Give Us Our Dignity Back: A Guest Post about al-Tanani

A Cover of Al-Kalim: Egyptian Karaite Periodical

[This is a guest post by researcher and translator Katharine Halls. This is the second of two posts about Esther al-Tanani. The first post is Too Poor to Marry: Karaite Women’s Activist Passes Away.]

I first came across Esther al-Tanani when I was conducting research into discourses about marriage in Cairo’s Karaite Jewish community in the 1940s. As Hanan Kholoussy demonstrates in her book For Better, For Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt, marriage was a topic of immense concern to Egyptians in the early decades of the twentieth century. Egyptian commentators agonised over who, when and why young Egyptian men were marrying, and as Kholoussy shows, this functioned as a vehicle for anxieties about the wellbeing of the nation during a time of political upheaval.

My impression, based on preliminary research, is that it took these ideas some time to filter into the Karaite community. But I’d hate to suggest the Karaites were behind the times in any way, and the matter definitely needs further research. What is certain is that during the 1940s, Karaites in Egypt were concerned about marriage, and specifically the practice of dowry payments—dota in Arabic—which was specific to their community. Many felt that the sums involved had become overly inflated and were skewing young men’s choices, making marriage a sort of commerce which was demeaning and dehumanising to women, and damaging to the integrity of the community. Most obviously it meant that poor women struggled to marry, but it also meant, in the eyes of some, that matches were not being made on the basis of, say, good character, compatibility, love or sound reputation, but on the basis of wealth and greed.

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Filed under Al-Kalim, Esther Al-Tanani, Katharine Halls, marriage crisis, Marriages

Too Poor to Marry: Karaite Women’s Activist Passes Away

Give us Back our Dignity: Al-Kalim Karaite Periodical (1949)

I had been trying to find her for the past few years. I asked all the local Karaites. I emailed the Karaites in Israel. Still, no one knew Esther Yusuf Farag Al-Tanani or what became of her. And then last week I received an email (unrelated to my inquiries) informing me that someone by that (maiden) name had just passed away.

The reason I had been searching for her is due to Al-Tanani’s status as a strong advocate for the dignity of women in the Karaite Jewish community.

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Filed under Al-Kalim, Effendi Yusuf, Esther Al-Tanani, marriage crisis, Marriages, Women in Karaism

The First Chabad Rebbe was Right: Just ask the Medieval Karaites and Rabbanites

The Leningrad Codex

My Chabad envy is well chronicled by now. Today I am taking this envy to new heights by taking the bold steps of proving that the first Chabad Rebbe, Shneur Zalman (1745-1812), was almost certainly right about the spelling of a particular word in the Tanakh. And I relied on some old sources, with a little help from my friends, to do it.

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Filed under Aleppo Codex, Chabad, Leningrad Codex, Moshe Firrouz, Nehemia Gordon

Learning 3: A Karaite Perspective on the High Holidays

How many of these rituals are what the Torah intended?

May you reach the end of the holidays and rejoice for completing them. In case you were not able to join us for the live webinar, my latest learning has been posted to YouTube. And is also embedded below.

In this talk you’ll learn: 1) Whether we are commanded by the Torah’s text to blow a shofar; 2) What the Jewish sages said about the connection between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur; 3) What are we supposed to do with those “four species”, and 4) what Biblical holiday has Simhath Torah overshadowed.

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Filed under Daniel al-Kumisi, Holidays, Jacob ben Reuben, James Walker, Lithuania, My Talks, Shofar, Solomon ben Aaron, The Karaite Press, The Palanquin, videos, Yefet ben 'Ali, Yom Kippur, Yom Teruah

The Shofar and the New Moon: Solving a Karaite Quandary (Reader Poll)

Yemenite Jew blowing the Shofar

I finally did it. For almost 20 years I have been thinking about how to reconcile Psalms 81 which specifically says to blow the Shofar on new moon with the traditional Karaite view that there is no commandment to blow the shofar on the Yom Teruah (i.e., what the Rabbanites call Rosh Ha-shanna), which is a new moon. And this weekend, as I was preparing for a class I taught at a Conservative Synagogue, I did it.

It was actually pretty easy once I read the entirety of Psalms 81 (and not just the part that was perplexing me).

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Filed under New Moon, Rosh Chodesh, Rosh Hashanah, Shofar, Yefet ben 'Ali, Yom Teruah

Reader Poll: Does God’s Mercy Extend to the Bird’s Nest?

An excerpt of the Liturgical Poem for Ki Tetzei

Today we ask two simple questions: Does God’s mercy extend to the bird’s nest? And if so, can we acknowledge this in prayer? Right away, my observant (and studied) Rabbanite readers know exactly where this is going. For everyone else, let me start at the beginning. Continue reading

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Filed under Aaron ben Joseph, Dr. Gabriel Wasserman, Eshkol Hakofer, Israel Maghribi, Judah Hadassi, Judeo-Arabic

My Vision: A Response to the Karaite Jews of America’s Open Request

I have thoughts for what should happen here and beyond.

Over the past few weeks, the Karaite Jews of America asked members of the community at large to share their vision regarding the future of Karaite Judaism. I did not respond directly to the KJA, because I thought that a very courageous public request deserves a public response. So, here are my thoughts.

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Filed under Karaite Jews of America, Shechita, Tallit, Techellet