There are Dozens of Us! Dozens!

Tobias Funke: Not a Karaite - but likely can relate. (Source: TobiasFunke.com)

Tobias Funke: techellet dying accident?
(Source: TobiasFunke.com)

With apologies to Arrested Development . . . Perhaps there are more Karaites out there than the world is ready to acknowledge.

A week ago, I had occasion to spend Shabbat at the house of an orthodox Rabbanite family in San Jose, CA. When I arrived on Friday afternoon, one of my wonderful hosts began to tell me about an amazing occurrence.

Okay, this isn’t going to be that amazing; but my host loved explaining how just that very same day he was on the phone with a solar panel specialist whose last name was “Pessah.” After a few questions, my host learned that the specialist’s father was from the Karaite community of Egypt. (Pessah is among the most common surnames of Egyptian Karaites.)

My host relayed that he had never actually met a Karaite before, but on that day he spoke to one on the phone and was hosting another one (me) for Shabbat.

The next morning, one of the congregants at the local Orthodox synagogue was shocked to learn I was a Karaite – not shocked in a bad way. It was more like disbelief at how her life had come full-circle of sorts. It turns out that her very first piano teacher was a Karaite woman in Ankara, Turkey.

As many of you know, the cat was recently let out of the bag that Michelle Chamuel (of The Voice fame) is of Egyptian Karaite extraction. [1.] Her father’s cousin is actually a Karaite Rabbi in Ashdod.

And a friend of mine reminded me of another famous Karaite musician, Daoud Hosni (Heb.: David Hayim Levi), who was instrumental in launching the careers of two of the most famous singers in the history of the Arab world: Omme Kalsum and Asmahan. [2.] And we’ve already profiled Rotem Cohen, the Karaite Sandy Koufax, who refused to compete live on the Israeli version of American Idol because he wanted to observe the biblical (Karaite) Shavuot.

If you want a quick introduction to a number of other Karaites, you can try to get your hands on Nathan Schurr’s The Karaite Encyclopedia, which sadly is now out of print. In it, you’ll read about other famous(-ish) Karaites and their contributions to the Jewish world.

So next time someone drops a K-Bomb around you, don’t be so shocked and definitely don’t boo. After all, there are dozens of us. DOZENS!

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[1] June 20, 2013, Celebrity Jews Section of the Norther California J Weekly;  http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/68929/celebrity-jews620/. (I’ve never met Ms. Chamuel and I don’t know how she views her religious and cultural identity, so I have avoided referring to as a Karaite; for now, I’ll just say that she is of Karaite descent. But if after things slow down for her, we’d love to interview her about her experiences. . . )

[2] For more on Daoud Hosni, see Joels W.’s post at the Jewish History Channel.  http://ha-historion.blogspot.com/2011/08/daoud-hosni-and-egyptian-karaites.html

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Filed under Arrested Development, Daud Hosni, Michelle Chamuel, Tobias Funke

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