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.
A group of Karaites praying at a memorial service for a departed loved one.
Recently someone asked me to start posting about the modern Karaite Jewish experience again. You see, the Karaite Jewish experience was the crux of my blog in its early days. For many reasons, I’ve moved away from this – in favor of commenting on news, historical events, and highlighting where Karaite views are different from our Rabbanite brethren or have evolved over time.
But the modern Karaite Jewish struggle is real; and I am here to give a voice to that struggle. So here is a smattering of the things that people have said to my face in the past few months (and a proposed response, in case anyone says the same to you). I should note that most of the time, these comments are not made out of malice. But nonetheless, they sting.
I was recently having a discussion with a fellow Karaite regarding the various stages of Karaite thought. In brief, he summarized that there were (in his estimation, as well as others) three main periods of Karaite halakhic literature: (i) early; (ii) late; and (iii) very late. Today, I am going to use the example of women and techellet and demonstrate how each of these periods approached this issue.
In my opinion, we can trace the decline of the Karaite movement by looking at the methods these sages employed in explaining our religious conclusions, regardless of whether we agree with the ultimate conclusion itself. At the end, you get to vote who got it right.
Filed under Aderet Eliyahu, Aharon ben Eliyahu, Elijah Baschyatchi, Eshkol Hakofer, Judah Hadassi, Karaite Fact Cards, Karaite Press, Levi ben Yefet, Royal Attire, The Karaite Press, Women in Karaism, Yaqub al-Qirqisani
As you now know, I have spent much of my last year in Karaite terms getting The Karaite Press off the ground. Dr. Gabriel Wasserman (PhD, Yeshiva University) has been incredibly instrumental in that process. Not only has he given me guidance on various projects, but he himself has translated the incredibly successful publication Royal Attire: On Karaite and Rabbanite Beliefs.
Today I interview Gabriel about his experience translating Karaite works, and in honor of this interview, The Karaite Press is selling Royal Attire for 20% off for the entire month of January.
I receive emails almost daily about why I have stopped blogging regularly. Some people have even asked whether I have abdicated my blogger’s chair. I have not. (In truth, there are many empty chairs next to me; so if you want one, please have a seat.)
There are only so many hours in the day – and this year, I have focused considerable energy in getting The Karaite Press off the ground. For background, The Karaite Press is a project of the Karaite Jews of America, and its aim is to provide literary resources for Karaite Jews and Jews interested in Karaite Judaism.
The Karaite Press Launched in February 2016, by taking pre-orders for the book Esther Explained, a commentary on the Book of Esther, by Hakham Jacob ben Reuben (12 century, Byzantium). Today, I am happy to announce that The Karaite Press has been a success, and I will offer thoughts on where The Press can go from here.
When I’m not blogging, I teach people how to lead Shabbat morning services at the Karaite synagogue in Daly City. I never realized how beautiful the Karaite service was until I started teaching. And I never realized what geniuses the Karaite sages were till I started studying the service to improve my hazzanut (cantillation).
The traditional Egyptian Karaite service is a lyrical masterpiece, worthy of a Pitch Perfect mash-up. Oh Beca Mitchell, you were born in the wrong generation.
I have never been more excited about the future of Karaite Judaism in the United States. Over the past few weeks, The Karaite Press (a project of the Karaite Jews of America) has launched a new book, Royal Attire. Last weekend, the sanctuary of the Karaite Jews of America, Congregation B’nai Israel in Daly City, CA, literally overflowed during its inaugural Family Shabbat Service.
And now, I have the pleasure of presenting the most dynamic investment opportunity in the future of Karaite Judaism in the United States. The Karaite Jews of America is undertaking a much-needed renovation of its sanctuary, and an expansion of its existing premises to establish the national Karaite Jewish Cultural Center. The KJA has launched its Foundation for the Future Campaign, with the objective of celebrating the re-dedication of the enhanced and expanded Congregation B’nai Israel in the Summer of 2017.