anonymous asked:

hi!! do you have any record of crimean karaite henna traditions? all i have to go on is your post about henna customs in turkey/the balkans, and also in an article about modern crimean karaites it said the woman being interviewed had hennad hair.

Yeah it’s a great question but unfortunately there’s not a huge amount of information… I do have a few references, though!

Ephraim Deinard, in his 1878 travelogue Masa Krim [A Journey to Crimea], describes the importance of henna to Karaim, Krimchak Jews, and Muslim Tatars (pg. 26):

“The Tatar women, from the day of their birth [onward], anoint their hair, hands, and feet with a red dye (kena) for beauty. This colour is sacred to them because they believe if the woman dies while the colour is still on her, then she will be led on a straight path to Paradise. For this reason many men will also henna their toes, and the women of the Karaim and the Krimchaks do the same…”

Later on he describes henna as part of the preparations for a Jewish wedding (although it seems like he’s talking about the Rabbanite Krimchaks here, not Karaites, although it seems reasonable that this was a shared practice; pg. 141):

The groom must send the bride every week no less than 20 kopecks, for which there is a fair reckoning: ten kopecks for the proceedings at the bathhouse, six to buy the kena dye to colour her hair, fingernails and toenails, which she can only do in the bathhouse, and for the makiz dye to purify the teeth (?), and four to buy soap and pay for the bath attendant.

An additional description of henna among the (Muslim) Tatars of the Crimea from the German botanist Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811) adds some details on how it was mixed (pp. 349-251):

“[The women’s] fingers are adorned with rings, and the nails of their hands and feet tinged with Kna (Lawsonia), which is imported from Constantinople, and is sometimes mixed with vitriol [sulfate], to render the colour browner and more permanent; as it will thus continue about two months… They dye their hair of a reddish brown with Kna… and by a particular process, change the colour of their eye-brows and hair to a shining black…. [They] colour their hands and feet, as far as the wrist and ancle, of an orange hue, with kna. [To make the black dye] twenty-five of the best galls (Balamut) are boiled in oil, then dried, and reduced to a fine powder; to which are added three drachms of green vitriol [iron sulfate], one of cream of tartar, one of indigo, and a tea-cupful of Kna, or Lawsonia alcanna. The four first mentioned ingredients are well agitated with two pounds of water; and then the powder of Kna is gradually mixed with them so as to form a paste. With this composition, the hair is carefully anointed, so that the skin may not be blackened; and a kerchief is tied round it during the night. The next morning the hair is washed.”

Seraya Szapszal (1873-1961), a Crimean Karaite hakham and scholar, included a sample of henna in his ethnographic collection (presented to the National Museum of Lithuania), which was done in the 1930s; the entry reads: “406: Plant dye kana (henna). Light brown powder used by Karaims to dye hair and fingernails” (see here).

It seems that the henna was imported to Crimea by Krimchak Jewish merchants who would bring it from Turkey, three or four sacks at a time (see here). Of course, the word “kana” or “kena” that they’re using for henna is a loanword from the Turkish kına (itself ultimately a loanword from Arabic).

And of course, here’s the article that you mentioned, which does refer to a contemporary Crimean Karaite woman with hennaed hair.

One final Karaite connection, although somewhat distant, is that the famous medieval Karaite anthology by Judah Hadassi is called Eshkol haKofer, which literally means “a cluster of henna” (a phrase from Song of Songs). He’s playing, of course, on the other meanings of eshkol and kofer, to imply “I will judge the heretic” — but it’s a neat connection nonetheless (even if it does throw off my Google searches).

Hope this helps! Thanks for the question. :)


By request from Anonymous: Karaites!

Joe Pessah and his wife Remy, leaders of the San Francisco Karaite community

Their son David

Israeli Karaite youngsters

Brenda and Amy Gazzar with homemade Karaite-style matzah

Isaac Amiel, Egyptian boxer

Rabbi Moshe Firrouz

Samuel Maykapar, Soviet composer

Eki Shmuel

Rabbi Ovadia Mored

Purim at a Karaite synagogue

New Generation of Jewish Sect Takes Up Struggle to Protect Place in Modern Israel

By Isabel Kershner, NY Times, September 4, 2013

RAMLA, Israel–The men and boys offered their prayers in a full-throated chant, raising their arms in supplication and prostrating themselves, barefoot, on the plush red carpet lining the synagogue floor. Many of the women did the same in a balcony above. Outside in the yard, Shuki Cohen, the local butcher, was barbecuing mounds of chicken skewers and aromatic lamb kebabs for a communal feast at long tables laid out in the adjacent hall.

At the headquarters of Karaite Judaism in this city southeast of Tel Aviv, the recent festivities were in full swing for the new moon and what the movement’s calendar says is the start of the Hebrew month of Elul. The problem, according to Israel’s official Hebrew calendar, is the celebration was two nights late.

That means that while most Israelis began celebrating Rosh Hashana at sundown on Wednesday, Karaite Jews are not set to start the Jewish New Year until Saturday–another example of the challenge this ancient sect has in holding on to its traditions in a state where Judaism is dominated by the Orthodox.

For the Karaites, who split from rabbinical Judaism more than 1,000 years ago, being a couple of days out of sync is a mark of otherness. While most Israelis know little about them, other than to say that they pray “like Muslims,” the Karaites say that the Orthodox authorities–their centuries-old nemesis–have tried to wear them down in an effort to subsume them into the rabbinical mainstream.

But a new generation of Karaite leaders has taken up the struggle to anchor their place in modern Israel.

“I see a community determined to preserve its customs, as opposed to other communities,” said Neria Haroeh, 30, a lawyer who is the president of the Karaite community. “We have a long history of loyalty to our tradition, and we don’t want to change it.”

He added, “We see the Rabbinates as the ones who diverted the Jews from the right path,” referring to the rabbinical Jews in charge of the state’s religious bodies, like the chief rabbinate.

The Karaites derive their laws from the written scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, rejecting the binding nature of the oral law of the Talmud, the rabbinical interpretations that came later and guide mainstream Judaism. The schism is said to have originated among the Jews of Baghdad about 1,200 years ago. Some trace the origins further back to the early sects of the Second Temple period, like the Sadducees.

The Karaites and Orthodox disagree on many issues, including what holidays to celebrate. Karaite women also have a more equal status than in rabbinical Orthodoxy. Like Reform and Conservative Jews, Karaites do not adhere to the strictly Orthodox prohibition against hearing a woman sing. Karaite couples both sign a religious marriage contract, and a woman can be granted a divorce even against her husband’s will.

The number of Karaite Jews in Israel is hard to gauge because no census has been held. The Karaites say it is forbidden to count Jews, citing a verse from Genesis 32: “I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”

Generally, though, the community is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000, out of Israel’s population of eight million. There are also smaller communities in the United States, Turkey and Europe. Most came to Israel from Egypt in three waves starting in 1948, when the state was founded, and 1970. Many live in Ramla or the Mediterranean port city of Ashdod. Others are in smaller concentrations around the country.

The community is undergoing a revival. Dozens of Karaite children attended a summer camp here in August. Eli Eltachan, the deputy chairman of the community and a manager at Ericsson, said that the young, educated professionals now in leadership roles had brought “a new spirit.”

Shoshanna Eliahu, from the town of Rehovot, was attending the Elul feast. She was born in 1956 as her parents made their way from Egypt to Israel. Her son, Elior, 18, with a diamond stud in his ear, had come for a blessing from the rabbi because he was soon to be drafted into the military.

The deputy rabbi of Ramla, Maor Dabbah, 25, gave a sermon on the importance of happiness. Sporting a fashionable buzz cut, he urged people to buy a newly published illustrated collection of songs and blessings for the family, which includes a disc by the Karaite choir.

But amid this new energy, some rabbis have questioned the Jewishness of the Karaites.

In Karaite Judaism there is no Hanukkah, because that festival is not mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrew months go strictly according to the lunar cycle and cannot be altered, as in rabbinical Judaism, for the sake of convenience. Karaite dietary laws differ from those of the mainstream, and while the matriarchal line of descent usually determines who is a Jew, the Karaite line is patriarchal. “It is written in the Torah that Abraham begat Isaac,” said Ovadiah Murad, the rabbi of the ancient Karaite synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Karaites run their own religious court and perform their own marriages and divorces, which are registered at the Interior Ministry. The community receives a state budget and employs its own rabbis, ritual slaughterers and providers of other services like burial. But because the community’s status has never been formalized in Israeli law, it remains vulnerable.

Two years ago inspectors from the chief rabbinate visited Mr. Cohen’s butcher shop and fined him for displaying a sign declaring his meat “kosher.” They said it was misleading, even though the sign specified that the store was under Karaite supervision.

The community took the case to the Ramla Magistrates Court and won. The judge said that fining the store would have constituted an abrupt change in policy.

More recently, when the chief rabbinate stopped issuing documents that Karaite couples needed to confirm their marriages and divorces abroad, the community petitioned the Supreme Court. Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the deputy minister of religious services, said in an interview that the issue of marriage documents had since been resolved but that recognizing Karaite divorces was more complicated.

Legal recognition as a separate religious community, he said, is problematic. “They say they are Jews, and according to our religious law they are Jews,” he said. “But they cannot be special Jews.”

David Yefet Yerushalmi, 58, a Karaite who retired from a military career and lives in the village of Mazliach, near Ramla, said the rabbinical authorities could never fully sanction Karaite Judaism. “That,” he said, “would mean they were wrong.”

I survived Tahrir Square: Breifly on Zionism and Egyptian Karaite Jews in the 20th Century

The Karaites are one of the oldest Jewish communities in Egypt, they are the indigenous Jews of Egypt. It is not exactly clear when this group was established, but most of historical narratives concerning it circulated around the 8th century, while other narratives suggest a link to the ancient Essences [sic]. The Karaites deny and reject the authority of the Talmud, along with all other rabbinical writings; they believe in no authority but the Tanakh. In 1948, the Karaites constituted about 8% of the Egyptian Jewish population. They were Arabized Jews, assimilated into an Egyptian identity; Karaite Jews never felt any connection to the Sephardim and especially not the Europeanized Ashkenazim. Karaites were a minority inside a minority, an ancient Jewish Middle Eastern group accustomed to the Ottoman millet system that granted them autonomy in their religious and personal affairs. Unlike their Sephardic and Ashkenazi counterparts, Karaites did not hold dual citizenships, a method the Sephardim and Ashkenazim used to secure their interests in the colonized country. Moreover, Rabbinism disassociated itself completely from Karaism, seeing it as un-Jewish, as well as Karaism distancing itself from Rabbinism, thus making it extremely difficult for Karaite Jews to benefit from the rest of the Jewish economy. The Karaites were stereotypically known to be poor and uneducated, sharing the bottom of the social pyramid with their Muslim and Christian neighbors. 

There’s a lot in here about Karaites’ position(s) on Israel and Zionism, their reluctance to leave Egypt, their fate upon reaching Israel when they did make aliyah, and more. My favorite, unsurprisingly, is the discussion of identity: 

It is true most of the Karaite Jews immigrated to Israel after their expulsion from Egypt. However, this emigration should not be looked at as act of Zionism, nor national Jewish sentimentalism. Immigration to Israel was the most economical solution to an extremely poor Arab-Jewish community. It is important to consider that traditional rabbinical views were very skeptic of the Jewishness of those Arabized Jews. In fact, they were not considered Jews at all in many cases, one of the main authorities Rabbinic Jews depended on was the statement of the Rambam that those who reject the authority of the Oral Torah and heretics, many Rabbanic authorities traditionally described Karaites as Mamzerism [sic] “bastards”. Thus, they were never included on the Zionist agenda, to the extent that in 1949, the Jewish Agency officially requested from its agents in Egypt to completely halt the Karaite migration to Israel, which did indeed happen for a short period.[vi] This key piece of information gives an explanation as to why the Karaites were the last Jewish group to leave Egypt. In Egypt, the Karaites were a recognized Jewish minority, able to express its identity freely as a Jewish oriental sect. They never had to worry about how to convey their Jewish character, since the collective religious framework of the Middle East recognized them exactly as they identified themselves. However, in Israel, Karaites were not considered Jews by the official rabbinical authorities, which not only meant isolation from the rest of the Jewish Israeli society, but also a series of legal complications. Therefore, it is impossible to find any significant Zionist activity among the Karaite community, nor a trend of migration to the newborn Jewish state. […] It was only when the mass arrest campaign, which targeted Jews, ran by Nasser’s regime after the Suez Crisis in 1956 took placedid the Karaites understand their presence in Egypt was no longer welcomed.

I want to caution that the author is not, himself, a Karaite or a Jew; he (an “Arab Egyptian,” he never specifies a religion) is speaking as an outsider. However, he’s aware that his outsider status has an impact on the research (acknowledging at one point that an interviewed Karaite may appear more anti-Zionist than he actually is because of who he’s talking to), and the piece is overall very well-rounded. There is, I think, a slight bias toward Egypt’s treatment of Karaites vs. Israel’s (pre-Nasser, that is), so be aware of that; but the article is full of interesting history as well as direct interviews with Karaite emigrants.

When I was young I lived with a Karaite family in Egypt. The family included one son and one daughter, both of whom were in their teens or early twenties. The boy and girl knew that I practiced the secret religion and disapproved of it. They tried to make life difficult for me so that I would leave their house.

The Karaites are a sect of Judaism which does not accept the validity of the Talmud. The Frankists originally sought recognition from the Polish government and the Polish Catholic church as a separate sect within Judaism, similar to the Karaites.

The “secret religion” is a term that Frank used for Sabbatianism, the belief that Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676) was the messiah.

The Trakai castle is the only castle on an island in Eastern Europe and makes for a picturesque day trip from Vilnius. The kibinai meat pies found all over the country are known in Trakai and are of Karaite origin. Kararite’s make up the smallest minority in Lithuania, a Judaic sect originally from Crimea there are around 300 Karaites in Lithuania. The pies served with pickles and chicken broth have become so popular that new flavors are appearing on menus. Like this chocolate hazelnut kibinai. Yum! #litrail #lithuania #trakai #kibinai #foodie #chocolate #travelgram #history #instagramresidency #island #lifeabroad

Pinavija – Made with love

Image by Kamilė Naraitė

Pinavija (also known as Kibin Inn) is a very cozy bakery which is owned by a family with a big love for cooking. It is an ideal place for families and friends. I am sure that you will be amazed by all the home-made cakes, pies and other desserts. I think you’ll like the pastry ‘Kibinai’ the most!

Have you ever tried a traditional Karaite pastry ‘Kibinai’? If not, you should to visit Pinavija and order one! ‘Kibinai’ is a half-moon shaped pastry traditionally stuffed with mutton or beef, but now it may be also stuffed with pork, chicken, turkey or other meat. Moreover, for vegetarians ‘Kibinai’ is also prepared with mushrooms, fruits or vegetables.

I suggest you eat warm ‘Kibinai’ with broth or pickles and I promise that you will be amazed by the taste of it. Furthermore, at Pinavija you can also find ‘Kibinai’ with curd, berries, nut fillings or chocolate. So, ‘Kibinai’ is a pasty for all tastes.

You should come here if you want to try something different than fast-food or want to taste food, which is made with love. Enjoy!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Details about this spot (Show on map)

| Coffee & tea, Snacks, Restaurants (Pastries) | Kibinai LT 4
Vilniaus str. 21 | +37067644422
09:00 – 20:00 daily

Via Kamilė Naraitė by Vilnius Spotted by Locals

Source: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/vilnius/pinavija/
July 24, 2015 at 06:01PM
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