Seinfeld taught us that “A
house George divided against itself cannot stand.”
Many, including Star Trek Borg Drones, have wondered whether Karaite Judaism will forever be divided against itself, because everyone is entitled to his “own small opinion.”
To be frank, Karaite Judaism needs a unifying force. I’m not speaking of religious unification; I’m speaking of creating a cohesive movement. Such unification has occurred before.
Anan ben David, whom many (wrongly) consider to be the founder of Karaite Judaism, was actually someone who began the unification of various Tanakh only movements.
What Anan ended up achieving was quite remarkable given how much of a polarizing figure he was within the non-Rabbinic circle. The great (Karaite) Jewish historian of the tenth century, Yaqub al-Qirqisani tells us that Anan’s followers referred to Anan as the “Head of the Enlightened” (Hebrew: Rosh Hammaskilim) whereas some Karaites who disagreed with Anan’s interpretations referred to Anan as the “Head of the Fools” (Hebrew: Rosh Haksilim).
Regardless of what any Karaite today (or even historically) might think of Anan, Karaite Judaism desperately needs another Anan.
As I see it, today’s Karaite Judaism is sharply divided between two camps: 1) the historic Karaites* (whose leadership is feverishly working to reenergize the movement) and 2) the neo-Karaites* (who are new to the Karaite movement and are also trying to create vibrant Karaite communities).
The problem is that the traditional Karaites have not set up the infrastructure to maintain their own numbers or integrate neo-Karaites into the Karaite tent. As a result, traditional Karaite tent is shrinking (due to assimilation and attrition) and the neo-Karaites are erecting their own small tents throughout the world.
Various online fora have granted the traditional Karaites and the neo-Karaites a means to share ideas with each other. Of course, you know by now that I believe these online groups have limited long-run potential.
Karaites need to learn from our Rabbanite brethren and need to provide meaningful resources to live a Karaite life. The movement could benefit from someone to get us organized. We need conferences, chevrutot, book clubs, children’s books and music.
Who knows? Despite our resolve to search the Scripture well, we may find that more unites us than divides us.
* I use the terms “historic/traditional Karaites” and “ne0-Karaites” without intending to suggest that either has more legitimacy to the name Karaite or the future of the Karaite movement. I chose these terms because I lacked any better terms.