I frequently interact with people who are new to Judaism and Karaism, and it often happens that they ask me for book recommendations. The following are the books I recommend about Karaism in the order I would suggest reading them.
- As It Is Written. This is a slim volume containing a very basic introduction to Karaite Judaism. It’s a good place to start learning about Karaism in general.
- Introduction to Karaite Judaism. This is an introductory book on Karaite practice. It too is a quick read, and it stays very much in the realm of the practical.
- Mikdash Me’at. This is a translation of the work by one of our historical Hakhamim published on the Karaite Jews of America website in multiple parts. It includes translator’s notes about other Hakhamim’s thoughts and modern practice and interpretation. This work is denser than the two books listed above, but an excellent introduction to Karaite exegesis in action.
- The Karaite Anthology. This book is very dense and written with an academic audience in mind. It discusses the various views and interpretations of several great Hakhamim.
- Karaite Jews of Egypt. Egyptian Karaites currently dominate Karaite hierarchy, and the Karaites in the United States are of Egyptian origin. This book is the history of Karaites in Egypt.
It is not sufficient, however, to learn about Karaism alone. The Jewish experience in the United States is predominantly Ashkenazic. In order to join the world of American Jewry, some understanding of its majority group is necessary. If that is not acquired, it is not possible to understand how Karaism fits into the grand scheme of Judaism. The following books are listed in no particular order.
- God: A Biography. This is not a Jewish book. It was written by an ex-Jesuit who studied at Hebrew University in Israel. His purpose is to examine Hashem as the protagonist in a piece of literature (the biblical narrative). His examination is deliberately secular, but includes a lot of historical, cultural, and linguistic information. He also discusses at length the different narratives created by the Jewish and Christian ordering of the canonical books. Understanding the narrative created by the TaNaKh order (the order the author chose to emphasize) is the first step in developing a Jewish world view. It’s also very handy that his secular approach takes religious readers out of their intellectual comfort zone.
- Jew vs. Jew. Each chapter in this book outlines the unique experiences of different Jewish individuals. Judaism, even within the American Ashkenazic world, is diverse, and a peak at different versions of that is instructive. This book also introduces the reader to different controversies surrounding various streams of Rabbinical Judaism and the issue of conversion.
- Miriam’s Kitchen. This is the story of a secular American Jew who is drawn into a greater degree if practice by examining her grandmother’s life, centering on the grandmother’s keeping of a kosher kitchen and the imigrant experience. It also discusses the role of the mikveh in Rabbinical Judaism at length.
Contributed by Rachel Kight.