The Stains of Cul­ture: An Eth­no-Read­ing of Karaite Jew­ish Women

Ruth Tsof­far
  • Review
By – July 9, 2012
Tsof­far, a Sephardic-Israeli aca­d­e­m­ic, exam­ines Karaite life in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia through the expe­ri­ence of the nid­dah (the men­stru­at­ing woman), in light of the cen­tral­i­ty of puri­ty issues in Karaism. Rit­u­als and obser­vances asso­ci­at­ed with the female body reflect bib­li­cal inter­pre­ta­tions, ide­ol­o­gy, and iden­ti­ty. Accord­ing to schol­ars, the Karaites emerged from Judaism in the 8th cen­tu­ry, reject­ing the Oral Law of the Rab­bis. They accept the Hebrew Bible alone. Tsoffar’s rel­a­tive­ly small sam­ple pop­u­la­ton immi­grat­ed to Cal­i­for­nia main­ly from Egypt. Unlike many Euro­pean Karaites, they have strong ties to Israel, where there is a Karaite com­mu­ni­ty, and to Zion­ism. This high­ly detailed study of Karaism in tran­si­tion in Amer­i­ca will inter­est stu­dents of women’s stud­ies, anthro­pol­o­gy, minor­i­ty cul­tures, and Judaism.
Lib­by K. White is direc­tor of the Joseph Mey­er­hoff Library of Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty in Bal­ti­more, MD and gen­er­al edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries Newsletter.

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