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if the Karaites were as numerous as conventional Jews

Karaites Rabbanites alternate history what-if history Eastern Europe Ashkenazim Crimea Sephardim Mediterranean Middle East

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#1 Yosseleh82

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:35 AM

These days, in real life, there are small Karaite Jewish communities in places like Israel, Turkey, Crimea, and the San Francisco Bay area - with the total worldwide Karaite population being only 30-40 thousand. Is there at least one point of divergence (or even more than one) to make Karaite populations in the present day and in the last few centuries as large and self-sustaining as (or at least approaching) the regular Jewish populations?

In other words, how can we have Crimean/Eastern European Karaites (speaking Karaim, a Turkic equivalent of Yiddish) demographically rival Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern/Central Europe, how can we have Middle Eastern/Turkish Karaites demographically rival the Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews of the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East, etc.? Can it be a point of divergence other than making Karaism less ascetic than in real life and the Karaite message less intellectual and more popularly-targeted than in real life (so more like with the message of Hasidism or Reform Judaism, which each became wildly popular and remain that way)?

And did the Karaites become much smaller demographically in real life partly because Karaism attracted a relatively smaller portion of adherents as compared to, say, Hasidism or Reform Judaism?

#2 yourhebrewhomie

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 01:31 PM

I seriously doubt there are any circumstances in which the Karaites can rival the Ashkenazic majority. If Karaites all collectively moved to a particular area, all chose to incorporate halacha in every aspect of their lives, and had as many children as possible, then perhaps in a century or two they'd outnumber the Mizrachs of Arab countries. The vast majority of Arab mizrachim now live in israel, and the majority of them are relatively secular. When they first made aliyah, most were under much pressure to shed their Arab identity.

For the record, very very few Karaites today speak Karaim (last I checked, around a thousand in the Ukraine and a handful in Lithuania), and virtually all are over the age of 70. I could be wrong, but I believe most contemporary Karaites, in particular in America, are of Sephardic descent (mostly Egpytian), and Karaim is an exclusively Crimean Karaite language.




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