(Editor’s Note: This is the first of what I expect to be many posts relating to women in Karaite Judaism. It is my hope that one day soon this series will be authored by a woman or – better yet – a group of women. If you are a Jewish woman with sincere interest in contributing in this manner, please contact me at Shawn@abluethread.com.)
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“When [a certain Karaite Jew] passed on to hell, he was survived by his accursed wife, whom [his adherents] used to address as al-Mu’allima and on whom they relied for authoritative tradition. They would ask each other what Mu’allima’s usage was, and they would follow suit.”
– Abraham Ibn Daud, Sefer ha-Qabbalah (English: The Book of Tradition)*
(12th Century Spain)
Abraham ibn Daud was an ardent Rabbanite Jew living in Spain during the 12th Century and his brief rendition of the history of Karaites in Spain has always intrigued me. According to Ibn Daud, the Karaite Jews of Spain once had a female leader. The Karaite community referred to this leader as “the Teacher” (Arabic: al-Mu’allima) – which, interestingly, is one of the translations of the word “Rabbi” – and the Karaite community relied on her for authoritative tradition. For now, I’ll address just two of the many thoughts that come to mind.