A historical article I drafted in 2010, I suspect for God Made the Rainbow. There seems no reason not to publish it.
Karaite Judaism is a Jewish movement that dates back to the 9th century, though its followers believe that they are following the “original” Judaism described in the Bible. Its origins are murky, but its believed to have been formed from the merger of several religious groups in what is now Iraq. It is estimated there are currently 30,000 Karaim worldwide, with the majority living in Israel. The word “Karaism” derives from the Hebrew Karaim meaning “Followers of Scripture”.
Karaite Judaism’s main difference from mainstream Judaism is a reliance on the Tenakh (Jewish Bible) as the sole source of scripture, and a rejection of Talmud and rabbinical rulings. They say this was the original form of Judaism given to Moses by God, and point to the fact that the Tenakh does not mention the Oral Law as an indicator of this.
Karaite Judaism also places the burden of scriptural interpretation on the individual, rather than the community. The World Karaite Movement says: “The ancient adage of the Karaite sages declares: “Search well in the Scriptures and do not rely on anyone’s opinion”. In this regard the Karaite sages taught: “He who relies upon any of the teachers of the Exile without personal investigation, it is as if he has engaged in idolatry.”” Karaim will abandon any religious custom if it is not found in the Tenakh. Other differences include complete equality of the sexes, a general belief in patrilineal descent, and a calendar based on the new moon.
Despite these differences, Karaim still hold many traditional Jewish beliefs such as the coming of the Messiah, the afterlife, the importance of Hebrew, and the wearing of tzitzit.
The attitude towards karaim of the rabbis has varied from condemning them as heretics, arguing they are sinning but are not to blame because they have been taught falsehoods by their parents, and forbidding their followers to marry any karaite for fear of breaking the marriage purity laws, as karaim do not observe the rabbinic laws on divorce. Today, however, there are so few karaim most rabbis do not address the issue.
For many centuries the Karaite Council of Sages refused to allow converts. This custom was repealed in the late twentieth century and the first conversions to Karaite Judaism in 500 years were accepted in 2007.