World Congress of the European Karaim

In July 2008 a group of Russian Karaite style Sabbatarians in diaspora led by a liberal Cypriot -(Kiprisci)- Romaniot Qaraite theologian called abba Gershom Ha Cohen Tzipris in collaboration with the IICK expecting Crimea's annexation, tried to convene in Prague the first World Congress of the European Karaims to discuss among other things the need to establish a Central Spiritual Board for Sabbatarians who in the Old Russian Karaite style believe the religion of the Judaized Gazarians.

  • Caraimica.org represented the Religious Karaims of Poland led by Szymon Pilecki. 
  • Dimitry Penbeck represented the Karaims of France. 
  • American Valentin Kefili represented the Constantinopolitan Karaites of Hakham Pesach. 
  • Libor (Nissim ben Avraham) Valko represented the Karaimite Jews of his own "European Karaite Judaism". 
  • Piotr (Ezra) Wolski represented the Judaizers of Bohemia
  • Gershom Kiprisci represented the Romaniote Qaraites (Constantinopolitan Qaraites). 
  • Йосеф "Казими Стауфер" Чубар represented a group of Unitarian Sabbatarians of Carpathian Kun origin. 
  • Hayk (Hayyim) Malkasian represented the Judaizers of Azerbaijan
  • Vceslav Kalif represented the Odessa's Духовное Управление караимов Украины. 
  • The Karaimite Jews of Evpatoria's Духовное Управление религиозных организаций караимов sent its blessing in a letter of endorsement.
Instructions from the Yevpatorian diocese of Tauria (Crimea)

Other country representatives were also present but sadly no representative of the Board of the Religious Community of Lithuanian Karaims arrived.


The event highlighted the tensions and irreconcilable differences between the Karaimite Jews of Sadducean Karaite Judaism, Russian Karaimism (Karaim-style Sabbatarianism), and the European-Secular-Karaim ethnicity.


The absence of participation from the Lithuanian Karaimai meant that the Conference was unable to appoint the Board of the Religious Community of Lithuanian Karaims (BRCLK) as the official Spiritual Center for the EU's Sabbatarians of the Old Russian Karaite type as had been hoped. Nevertheless, the conference did result in the estabishment of BORK and the formal recognition of an honorary unofficial Central Spiritual Board (CSBRQA) as the highest authority outside Old Russia for Karaimite-Subbotnik Russian Karaims (Russian Karaites Abroad) being Karaite-style Sabbatarians only as believers in the religion of the Lithuanian Karaims temporarily uniting Valko's, Wolsky's, Staufer's and Malkasy's groups under Kiprisci's group. They were soon joined by Victor Escroignard which repelled those who were not committed to the historically inherent Messianic nature of Karaimite-Subbotnikism.


Although the BRCLK representatives had failed to attend, their clergy were anyway to be honoured with vacant but permanent seats in honour of them on BORK's Board of Sages, the two boards being established so that one (BORK) could operate temporarily despite authoritative members being absent from the other (CSBRQA) until such time as better communications could be established with the BRCLK. BORK specifically set out to seek advice from the Lithuanian Karaims, and exclude itself from representing them or acting on their behalf. BORK aimed only to unite the religious communities of Old Russian Karaite-style Sabbatarians with each other in communal religious government together and serve their interests in an administrative sense specifically for matters of religious confession alone. BORK's spiritual board had reserved places only for religious Lithuanian Karaims of the circumcision as BORK had no interest at all in issues relating only to ethnicity. It was recognized by the Conference as the sole representative of non-Karaim believers in the religion of Karaim communities traditionally dwelling in Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and the former Russian Empire generally. To emphasize the difference between such believers and the so-called Karaims of East Europe:

1) the umbrella administration for the Beth Din, Spiritual Academy, and Board of Sages was BORK described as the Central Spiritual Board

   a) of the Russian Qaraimite (general) Abroad

   b) being to Bnei Miqra of the Qaraites (sages) of Old Russia (in Exile).

2) Meanwhile, the unoffical board of Sages was named CSBRQA as the Central Spiritual Board

   a) of the Russian Qaraites (sages) Abroad (rite of Kedar)

   b) for the Russian Qaraimite (general) Abroad.

The Q spelling instead of K spelling and the term Abroad (for extra good measure) were always applied to emphasise that the boards were for Qaraimite believers unaffected by socialism since the jurisdiction was beyond the lands of Old Rus' and did not cover the sovereign nation-states currently occupying the lands of Old Rus'. Libor Valko was elected as Chairman of the administrative board's Chancellery and arranged for the circumcision of its first seminarian to be performed with the blessing of UKJ in Jerusalem the following month.


Somehow the Twin Boards' roles were misunderstood by Poland's secular community of Lithuanian Karaimai as bizarrely Mariola Abkowicz somehow made Szymon Pilecki a signatory to (without prejudice) a potentially libelous declaration against the misconstrued purpose of the Twin Boards which was followed by an equally stern but more cautiously worded declaration (mistaking Qaraim for Karaim) by the BRCLK's Head Josif Firkovich thereby effectively causing both Pilecki and Firkovich to pontificate against themselves (!?!)


Soon a split also precipitated in Crimea where the Krymkaraylar association of Simferopol uninformed of Evpatoria's blessing the establishment of the Twin Boards joined Josif and Pilecki in complaint against themselves.

NB since the deaths of Pilecki and Joseph there are no more Russian Qaraites among the former Karaimites of Poland and Lithuania.


As an honorary "World Congress" based in Europe the CSBRQA was to be a Mufla Bebeit Din for both BORK and average Qaraim of former "Imperial Russian"' type in diaspora to refer to as a benchmark for spiritual guidance. Sadly, under the international spotlight many of the honorary CSBRQA's "sages" were behaving more like a council of hatters.  


In 2008 the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were to guide and counsel the Bet Din included among others:


Ulu-Hazan Jozef Firkovich (Trakai) would pass away in March 2009 and the so-called Karaims of Lithuania have been without Karaimite religious guidance ever since.)

Simon Pilecki (Warsaw)

Ulu-Hazan David El (Evpatoria)

Ulu-Hazan Viktor Tiriaki (Evpatoria)

Khan Ilya Babajan (Moscow)

Khan Vaceslav Lebedev (Simferopol)

Dmitri Penbek (France)

Артур Юхневич


By the End of 2009 the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were supposed to guide and counsel the Bet Din were:


Simon Pilecki

David El

Viktor Tiriaki

Ilya Babajan

Vaceslav Lebedev

Dmitri Penbek

Артур Юхневич

BORK carried out an experiment in 2009 to see if the Jewish agency would accept its recommendation of a Haver of the CSBRQA Mufla BeBeit Din as a candidate for Aliyah which was approved in Fall 2014.

By the End of 2010 the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were supposed to guide and counsel the Bet Din were:


David El

Viktor Tiriaki

Ilya Babajan

Vyacheslav Lebedev

Simon Pilecki

Dmitri Penbek

Артур Юхневич


(NB Ha-Khan Markas Lavrinovich would pass away on the 24th of December 2011 and the Lithuanian Karaims have been without a traditional leader ever since.)


By the End of 2011 the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were supposed to guide and counsel the Bet Din were:


Viktor Tiriaki succeeded David El as Chief Cleric in the Ukraine as of 13th December 2011.

David El

Ilya Babajan

Vyacheslav Lebedev

Simon Pilecki (Oct 19 1927 - July 12 2012)

Dmitri Penbek

Артур Юхневич


By the End of 2012 Symon Pilecki passed away and no replacement was found the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were supposed to guide and counsel the Bet Din were:


Viktor Tiriaki

David El

Ilya Babajan

Vyacheslav Lebedev

Dmitri Penbek

Артур Юхневич


By the End of 2013 the Mufla Bebeit Din whose opinions were supposed to guide and counsel the Bet Din were:


Viktor Tiriaki

Ilya Babajan

Vyacheslav Lebedev

Dmitri Penbek

David El

Артур Юхневич


In 2014 the hiatus on Karaimite-Subbotnik emigration to Israel ended and the last Karaimite-Subbotnik families were approved for Aliyah. However, at the same time Crimea joined the Russian Federation and meeting with Victor Teriyaki's genuinely Crimean Karaims became complicated. 


By the end of 2014, only Victor Tiriyaki, Ilya Babajan and Vyacheslav Lebedev of the original Russian Qaraite religious leaders in Europe were still operating. Tragically the disorganized miscommunication among Karaims of Eastern Europe had meant that after the annexation of Crimea its Karaims were unable to gain recognition as their own unique and independent ethno-religious group (which would have been possible had the BRCLK understood better the Conference's intention for it) and Evpatoria and Simferopol were instead forced to join either Jewish and Tatar groups respectively. 


Meanwhile, despite BORK's staff having been cleansed of covert drug-abusers, the Chief Hakham (abba Gershom) and various Judaizers among his Russian Karaites Abroad had moved on to other projects leaving BORK to continue to be run first by Victor Escroignard then by Mr. Imanuel.


In the Spring of 2015 there was a fall-out between Babajan, Lebedev and Tiriaki whereby the Krymkaraylar association made a decisive split from the Evpatorian Karaim Cathedral in Spring 2015. BORK convened a second conference independently of the 2nd World Congress of Karaim in Ankara in August 2015 in Kfar Kanna which was attended only by Real Karaimites. The loss of various lines of communication meant that reporting on the opinions of the Mufla Bebeit Din World Congress of the European Karaim was no longer possible. It was replaced with formal adoption of the Oukbarite and Constantinopolitan Baschyazi family's Romaniot Qaraite Sevel Ha Yerushah alongside the the faith of the Gazarian Judaizers as a point of reference by which Real Karaimites may observe Matthew 23:2-3. It was also decided, however, that Subbotnik Halakhic Jews operating as the BORK Bet Din serve a valuable purpose and should continue to operate from the Holy Land as the Universal Bet Din for Russian Qaraims (Karaimite-Subbotniks) Abroad on which a vacant but permanent advisory position as was reserved for Hakham Gershom in honor of his founding efforts. 


As the one and only Central Spiritual Board for all Real Karaimites everywhere, the Beit Din continues to operate as the highest official authority for all religious Karaimite-Subbotniks wherever they may be.




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