WAQ Statement of Purpose
בשם יהוה אל עולם
PETITION TO ALL QARA’IM WORLDWIDE:
LET US SAY OUR JOINT “NO” TO THE UNPRECEDENTED ATTEMPT OF THE COUNCIL OF RABBIS OF THE KARAITE JEWS OF ISRAEL TO CREATE A “VATICAN” FOR ALL QARA’IM
We, the independent Qara’ite Hakhamim, scholars, Hazzanim and communal leaders, repeating the call of Moshe ben-Amram, YHWH Almighty’s prophet and our teacher,
“Mi L’YHWH – E'lai”,
appeal to all of our Qara’ite brethren to establish a World Alliance of Qara’im which will be a commonwealth of the independent Qara’ite spiritual and communal leaders, Qara’ite groups and congregations -– a true home to different Qara'ite movements of the world, including Qara’im, Qara’imler, Karaylar, Karaite Jews, Karaites, B’nei Miqra, Ba’aley Miqra, etc.
Given the current conditions of the Qara’ite world, and in light of the coordinated attempts of the Council of Rabbis of the Karaite Jews in Israel to take full control of the entire Qara’ite world using the golden rule and age-old trick -– “divide and conquer” -– the creation of the Alliance is the only real alternative for those many Qara’im who wish to remain independent from the imposed Vatican-like dictatorship of the U.S.-based KJU (virtual Karaite Jewish University) and the Israel-based Council of Rabbis of the Karaite Jews.
• In recent times, we have witnessed an ongoing joint attempt of the new leadership of the Israeli Karaite Jews led by Mr. Moshe Firrouz and Mr. Neria HaRo’e, and their virtual educational institution, Karaite Jewish University, led by Mr. Meir Rekhavi, as well as by their agents and missionaries in different countries, to create a Vatican-like, Moscow-Patriarchate-like mega-authority which dares to claim the sole right to give the stamp of “kosher” (sign of recognition issued by the Orthodox Pharisaic Jewish court) to each and every existing Qara’ite movement, spiritual leader and study group, and to replace freedom of research of the Scriptures with a Pharisaic-like uniformity of opinion and practice.
• Never before in Qara’ite history has such a blatant attempt been made to grab control of all Qara’ism worldwide. Though the majority of (but not all) Qara’im accepted the authority of the House of Anan ben David in medieval times, this acceptance was based on Anan’s wisdom and his fierce opposition to Talmud, not on a dictatorship imposed by Anan himself or anyone else.
• Unfortunately, the leadership of the KJU and the new leadership of the Mo’etzet Hakhamim / Council of Sages of the Israeli Karaite Jews (who, in the manner of Pharisees, call themselves “Rabbis”) demonstrate not wisdom nor fierce opposition to the Talmud, but only lust for power in their attempt to have the exclusive right to decide for other Qara’im worldwide how they should read, understand and live by the Scriptures.
• What is very clear from their teachings is that Pharisaism –- once the archenemy of each and every Qara’ite –- has succeeded in penetrating deeply into the minds, hearts and deeds of the once great Qara’ite community of Cairo. After half a century in the State of Israel, their recently elected leadership chose not only to deny the right of all other Qara’im (from the United States, Canada, South America, Western Europe, Russia, Ukraine, etc.) to enjoy freedom of choice in matters of national affiliation and identity, but to adapt itself to mainstream Israeli Orthodox Pharisaic Judaism, while preserving -- from their once rich heritage -- not much more than a separate liturgy from that of Orthodox Jews. Indeed, little besides this separate liturgy, performed in separate synagogues, remains of the once-beautiful, thousand-year-old Egyptian Qara’ism.
• The attempt of this neo-Pharisaic leadership of the Egyptian community (now mostly in the land of Israel) to impose their man-made dogmas and practices upon all other Qara’ite groups is not only absurd, given the conditions of the current free and dynamic world, but is also a complete violation of the most basic principle of Qara’ism formulated in the famous dictum of our sage Anan ben David (may he rest in Eden after the Day of Judgement), “Search the scriptures well and do not rely on anyone's opinion.”
• No one (except they themselves) gave these new Israeli leaders the right, the moral mandate, or the support to create such an artificial authority among Qara’im, or to demand from others to accept this authority. Only YHWH Almighty, alone, and not any body of clergymen, can decide who are His Qara’im (readers, champions, adherents and propagandists of Scripture) and who are not.
• The organization of the Israeli Karaite Jews calls itself “Universal Karaite Judaism” (universal connoting “worldwide, “of the whole universe”). Yet membership in this organization is not obligatory but fully voluntary, and not even all Qara’im in Israel belong to it. As with any other religious body, “Universal Karaite Judaism” has only the right to decide whether or not to grant membership to its own community, not to decide whether or not a person is a Qara’ite. If this applies to those of Egyptian descent, then even more so to those who are not of Egyptian descent or who live outside of the land of Israel.
• Likewise, no single Qara’ite group can speak on behalf of all Qara’im. Rather, each group can merely decide whether or not a person may be a member of the congregation it represents. In the same way that no body of clergymen nor any association of individuals has a copyright on the words “Jewish”, “Christian” or “Muslim”, so no body of clergymen nor any association of individuals can decide whether one is Qara’ite or not.
• It is interesting to note that -- with the exception of one or two individuals -- not one of the Rabbis of the Israeli Karaite Jews is a trained theologian, and not one of them has ever focused on Qara’ite studies at any university or college. It is mostly the elders who are self-educated and well-versed in the Scriptures and who know the Qara’ite liturgy from practice; however, they are not experts in Scriptural theology and therefore only a few of them can teach historically attested Qara’ite theology.
• Since they tend to be traditional and ultra-conservative, the Israeli Karaite Jews, on principle, oppose cooperation with the university scholars, even though some of these scholars have spent their entire lives studying Qara’ism and Qara’im scientifically and systematically. The older generation of Israeli Karaites, which was born in Egypt, simply did not have the opportunity to carry on such academic studies. By contrast, the younger generation –- which is currently in charge of the community -– has had all the opportunity in the world to study Qara’ism at Israeli universities (where such studies are among the best in the world), but they have not done so. Those few who did have completely rejected the principle of freedom of research of the Scriptures practiced not only at Israeli universities, but which has served as a landmark of Qara’ism throughout the generations.
• However, all of this does not mean that the Egyptian Karaite Jews in Israel (who, after the establishment of the State of Israel, started to define themselves as “Karaite Jews” instead of “Bnei Miqra”, “HaYisra’elim HaQara’im” or simply “Qara’im”) should somehow be excluded from the international Qara’ite dialogue which we call to establish now.
• This is especially important when taking into consideration the fact that the Qara’im of Egyptian descent comprise the largest group among the adherents of Qara’ism. The problem is not –- God forbid -– their descent, but the “replacement theology” which has been adopted by their new, young Israeli-born leadership. Once pure Qara’ite, by the free choice of their new leaders they have become 99% Jewish Pharisaic. While their Egyptian forefathers in the first part of twentieth century considered themselves to be simply “Arabs of Mosaic descent”, on the land of their new host, the State of Israel, they have done everything in their power to please their hosts -- the Pharisaic Jews of both the Orthodox and Secular factions, and this is the true reason why they will stop at nothing to keep a low profile in their religious “conflict” with Pharisaic Judaism / Talmudism, even though, according to all Qara’ite sages from the past -– from the Dead Sea scrolls, through the Mu’tazilites of the Middle Ages and up through the Russian Enlighteners of the circle of Avraham Firkovich –- Pharisaic Judaism is a false man-made religion which has perverted the pure and simple meaning of the Miqra.
• Thus, let it be stated that all Egyptian Qara’im, and especially those who are not happy with the new elected leadership -- which is bringing disaster to the world of Qara’ism, to the point of threatening an end to Qara'ism as a viable movement by completely blurring the distinction between it and Rabbinical Judaism, all for the sake of avoiding conflict and taking the easy and cowardly way of assimilating into the prevailing religious culture in Israel -- are more than welcome to join the Alliance.
• But, let us remember that any dialogue, by definition, requires mutual respect between and equality of all the sides involved, as a precondition.
• Therefore, any attempt to create a Vatican-like authority for all Qara’im is a complete break from the thousands-years-old Qara’ite heritage of tolerance, independence of Scriptural research and comparative studies of different textual sources, as well as from the centuries-old tradition of mutual respect between different Qara’ite Hakhamim without any attempt to coerce the opinions of one upon the other.
• In the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea to unite all Qara’im under a single body became, for a brief moment in time, quite popular among some Russian and Egyptian Qara’im, who even considered the possibility of electing a joint Chief Hakham of all Qara’im worldwide. However, after one or two attempts, the idea was buried permanently with the unanimous agreement of all parties involved. Thus, even a century ago, when all Qara’im still considered themselves a single community comprised of different congregations around the world, such an attempt was impossible due to the cultural, religious, linguistic and ideological differences among these different Qara’ite groups.
• Therefore, it is very clear, after all the horrible events of the twentieth century, including revolutions, wars, mass migrations of populations (including the migration of the Qara’im of the collapsed Russian and Ottoman Empires, the two main hosts of the Qara’im up until the beginning of the twentieth century), and changes in the political systems and boundaries of states –- all of which have caused the collapse of the once more-or-less homogenous Qara’ite community -– that any further attempt to establish a singular spiritual or administrative authority over all Qara’im worldwide is not only ill-conceived but also impossible on a practical level.
• In the same way that some Jews, but not all of them, recognize the authority of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate; in the same way that some Christians, but not all of them, recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome or the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; in the same way that some Muslims, but not all of them, recognize the authority of the Al-Azhar University Ulema or the Iranian Ayatollahs; so only a few Qara’im recognize the authority of Mr. Moshe Firrouz, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Karaite Jews -- and supported by the spiritual leader of the ultra-conservative Anglo-Saxon neo-Karaites, Mr. Meir Rekhavi, Chancellor of the KJU -- to become the de facto and de jure Qara’ite Pope.
• It is also glaringly obvious that Mr. Moshe Firrouz does not give himself the title “Chief Hakham”, but instead “Chief Rabbi”, a sad state of affairs which only proves just how deep Pharisaism has seeped into the mind, teachings and practices of the majority of the Israeli Karaite Jews. Nor does Mr. Moshe Firrouz teach Qara’ism, but half-Rabbinism; nor does he use traditional Qara’ite clothes and hats, but dons the garb of the modern Orthodox Jewish Pharisees.
• The new leadership of the Israeli Karaite Jews, as well as that of Karaite Jewish University, have abandoned in their entirety the original Qara’ite theology, practices, heritage, ideal of freedom of research of the Hebrew Scriptures, and even the traditional Qara’ite clothes of the clergymen. They have kept little more than the liturgy, which is clearly not enough to preserve the Qara’ite identity amidst the strong pull of Pharisaic Jewry in Israel and secular, Western culture outside of Israel. The majority of Qara’ite books that they study and teach come from the period (fifteenth century onwards) of the half-Rabbanized “House of Bashyatzi”, which represents a poor attempt to meld Qara’ism with Pharisaism, to mix YHWH’s Torah with man-made commandments.
• They do not study, for example, the Dead Sea scrolls (of which the “Damascus Document” uses, for the first time, the word “Qara’im” in the sense of a back-to-Scriptures movement), nor do they study early Mu’tazilite Qara’ite literature, nor the texts of the Russian Enlighteners who, based on ancient manuscripts and gravestone inscriptions, claimed a Samaritan-Turkic descent for the Eastern European Qara’im vs. the Judaic one of part (but not all) of the Middle Eastern Qara’im.
• Therefore, it is an utter embarrassment to promote Mr. Moshe Firrouz, who teaches his pupils Rabbinic theology and Rabbinic ethics, as a spiritual leader of all Qara’im, a Qara’ite “Pope”!
• It is also obvious that, while denying the right of independent Qara’ite congregations to elect their own Hakhamim (as was always the practice in Lithuania, Crimea and, recently, among the Crimean Qara’im abroad), the Israeli Mo’etzet Hakhamim / Council of Sages has never objected to the fact that Mr. Meir Rekhavi proclaimed himself Hakham. His self-appointment was never objected to by the Israeli Council of Sages for one very simple reason: Mr. Rekhavi has never attempted to be an independent thinker from the Council and its teachings. His -– and only his -– “Hakhamhood” was accepted de facto. This was not the case with anyone else’s.
• At the same time, there exist other Hakhamim who did not wish to be associated with the deeply Rabbanized beliefs and practices of the Israeli Council of Sages led by Mr. Firrouz and supported by Mr. Rekhavi and the KJU, or who demonstrated ideas which were considered too independent, and whom were therefore condemned or held at a distance by the Council.
• This current atmosphere on the Council was not always so. In the past, when the Mo’etzet Hakhamim (Council of Sages) and the Mo’atza Elyona (High Council) of the Israeli Karaite Jews were under the leadership and influence of the older generation which was born in Egypt (people such as Hakham Moshe Dabbah, Hakham Eliyahu Dabbah, Hakham Yosef el-Gamil, Mr. Avraham Cohen, Mr. Abraham Ya’aqov and others), its members were open to dialogue with other Qara’ite congregations around the world and did not attempt to impose their views upon them.
• The unholy union of Mr. Moshe Firrouz and Mr. Meir Rekhavi is supported by the newly-elected Chairman of the Community, Mr. Neria HaRo’e, as well as by certain people with dubious hidden agendas -- first and foremost, Libor Nissim Valko of the Czech Republic and Ephraim ben Eliezer HaKohen of the United States, both of whom have functioned as agents of the Council of Sages and the KJU, unlawfully collecting and sharing private information about several opponents of the Council. In the form of the so-called “Karaite Jewish University” (of which only the word “Jewish” might be correct, and even then only in the context of Pharisaic Judaism, since it does not require any serious study of basic medieval Qara’ite sources or the scientific investigation of Qara’ism), this union has attempted to impose upon Qara’ite congregations and groups the entire world over a conformity of instructions for living and uniformity of beliefs to ascribe to.
• It seems, therefore, that the only alternative for all those who oppose this rude dictatorship is to create a World Alliance of Qara’im, a commonwealth of the independent Qara’ite spiritual and communal leaders, religious communities and congregations, study groups and spiritual centers of Qara’im, HaYehudim HaQara’im (Karaite Jews), HaYisraelim HaQara’im, Qaraimler (The Mu’tazilite Qara’im of Crimea and Qedar Abroad), Karaylar (Qara’ite Turks of Eastern Europe), Bnei Miqra, Ba’aley Miqra and Karaites, which will guard the centuries-old Qara’ite practices of freedom of Scriptural research and religious observance against the attempt to impose a Rabbanite-like uniformity and the neo-Pharisaism of the Israeli Karaite Jews and their adherents in the U.S.
The World Alliance of Qara’im
A. The Alliance will be based on the shared centuries-old values of Qara’ism which are universally accepted by all Qara’im:
1. Adherence to the Hebrew Scriptures alone.
2. Embodiment of Anan ben David’s dictum which has set the tone of Qara’ism for more than a millennium: “Search well in the Scriptures and do not rely on anyone’s opinion.”
3. Optional adherence to other common-ground doctrines such as the Tuv Ta’am or the Aseret Ikarey HaEmunah, which are almost universally accepted among Qara’im. (It should be noted, however, that compared to points 1 and 2, this latter point is of only secondary importance.)
4. Creation of an atmosphere of mutual respect among its participants who will maintain full independence from each other, yet who will interact and dialog with each other to better understand the Hebrew Scriptures and to promote joint initiatives beneficial to all Qara’im.
5. The understanding that the Alliance will not have any leader, in order to prevent any member’s views from being imposed upon the other members; rather, it will be a free association of adherents to Qara’ism, regardless of their lineage, national affiliation and background -- a union of equal partners.
B. The goals of the Alliance are the following:
1. To resist any attempt at the creation of any sort of Vatican-like authority over all Qara’im. Qara’im were, are and always will be independent from each other, whether in the form of groups, communities or congregations, or whether in the form of individuals who read and research different canons of the Hebrew Scriptures, comment on it orally and in written form, and live their lives according to their reasoning and understanding of it -– which may not necessarily be identical to the reasoning and understandings of other fellow Qara’im. This is in accordance with the dictum of Anan, “Search well in the Scriptures …” Part and parcel of this basic Qara’ite tenet is the idea that no-one’s opinion is to be accepted as binding, and this includes the current Rabbanized-Pharisaic leadership of the Karaite Jews in Israel and their conversion arm, the KJU.
2. To organize, engage and cooperate in the scientific research of different versions and canons of the Hebrew Scriptures, Qara’ite history and spiritual literature of the hakhamim of previous generations. This should include the under-researched literature of the early Qara’im of the Golden Age of Qara’ism (the Mu’tazilite epoch, eighth through thirteenth enturies) and the Russian enlighteners (not to be confused with the reformists or liberals.) These writings, most of which were found and collected by Hakham A. Firkovich in the middle of the nineteenth century, are preserved mainly in the form of manuscripts in St. Petersburg’s Russian National Library, with microfilmed copies in the National Library of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Regarding the Russian enlighteners, it is important to study the works of hakhamim, hazzanim and scholars from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, such as M. Sultansky, A. Firkovich, Y. Lucki, I. Kazaz, T. Levi-Babovich, S. Szyszman and even S. Szapszal, particularly in the period before 1928, at which time Szapszal began to spread the idea of a secular pan-Turkic philosophy among the Qara’im of Eastern Europe. Most of these works are considered by the new leadership of Israeli Karaite Jews (unofficially, of course) to be heretical or harmful works since they present a different view on the history of the Qara’im as an admixture of the House of Yosef and the House of Amram (Kohanim and Levi’im) with the Turks, rather than as a schismatic Jewish sect.
3. To jointly provide quality, free-of-charge education in the Hebrew Scriptures, Qara’ite history and the spiritual literature of the hakhamim of previous generations, including those of the Golden Age of Qara’ism (Mu’tazilite epoch) and the Russian enlighteners.
4. To help those who wish to adopt Qara’ism as their way of life, regardless of their lineage, and in accordance with the rules established by the Scriptures to do so; to help all those who wish to establish living Qara’ite congregations and spread the word of YHWH. While Qara’ism was born among the Sons of Israel, over time it attracted people of different ethnic and religious origins. For the Qara’ites of the Russian Empire, it was prohibited to accept converts into their communities only from the eighteenth century onward. When speaking about conversion, one should bear in mind that the true Qara’ite idea of conversion is to join and live among a congregation led by a hakham or hazzan, and that the Rabbinical concept of “giyur” is 100% Pharisaic.
5. To meet once every two or three years for a joint congress where current issues and “hot” topics will be discussed and ideas will be shared; to publish the proceedings of such a conference.
6. To create a true alternative to the Israeli Council of Karaite Jews by establishing an international team of Qara’ite scholars and theologians; to refute the ignorant Pharisaic doctrines and practices of the current Israeli Council; to raise up a new generation of hakhamim and hazzanim, and to establish criteria for one to become a hakham, hazzan, shamash, etc.
7. To create a website of balanced views and regularly updated information about Qara’ism and Qara’im in general, regardless of affiliation to one Qara’ite group or another.
8. And last but not least: to be the true and alert guards of the centuries-old Qara’ite principles of freedom of thought, speech and research in the Scriptures as encapsulated in the motto of Anan ben David, “Search the Scriptures well, and do not rely upon anyone’s opinion.”
C. Proposed Structure of the Alliance
The Alliance will consist of three parallel divisions:
1. Mo’etzet Hakhamim – the collectively ruled Council of Theologians, exchanging their thoughts on theological matters concerning the Scriptures and assisting in the implementation of Scriptural principles in everyday life.
2. Mo’etzet Hazzanim – the Council of the Spiritual Leaders of local congregations, coordinating and learning from each other on issues relating to the leading of local congregations.
3. Brit HaKehilot – the Free Union of local congregations of the Qara’im.
4. Kinus Klali – the Joint Congress of all the three previous divisions, to take place once every two to three years.
FELLOW QARA’IM, IT IS TIME TO ACT! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO FEEL THAT YOU HAVE ENOUGH SCRIPTURAL KNOWLEDGE AND COURAGE TO SERVE YHWH AND PREACH HIS WAYS OF “HESED WE’EMET, SEDAQA WI’MISHPAT”, NOW IS THE TIME TO STAND UP AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FUTURE OF QARA’ISM BY ADDING YOUR EFFORTS TO THIS INITIATIVE TO FORM A GROUP OF INDEPENDENT QARAITE SPIRITUAL AND COMMUNAL LEADERS – THE WORLD ALLIANCE OF QARA’IM.
Signed, the Founding Hakhamim and Hazzanim,
Hakham Gerşom ben Yonah Hakoğen Qiprisci
Hakham Melech ben Ya’aqov
Hakham Shlomo ben Moshe
Hakham Ya’aqov ben Yisrael
Hakhama Olchasariya bat Davut al-Karauni
Hazzan Gidon ben Shaul