From the book by Murad El-Kodsi "The Karaite Communities in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Crimea":

Actually, there were two groups, the Ashkenazi Karaites and the Karaylar [Crimean Karaites]. Ashkenazi Karaites are/were no different than their Rabbinate brethren...

What is known about these groups of Ashkenazi Karaites?

About the fact that they did not differ from the Rabbinists, then perhaps we are talking about liturgical customs, but the dogmatics, of course, were different.

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    When he says "they did not differ", I think he means ethnically. In every other aspect they were different. This is evident also from the fact that most of the time, the Russian Karaites received better treatment from the government than the Russian Rabbanites. I'll note that I once sifted through many (virtual) copies of one of the Hebrew newspapers of the late 19th-early 20th century, I believe it was הצופה, and in there, occasionally, there were mentions of local Karaites. Often it was when a Rabbanite wanted to marry a Karaite woman and the matter was brought before the beit din.
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 10:36
  • @Kazi bácsi There is an answer about the Karaites-Turks of the Crimea that are not interesting to me. Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 11:27
  • @mbloch Crimean Turkic - this is Crimean Karaites (Karaylar). Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 11:28
  • Does this answer your question? Did Ashkenazi Karaites exist? Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 20:07
  • @Kazi bácsi No. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


According to Mikhail Kizilov in his book "The Karaites of Galicia", there were East European Karaites living in places such as Galicia, but they were not regarded as "Ashkenazim" nor did they speak Yiddish:

"While retaining Hebrew as their leshon ha-qodesh, the Polish-Lithuanian Karaite communities adopted the Turkic Karaimo-Kypchak language in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries as their Umgangssprache. This feature differentiated the Karaites from their ethnic neighbors - the Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazic Jews, the Slavic Poles and the Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and even from their Tatar-, Greek-, and Arabic-speaking Karaite brethren of the Crimea, the Ottoman Empire, and the Near East." (pp. 10-11)

Paul Wexler similarly notes that the Karaites in Eastern Europe preserved their Turkic language.

However, later on Kizilov writes:

"According to archival data discovered by Dan Shapira, nineteenth century Karaite intellectuals from Volhynia sometimes used Yiddish as a sort of “secret language of savants” which would not be understood by other, less educated, members of the Karaite community. Some Galician Karaites apparently were also able to understand not only Hebrew and Karaim, but also Yiddish, the language of their Rabbanite neighbours. An anonymous traveller (Reuven Fahn?) mentioned that in addition to their excellent command of Hebrew, the Karaites of Halicz could also speak Yiddish. Another report by Fahn also mentioned the fact that most Karaites could speak Yiddish in the 1890s. The Karaites’ ability to understand Yiddish, in addition to their knowledge of Hebrew, Karaim, and Slavic languages, may be explained only by their rapprochement with the Galician Rabbanite Jews. It seems that Yiddish literacy became even more common among the Galician Karaites in the interwar period..." (pg. 167)

Later on in the book (ch. 4), Kizilov lists their customs. The following is a summary of what he wrote:

  • The architectural designs of the synagogues and tombstones were similar to those of the Galician Rabbanites. The key difference was that their arks and tombstones faced the south, the direction they considered Yerushalayim to be, whilst the Rabbanites' faced the east. (pg. 138)

  • They did not celebrate Chanukah because it was post-biblical. (pg. 139)

  • They did not necessitate a minyan for prayer; often there were, indeed, less than ten people in synagogue during prayer times. (pg. 140)

  • Both men and women wore tzitzit and tallit gadol (unlike in the east, where they wore only tallit gadol). (pp. 140-141)

  • At least from the 19th century they had mezuzot on the doorposts. (pg. 142)

  • Circumcision took place on the seventh day, in the synagogue. After the circumcision, the chazzan took a drop of the child's blood and smeared his forehead with it. There was no priah and metzitzah. (pg. 143)

  • Most matzot were made of flour, water, eggs and milk. Four special matzot were, If I understood correctly, inscribed with the words "לחם עני אמן" and "מצה ומרור אמן". (pg. 146)

  • Strict Shabbat observance, including not warming food and not keeping light/warming fires in synagogues and homes. (pg. 147)

  • Engagement was via matchmaking. The process included the giving of a dowry by the bride's family to the groom's family. There was also an engagement event called a "kelesmek". The marital ceremony always took place on Thursday evening. There was a chuppah. The whole ceremony - songs and everything - was in Hebrew. Only one song was traditionally sung in Karaim (the Karaite language): "Bu oł bijenc kinimizni kuvanaik (GVKar. “Let us celebrate this happy day of ours”)". (pp. 152-153)

Anything else you're looking to know?


The whole "Qaraim" issue is that it was NOT a "Karaite Language." It was & remains the language of a distinct ethnic group that incorporates aspects of Karaitism, Xtianity, Islam & Mongolian Paganism, for example, the chief Mongolian diety, Tengri into its belief system. This ethnicity, the Qaraylars or Kipchaks never intermarried with Karaites & in fact were no different than their Cossak brethren when it came to demonisation of all Jews.

Just like Ashkenazim, Karaites in Eastern Europe developed degenerate theology & practices during the Haskalah. Karaitism in Eastern Europe underwent a deliberate de-Judaisation to aid in Assimilation. Like their Proto Reform & Reform counterparts these Karaites retained a mere sheen of Judaism but their stated endgame was to enable more rapid Assimilation. With ideological conartists like Avram Firowicz (i.e. Firkovich) leading Karaites almost into extinction in Europe,the lines became very blurred, least of all amongst the remnant of surviving Karaites.

It got to be so degenerate than in the Holocaust Karaites were able to serve in the SS & at least in Lutsk Ghetto committed "Aktions" & "Deportations." Some Karaites were victimised at Babi Yar but only because overzealous Ukranian puppets overstepped their bounds.

As for Yiddish, in Galicia & before 1917 in the former Pale yes, some Karaites used Yiddish but never, as a first language it seems.

As for "Ashkenazi Karaites," that label is non sensical. "Ashkenazi" are defined only by liturgy & dialect of Hebrew. Karaites are neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi Mizrachi. Their liturgy is unique & their Hebrew, if it ever had any unique differentiation, is lost. Today all Karaites must use N'kkud, as they have no Observant Jews amongst them. Even their Chief Rabbi Moshe Firouz must work a day job.

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    Words like "degenerate" don't really belong here - in general providing sources would add much value to your answers. Some of which ("Ashkenazi defined only by liturgy and dialect") appears wrong even to the non-specialist
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 17 at 7:11

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