Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If a Karaite who knows that his mother is Jewish (Karaite) wanted to join the Orthodox Jewish Community - would he be required to undergo a conversion?

share|improve this question
    
I assume you mean someone with a Jewish mother? –  Isaac Moses Jan 16 '12 at 21:38
    
No, I think he assumes Karite parents. –  avi Jan 16 '12 at 21:43
    
Are Karaites different from other classes of ba'al teshuva? –  Monica Cellio Jan 16 '12 at 23:53
    
Today there are approximately 30,000 Karaites with some 25,000 Karaites in Israel, 2,500 in the US, and smaller communities in France, Switzerland, Turkey, England, and elsewhere. The main Karaite centers in Israel are located in Ramla, Ashdod, Ofakim, Beersheba, Moshav Ranen, Moshav Masliah, with smaller communities in Jerusalem, Bat Yam, and Arad. The main Karaite center in the US is in San Francisco, which has the only active Karaite synagogue in North America.at this point they have intermarried some with the Palestinian who live with them in Israel and other host countries –  simchastorah Jan 17 '12 at 0:15
    
I want to correct a comment made above which claimed that "the only active Karaite synagogue in North America" is in San Fransisco. That is incorrect. The OTHER active Kariate community and synagogue is in Albany, New York. See this link: orahsaddiqim.org This link also contains tons of information about Karaite beliefs and prayer customs. Of note, they ask if rabbinites require conversion to Judaism in order to marry Karaites. The answer is the same –  Shemmy Jan 17 '13 at 22:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Rema (Even Haezer 4:37, citing Beis Yosef) says of the Karaites "they are all possible mamzerim, and they should not be accepted if they want to return [to Rabbanite Judaism]." (Interestingly, Rambam, Hil. Mamrim 3:3, seems to disagree: he advocates trying to help them do teshuvah.)

It seems that there is some dispute about this nowadays, though. This Wikipedia article mentions the views of R. Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, R. Ovadiah Yosef and others as encouraging marriages between Karaites and Rabbanite Jews, though it also mentions unnamed "Ashkenazi Haredi scholars" who consider them non-Jews and would require their conversion (though of course this would also dispose of the "possible mamzerus" issue).

share|improve this answer

I recently had a discussion with several Orthodox rabbis about what would be required for them to be comfortable performing a wedding between a Rabbanite and a Karaite. In addition to checking to make sure that the Karaite individual was Karaite Jewish for several generations, none of them seemed to require anything amounting to a conversion. At least one required that the karaite individual accept certain rabbinic Halakha.

The implication seems to be that at least some Orthodox Rabbanites view Karaites (with Karaite lineage) to be Jews, but that (in the rabbinic opinion) Karaites are on the wrong path. In the old days this was called heresy. Implicit in the term heretic, though, is that the individuals is a member of the community, but that the individual holds views that are not commonly accepted. The fact that Karaites were called heretics implies that they were viewed to be Jewish.

I used to serve on the board of directors for the Karaite Jewish University. At that time (several years ago), the Karaite position was that any Jew from any movement can become a karaite without conversion. Of course, Karaites and Rabbanites historically differed on what made someone Jewish (Matrilineal v. Patrilineal). But that is a topic for a different day.

share|improve this answer
    
@shemmy, the community in Albany has ranged 7-12 members, but there is no syngagogue (which was the focus of the statement about there being one synagogue in the United States). The community prays in the home of one of the founders of the community (perhaps the founder). I hope one day to be able to say that there are significant numbers of karaite synagogues throughout the United States. Sadly, though, there is just one. –  A Blue Thread Jan 18 '13 at 0:50

A Jew does not convert when allegiances are switched within the various Jewish movements. A Karaite Jew with a Karaite Jewish mother will have no problems becoming an Orthodox Jew if he seeks to observe as a Sephardic Orthodox Jew. This statement is made on the basis of a statement by the Orthodox Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Netanya, Rabbi David Chelouche, who in an article in the Jerusalem Post entitled "Laying Down the Oral Law" on May 22, 2007 said: "Rabbi David Chayim Chelouche, the chief rabbi of Netanya, agrees. "A Karaite is a Jew," says Chelouche, who has written a great deal about the Karaites. "We accept them as Jews and every one of them who wishes to come back [to mainstream Judaism] we accept back. (There was once a question about whether Karaites needed to undergo a token circumcision in order to switch to rabbinic Judaism, but the rabbinate agrees today that it is not necessary.) He cautions, however, that the acceptance of Karaites as Jews should not be confused with acceptance of their practice of excluding the Oral Law. "A person cannot make his own Torah," he says.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to the site and thanks for your perspective. If you register your username, you will gain access to more site features. –  msh210 Jan 17 '12 at 18:06

They are largely intermarried, so I think they would likely need to convert.

However, everything they do for lifecycle events is invalid in Halachah. Therefore, it is just as easy to speculate that the vast majority of those from an uninterrupted Jewish line (without conversion) are Mamzerim, as it is that the vast majority of those who come from anyone who converted under Karaite processes is not Halachically Jewish.

It would be nearly impossible to determine the lineage of anyone, and even a just-in-case conversion might therefore be iffy, though I'm no expert.

share|improve this answer
    
+1. But re "They are largely intermarried": the question was assuming that some Karaite knows he's Jewish (somehow). I'll grant, though, that the last point of your answer is relevant to this comment. –  msh210 Jan 17 '12 at 16:53
    
Yeah, it's pretty tricky. I'm not sure when a just-in-case conversion works or what it accomplishes vis-a-vis Mamzeruth, etc. –  Seth J Jan 17 '12 at 17:07

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.