James (Ya’aqov) Walker at the International Tanakh competition in November 2014.
I first started corresponding with James Walker about eight years ago, when I was still in law school and he was interested in converting to Judaism through the Karaite movement.
To be frank, I was inspired by the fact that Karaite Judaism could link a California-descendant of Egyptian Karaites and a black man from the South. And to be even more frank, I was immediately impressed with his knowledge of Hebrew and Scripture – which far surpassed mine.
James’ knowledge of the Tanakh recently earned him a place in the North American finals in the State of Israel’s Tanakh competition, and today I catch up with him about his experience at the finals in New York this past November.
From Yediot Aharanot: Questions and Answers with Hakham Rashi Moshe Firrouz about the recent ban on Karaite slaughter.
Those who follow the blog regularly know that I have tremendous respect for the Rabbinic tradition. (See here and here.) Heck, I have even professed my “support” for the Rabbanut.
But, at some point, you just have to call a foul on the Israeli religious authorities and ask your fellow Jews a simple question: “What kind of Jewish world do you want to live in?”
On October 24, 2013, a group of 5-7th graders from a conservative synagogue visited Congregation B’nai Israel, the home of the Karaite Jews of America. This was my first presentation on Karaite Judaism in over a year. I was a bit rusty but it was good to get back in the saddle – even if my shirt collar was not behaving.
We recorded the presentation and it appears after the jump. Feel free to drop your comments below and let me know if there are things you’d want to see me incorporate into future presentations.
The cover of one of the sections of Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper, featuring Rotem Cohen after he decided not to compete on Shavuot.
Many are aware that Sandy Koufax, the legendary Dodgers pitcher, decided not to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.
In 2011, Rotem Cohen, an Israeli Karaite Jew, decided not to participate live in the Israeli vocal talent show A Star is Born (Hebrew: Kochav Nolad*), when one of the rounds of the competition fell on the Karaite Shavuot. His decision affected his chances to advance on the show. But Rotem doesn’t regret a thing.