Karaites hold first conversion in 500 years

A fringe Jewish sect that rejects the authority of post-biblical rabbinic law performed its first conversion in 500 years.

The Karaite Jews of America, a sect with 1,000 members, gathered in a northern California synagogue Tuesday for the ceremony, according to a report in j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.

After a year of study, 10 adults and four minors – from locations as far afield as the Cezch Republic, Australia and Canada – swore fealty to Karaite Judaism.

The Karaites trace their origins to eighth century Persia and are estimated to number 35,000 worldwide. Their rejection of rabbinic interpretation of the Bible has led to some odd, and seemingly un-Jewish customs, such as prostrate prayer and removal of footwear in the synagogue. Karaites permit the mixing of milk and poultry, but they refuse the use of any lights on the Sabbath.

A decision 15 years ago by the Karaite Council of Sages in Israel reversed a longstanding ban on the acceptance of converts.

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