Several years ago, I read someone’s advice regarding the news industry. In short, the article was discussing how it is difficult for smaller news outlets to compete with the industry giants who have far greater resources to cover national and international stories. The advice was simple (and I am paraphrasing), “If I went into the news business today, I would go local and I would go local hard.”
The implication is that smaller outlets could compete in an area where the giants cannot – what is happening in any given neighborhood, town or city at any given time.
I do not know whether this was actually good advice for the news industry, but the guidance has shaped my views of how to sustain a Karaite Jewish community.
Go Karaite and Go Karaite Hard is actually my mission statement. No, not a memo: actually a full-blown mission statement. Like this.
I’ll admit, it is rather short for a mission statement, but the implications are astounding. It has guided the creation of The Karaite Press, The Karaite Kitchen, and a few other projects that I am currently working on but are still top secret. Here are a few sub-mission statements that have guided my work:
- If you cease to exist to the outside world, you will cease to exist to the inside world: This is actually a major problem for Karaites. For too long our community has been suspicious of outsiders (and in some cases with good reason). We have been shy to speak about our customs, heritage, halakha, etc. But if you cannot vocalize who you are to people outside your community, you cannot survive in this open world. (There are, of course, exceptions to this. Highly discrete and insular communities do not need to be able to vocalize who they are to the outside world. But most Karaites do not live in such communities.)
- If you cannot be Karaite at home, you will not be Karaite in public: The Karaite Jewish community desperately needs more resources for people who want to live spiritual lives in the Karaite Jewish framework. Let me give you a quick example, I love shabbat. I love singing Shabbat songs. Yet to this day, the Karaite Jewish community of the United States does not have anything resembling a “bencher”. The closest thing we have is the Abbreviated Blessings Book (which has several beautiful shabbat songs). The lack of a bencher may seem like a small issue, but this same “lack-of meaningful-resources” problem is replicated 1,000 times all across the movement.
- If you cannot beat them, learn from their challenge: As a friend recently told me, the Rabbanites learned from the Karaite challenge. By the time of Maimonides, the Rabbanite world was steeped in idolatry and superstition. In response to the Karaites, Maimonides and others of his worldview engaged on a campaign to rid the Rabbanite world of these practices. How are the Karaites going to respond to the Rabbanite challenge to the Karaite view? Are we going to do the same thing we have been doing for the previous 700 years (where we have engaged in steady and dramatic burring of the lines between our philosophy and that of our Rabbinic brethren) and hope for different results?
The appropriate action-item in response to all of these sub-mission statements is to actually follow the mission statement itself: Go Karaite and Go Karaite Hard.
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Today is the fourth day of the third week of the seven weeks. Today is 18th day of the counting of the 50 days from the waving of the omer on the morrow of the Sabbath.
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Remember to register here for my first online learning. This is a live training, and I will be taking questions in advance and during the course. To submit a question in advance, email me here: Shawn@ABlueThread.com.