A few years ago, when David Ovadia and Maryellen Himmel-Ovadia threw the grand-reopening events for the Karaite Jews of America’s synagogue and the launching of the Karaite Jewish Cultural Center in Daly City, California, they brought in an oud player to add some joy to the festivities. I was skeptical. I thought there was no this would resonate with American born Karaites. It was, at best, a tip of the cap to the Egyptian roots of the community. Or so I thought.
What has two thumbs and got deceived by Firkovich? This guy! Okay. To be honest, I can’t fully or even partially blame R. Abraham ben Shemuel Firkovich, the greatest collector of manuscripts in Karaite Jewish history, for the set of events that cost me $150. But he sure is a convenient target.
On Tuesday, on Election Day in the United States, I officially released The Chief Cornerstone for sale. Yes. On election day. And I did it very intentionally. You see the words “The Chief Cornerstone”, Rosh Pinna, come from Psalms 118: The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. What does this have to do with election day?
During the past six months I’ve done a few online classes. They are fun, and I look forward to doing more. I finally got around to recording the one on the Karaite liturgy. You can watch that one here. I have a few more to record.
For the Karaite liturgy video, I put up a challenge to raise money for The Karaite Press. Check it out to see whether you’ll be donating $10, $20 or $30. (Of course, feel free to donate nothing. Or more.)
I fell in love with this lamentation for the destruction of the Temple the moment I heard it. Love is complicated, though. And the history of this song is no exception. It appears in earlier Karaite sources – in a markedly different form. It was almost assuredly penned by a Rabbanite poet, but as far as I can tell has never appeared in any modern or even earlier printed Rabbanite siddurim. Oh – and the original poem calls for the destruction of non-Jewish Nations (as does the current version in the Karaite siddur, albeit more limited than in the original). Yikes.
I used to look forward to them and they used to bring me so much joy. Now they depress me.
And I carry that sadness for days.
I usually don’t express my Karaite state of mind publicly, but I am generally worried about the survival of the movement and its philosophy. As you can imagine, we have a massive demographic disadvantage, and despite the fact that the internet is the great equalizer, we are structurally behind our Rabbanite kin in terms of infrastructure and resources. This worry of mine isn’t “new”. I’ve had these same worries since I was in my teens.