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The Roadmap to the Jewish Golden Age of Spain PDF Version
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View of the Ark, Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo
(Courtesy Richard Pare)
Numerous examples serve to challenge the common view that Jewish history is a series of events marked by tragedy, exile, and separation from the dominant culture. One of these is the period known to Jewish historians as the Golden Age of Spain - roughly the tenth through the twelfth century - when the Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule. This was a rich and vital period for the Jewish people, marked by extensive participation in public and economic life and the flourishing of Hebrew culture. While remaining true to their religious traditions, these highly educated and cosmopolitan Jews were also deeply engaged in philosophy, literature, art, and science.

Note to teachers: This lesson focuses on the period from the tenth to the twelfth century, not the period from 1500 to 1700, which is often referred to as a "Golden Age" of Spanish literature and poetry.

This lesson helps students to discover for themselves, through analysis of media and of primary source historical documents, how Jews achieved high levels of assimilation and acceptance under Islamic rule during the Golden Age of Spain.

Students will engage in research, small-group discussions, whole class discussions, poetry readings, and dramatic performances, among other activities. Assessments include class and small-group participation, individual journal reflections on material viewed or discussed in class, and oral and fine arts presentations.

Students will:
1. be exposed to historical, sociological and cultural information from the period known as the Golden Age of Spain;
2. explore the interplay among language, literature and literacy and the greater culture in which one lives;
3. understand the role of Jews and Jewish culture within the context of the greater Islamic culture of tenth to twelfth century Spain;
4.consider how cultures relate to and influence each other.

Subjects Covered:  World History, Historical Understanding, Language Arts

Suggested Time Frame:
The entire lesson plan can be completed in approximately 6 to 10 45-minute class sessions. Individual learning activities may break down as follows:

Iberian Peninsula, 732 - 1492: Historical Overview (1 - 2 sessions)
Understanding Judaism within the Context of Islamic Rule (1 session)
Islamic Civilization and Jewish Partnership (1 - 2 sessions)
Thriving Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain as Explored through Poetry (1 session)
Culminating Activity: Golden Age Party (2 - 4 sessions)

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