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The Qaraites As Sect: The Tyranny Of A Construct

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Chapter Summary

This chapter proposes an alternative way of understanding the historical relationship between medieval Rabbanites and Qaraites and considers the implications such an alternative approach might bear for the study of other religious schisms. The story of Qaraism as a deviant branch of Judaism received its fullest historiographic incarnation on the Iberian Peninsula. The triumphalist narrative of Rabbanite supremacy over Qaraism was the product of a particular set of power relations on the Iberian Peninsula, where most of the courtiers were Rabbanite rather than Qaraite and the rulers they served remained sympathetic to their demands. Scholars of the Geniza, driven by the belief that the Ben Ezra synagogue preserved little of value related to non-rabbinic Jews, continued to exclude the Qaraites from analyses of the medieval Jewish community, hindering a full understanding of the wider community's structure and functioning.

Keywords: Jewish community; Qaraites; Rabbanites



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