Converts

While many have discussed the theological foundations of Karaite Judaism as Sadducean Qaraism which crystallized in 9th century Baghdad, the original reason development of specifically Karaite Judaism in contrast to Sadducean Qaraism can be traced to the latter’s Jacob Ben Reuben of Byzanteum and Yefet ben Ali or Jeshua ben Judah who declared that the children of any foreign nation were Mamzerim where a specific example of the Khazars were given. This made it impossible for anyone to convert to Sadducean Qaraism. This point was picked up on perhaps most famously by Avraham Firkovich who subsequently set about trying to establish their own versions of Sadducean Qaraism without the latter’s undesirable interpretation of the term “Mamzer”.


It was only the Karahite (Korahite) community of Haskoy in Istanbul which understood Mamzer differently in order to permit converts and thus Karaite Judaism began to develop among all those who would have otherwise been considered Mamzers by the Sadducean Qaraites.


Mordechai Alfandari brought the question to a head during his lifetime and an act of respect for the dead granted the Karaite Jews some leverage that they had been looking for. As a result it was the Egyptian Qaraite Jewish Ha-Yahadut Ha-Qarait ha Olamit in Israel which promoted the idea that a formal conversion to Qaraite Judaism could be established and thereby Mamzer status could be removed from the Karaite Jews who went through the conversion process under the authority of the (mainly Egyptian) Qaraite Jewish council in Israel and settle them in Ashdod just in case (in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:6).


All this however grew into a bigger and bigger point of contention between many Karaite Jews and Qaraite Jews. Many Karaite Jews (such as those who went on to establish the World Alliance of Qara’im) insisted that Karaite Judaism never sought the authority of any council of Egyptian Qaraite Jews for approval and indeed should not be shy to appropriate the name Qara’im for themselves hitherto held back by the Egyptian Qaraite Jews in being applied to foreigners.


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