Nir & Priel Nissim (Photo by Aviram Elisha)
Nir & Priel Nissim should be Chabad emissaries – or whatever is the Karaite equivalent. Because of them, the past few months have given rise to an amazing, wonderful and spiritually uplifting occurrence in the Bay Area. The newly renovated home of the Karaite Jews of America is being filled with more learning and more blessings than I have ever seen.
It all started a few years back when Nir Nissim ha-Levy, a hazzan from Israel, visited the Karaite Jews of America in Daly City. The members of the community instantly took to his melodies, his heart and his desire. Fast forward a few years, Nir married Priel, an incredibly knowledgeable Israeli Karaite, and found their way to the Bay Area for a year.
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.
Almost a year ago, I lost my beloved uncle, Benjamin Pessah, the last Egyptian Karaite Jew actively practicing shehita in the United States. At that time, I made a personal resolution to continue to promote Karaite shehita whenever possible. Last week, the Karaite Jews of America released a new work on Karaite shehita. The work is Ritual Slaughter: A Guide to Modern Karaite Jewish Practice.
Today, I interview Travis Wheeler, the only shohet in the United States to be trained by the Karaite community of Israel. In fact, he was trained by H’ Moshe Firrouz, the Chief Hakham of the Council of Sages. Travis owns Six Star Meat and Poultry and recently released his Passover pricing list.
Agudath Israel of Baltimore
This past Sunday, I gave a talk on The Rise and Decline of the Karaite Movement to a group in Columbia, Maryland. Before that, I spent the weekend in Baltimore with an Orthodox Rabbi affiliated with Agudath Israel.
For those who do not know, Agudath Israel is about as Orthodox as it gets in the United States. Every conversation I had was filled with insight. I learned a lot more than religion; I saw first hand what Karaites must do to survive the next generation and beyond.
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.
On September 17, 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court held a hearing on whether the Israeli religious authorities (the “Rabbanut”) can withhold kosher certification from Rabbinically slaughtered poultry in independent slaughterhouses simply because a slaughterhouse also lets Karaites slaughter poultry in the same facility. (The slaughterhouses at issue only deal with poultry.)
I first reported on this issue prior to Pesach, when Chief Hakham Moshe Firrouz was interviewed by an Israeli news service. And today, I catch up with Tomer Mangoubi, author of Mikdash Me’at, who was inside the Israeli Supreme Court during the hearing.
Well, Yom Kippur has come and gone. I’ve fasted every year since I was eight. Some years, fasting is difficult; other years, fasting is easy. But this year, fasting was particularly meaningful.
On my way home before sunset of erev Yom Kippur, I saw a homeless man sitting on a grassy knoll by the freeway exit. He was not asking for any money. And somehow I found the wrong way to do the right thing.