, the geonim [Jewish religious leaders of the sixth to eleventh centuries], the sages of Egyptnone of them have a word about the Jewish Khazars."
They were written and edited by scholars called Amoraim (those who recount the law) and to a lesser extent, towards the end of the period, by the Savoraim (those who ponder the law) and the Geonim (geniuses of the Law).
The responsa included are Palestinian Geonim, Babylonian Geonim, Rishonim, Aharonim, and include several commentaries on talmudic issues in the form of responsa.
(35) The Geonim of Babylonia eased Talmudic restrictions on wine handled by non-Jews for trade purposes but not for drinking, and they also allowed loans with interest to non-Jews out of economic necessity.
The chapters on Hazal are followed by Targumim, the Zohar, the Geonim, the spanish linguists, and the Ba'alei Masorah.