I am so excited to teach a course through Judaism Unbound’s UnYeshiva. My course is called Traditionally Unbound and is a crash course on Karaite Judaism. You might be thinking to yourself, “Why is Shawn teaching a formal course through another organization?” The answer is easy.
Look, I get it. You live in a community of observant Rabbanites. You’ve all heard of Karaites, but none of you really knows too much about us, except: “HERETICS!” Or maybe: “HERETICS!” Or how about: “HERETICS!”
I know that in many respects this is more sociological than theological. So, I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.
I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years since I started A Blue Thread. In that time, millions and millions (as The Rock would say) of people have read my posts. Okay, that’s not true. But still, shout out to The Rock. What is true is that in that time, so many of my Karaite dreams have come true.
Today, I am issuing a challenge: I am hoping to get 500 people to donate to any of the following causes sponsored by the Karaite Jews of America: The Karaite Press; The KJA’s Campaign for the Future; or The KJA’s Needy Fund.
This isn’t a goal to raise a certain amount of money (really: donate $10, $42, $72 dollars – any amount is great). Instead, I want the most amount of people possible donating money. So I am setting my goal this year at a modest 500 people between now and April 2.
(If you feel inclined, in addition to donating, please share this post with your family and friends asking them to support our work as well.)
When I was a child, I constantly heard my uncle – the then acting rabbi of the Karaite Jews of America – say that whenever people visit us, they feel like we – the living Karaites in the 1980s – are the best kept secret in Judaism. While I always appreciated the sentiment, I never wanted Karaites or Karaism to be a secret. (Here, I note that many Egyptian Karaites who came to the United States actually kept their Karaite origins a secret from their Jewish communities.) Today, I take a quick look at some things that show the secret is out.
My Birkat brings all the boys to the yard, I can teach and I won’t even charge. Or something like that. About a year ago, I was caught in what appeared at the time to be a mind-numbing debate over some minutiae regarding a single word in the Birkat Hamazon that appears in Karaite texts. It turns out the debate was not mind-numbing at all and a simple look through the Cairo Geniza would have solved the whole issue and explained a whole lot more.
There are a million times when it’s clear that Karaite voices are beyond the scope of what a Jewish educator is asking for. And I get that. If I am teaching Rabbinic Judaism, I am not likely to want to bring a bunch of Karaite sources. But if you send out a note asking for – and I quote – “diverse Torah reading voices and traditions”, please do not respond that Karaites are not within the bounds of what you are asking for.
When I was a kid, I received my formal Jewish education at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, CA. There, I met a guy named Aaron Moskowitz, who was one year older than me. He was always a nice guy. But poof, just like that he was gone. It turns out he moved away and I never actually interacted with him again until we connected on facebook, through a group for alumni of Alpha Epsilon Pi (the Jewish fraternity).
I asked the group whether anyone could help me create new, modern music for Karaite songs. I was even open to something like what Jimi Hendrix did to (and for) the National Anthem. Aaron was one of many people who said he could help. He said the project contained his two favorite things: Rock & Roll and Judaism.