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?

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    I assume you mean someone with a Jewish mother?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 21:38
  • No, I think he assumes Karite parents.
    – avi
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 21:43
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    Are Karaites different from other classes of ba'al teshuva? Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 23:53
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    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 Commented Jan 17, 2012 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
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 22:29

5 Answers 5


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).


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.

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    – msh210
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 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.

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    +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
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 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
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 17:07
  • Ashkenazim view them as Mamzerim, Sephardim do not.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:59

It seems according to the Radvaz 1:73 that a man who wants to marry a Jewish woman who was previously a karaite and now accepts all the derabbanans is allowed. He held that their(karaites) kiddushin is not a kiddushin at all and the problem of mamzerut does not apply.

He ends off saying that in Egypt they had a mass conversion of Karaites and they were known to have very good yichus and even more so the chashuv families married into their families.


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.

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    @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. Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 0:50

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