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Other Important Influences of the Third Great Awakening
So far we've focussed mainly on the 'Fundamentalist' Protestant/Anglican Christians of this period. While significant, they were only part of the players active during this Awakening. This is one of the things that to me marks a clear separation between the Second and Third Great Awakenings as mentioned above. While reforms and 'times of refreshing' were happening in other groups during the previous Awakenings, these had little impact on American religious experience, which is our primary focus here. During the Third Great Awakening that changed.
Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism
The creation of movements (denominations) within Judaism began during this period. Previously during the modern era there were only two basic types of Jews, only one that most Americans were aware of:
Judaism has always been very diverse and yet the Jews, in part because of historic persecution, always managed to maintain cohesiveness as a people. Some Jews were more observant, some less, most embraced the Talmud, some did not, but "a Jew was a Jew, was a Jew." This began to change during the Russian Pogroms of the Third Great Awakening:
- Karaite Judaism: a now very small ancient non-Rabbinic sect that emerged from the Sadducees (the Tz'dukim) and other groups of the first and second centuries CE. Karaites do not accept the Talmud (i.e. the Rabbinic Oral Torah) as inspired nor as religiously binding (it can be used as a strictly human commentary). There is an estimated 30,000 Karaites in Israel and 4,000 in the United States today. The KJA (or Karaite Jews of America) Congregation B'nai Israel in Daly City, California is the only fully active Karaite synagogue in the US. Nehemia Gordon, a formerly Rabbinic Jew, of the Karaite Korner website is probably the best known Karaite leader in the world today.
- Rabbinic Judaism: the major Jewish group. There are an estimated 13-14 million Rabbinic Jews in the world today (including the non-Religious Jews from this historic trend; the number of "observant" Jews is much lower than this, estimates vary according to what one considers as "observant") with a little under half of them, 5.3 to 6 million, living in the US. A little over half of the Jews have thus far returned Home to Israel. Rabbinic Judaism emerged from the Pharisees (P'rushim) of the 1st centuries BCE and CE. After the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the surviving Pharisees and their followers (most of the Jewish survivors of that catastrophe) re-established the ancient Traditions under Rabbinic authority.During the late 19th century, Russian authorities began to differentiate Karaites from Rabbanite Jews, freeing them from various anti-Semitic laws that affected Jews. The Tsarist governor of the Crimean area told the Karaite leaders that, even though the Tsarist government liked the idea that the Karaites did not accept the Talmud (which the church taught was the reason the Jews did not accept Jesus), they were still Jews and responsible for the death of Jesus and subject to the new anti-Semitic laws. The [Karaite] leaders, hearing that, devised a ruse by which they could be freed of the oppressive laws and told him that the Karaites had already settled in the Crimea before the death of Jesus. The Tsarist government then said that, if they could prove it, they would be free of the oppressive laws. The community leaders charged Avraham Firkovich (1786-1874) with gathering anything that could help "prove" that Karaites were not in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, and thus not responsible for the crucifixion. Through his work, Firkovich helped establish the idea among the Tsarist authorities that the Karaites, as descendants of the exiled northern kingdom of Israel, had already gone into exile centuries before the death of Jesus and thus had no responsibility for it. Firkovich referenced tombstones in Crimea (altering the dates) and gathered thousands of Karaite, Rabbanite, and Samaritan manuscripts, including one Rabbanite document from the southern Caucasus that claims that the Jews there were descendants of the exiles from the northern Kingdom of Israel -- Source.Today the Karaites maintain little connection with Rabbinic Jewish society. There are a few critical differences in beliefs and practices (like rejection of the Talmud, Hillel's calendar re-calculations, paternal lineage rather maternal for determining Jewish identity, etc.).
It was Rabbinic Judaism that became "American Judaism." Most Americans have never met a Karaite Jew. During the Third Great Awakening Jewish cohesiveness began to fragment.
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Bibliography and Resources
Der Alte Weg
Boycott Jew Hatred!
Chicoans For Israel