Question & Answer:
Do you get many converts to Karaite Judaism? Shabbat shalom.
Karaite Judaism certainly doesn’t have a shortage of people requesting to convert. Oddly enough, Karaite Judaism for the past few hundred years hadn’t really facilitated many conversions up until the early 2000’s here in the United States. That’s when the Karaite Jewish University was formed and they started giving online courses on Judaism. From there, they made a conversion program with coursework that could be taken online. All those converting would, of course, need to be physically present to go before a beit din (house of judges) before the KJU could sign off on their conversion. The issue with this institution is that is not a full-time one — meaning the members do so in their free time as a labor of love. While this is nice, it leads to many inconsistencies over the years and some teachers or leaders may be unavailable. This can lead to such instances as our current state, being that this institution is not currently in session.
Funny story: when I wanted to convert, I contacted some friends who had gone through the KJU’s conversion program to gather information. They said that the KJU wasn’t in session at the time. I ended up later converting through another Jewish community of which I am still an active member and leader. They are not solely Karaite. I had been a part of this community before beginning the process of conversion.
My advice to someone seeking a conversion to Karaite Judaism:
1. Don’t think about it as converting to Karaism, Karaite Judaism, Conservative Judaism, or Orthodox Judaism. It is a conversion to Judaism — to being a part of the Jewish nation. It’s like if someone were to move from Russia to Oklahoma and receive United States citizenship. They would say, “I am an Oklahoma citizen.” They are United States citizens first who just so happen to live in Oklahoma. The flavor of Judaism is dependant on the community where you actively participate on a regular basis.
2. Find a community you like. It doesn’t have a Karaite synagogue and it probably won’t be. Having a Jewish community to call home is more important than the denomination on the sign. Meet the rabbi, other members, attend services regularly, volunteer, etc.
3. When you find a community you like, after a few months, bring up conversion to the rabbi or other leadership. It should always be community first, conversion later. Just emailing a Jewish community to ask about their conversion program before spending time there is always a red flag to them that you mostly want the conversion certificate and that you may split soon after. Jewish communities are much more eager to help those with conversion whom they consider part of the community and who will contribute to it with their efforts and participation in the future.
I hope that somewhat answered your question! Anyone reading this is free to correct any errors I have written.