Karaite Korner Newsletter #7

The Death of a Karaite Hacham

Mordecai Avraham Alfandari, the restorer of Karaism and a great teacher to
the nations, may he find rest in Eden, died yesterday, on September 1, 1999.
He was 69 years old when he died and he lived in Jerusalem for 49 of those
years. Born Marc Alfandari, in Alexandria, Egypt to a Greek Jewish mother
and a Turkish Jewish father who had fled from the Turkish draft. At the age
of 8 he and his family immigrated to New York where he grew up and
discovered YHWH, the Tanach and his mission in life. At the age of 9 he
read an
Historical novel set in the reign of King David. He asked his father about
the god named Jehovah which the characters in the book kept talking about.
His parents told him that Jehovah was the god of a Christian cult in
Brooklyn (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and that Jews didn’t believe in him. He soon
discovered that what they said was not true and from that day forward he
searched for YHWH’s truth. After studying in a Rabbinical Yeshivah and
reading Karaite books in the New York Public Library he arrived at the
simple truth that the only true religion was the religion of the Hebrew
Scriptures. While still in New York he began to publish pamphlets calling
on Gentiles to abandon their false gods and return to YHWH. At first, he
preached that Gentiles should keep the 7 Commandments of Noah but he soon
learned that these were a Rabbinical invention and that the Commandments of
the Tanach were for all mankind. He believed Israel should be a “Light
unto the Nations” and he began to publish tracts to the nations under the
title “The Light of Israel” (meaning “The light which emanates from

In 1950 Mordecai immigrated to Israel and settled in Jerusalem. In
Jerusalem he studied at the famous Porat Yosef Yeshivah for several years.
After a government training course he got a job at a factory as a diamond
polisher and he worked in that profession until 1993. Every night after a
full days work he would come home and spend hours reading scholarly books,
corresponding with people in all parts of the world, and sending out his

When he first arrived in Israel he met the handful of Karaites then in
Jerusalem including the Sinani family native to Jerusalem and a Karaite
immigrant from Halicz named Mordecai (Marc) Abramovitch. When the first big
wave of Karaites came from Egypt in 1954 he went to Moshav Masliah to great
them and welcome them to their new country. Being a xenophobic group, many
treated him with suspicion. Yet still he persisted and taught Torah to the
Karaites. He introduced the Hachamim to many ancient Karaite books which
they had not been aware of including Hizzuk Emunah (which Harav Hayyim Levy
republished on Mordecai’s advice), Sefer Milhamot Hashem, and others.

When Mordecai saw the Egyptian Karaites eating the non-Kosher ‘Alyah
(sheep’s fat-tail) he showed them where this was forbidden in the Torah and
explained how historically the Karaite Hachamim always noted this as one of
the commandments which the Karaites keep and the Rabbanites do not. At
first this was met with resistance and his life was even threatened but
eventually the Egyptian Karaites realized that Mordecai was right and
stopped eating the non-Kosher ‘Alyah. In the years 1956-1958 Mordecai also
published a Karaite Newsletter in Hebrew called “Ha’Or” (“The Light”) in
which he called upon the Karaites and other Jews to keep the commandments of
the Tanach and to live up to their obligation to be a “Light unto the

After the Egyptian Karaites settled in Israel, Mordecai began spending every
holiday with them. Since there was no Karaite synagogue in Jerusalem at the
time he would stay with a Karaite family, usually in Moshav Masliah. He
became very good friends with the Karaite Chief Hacham, Emanuel
Mass’oudah, and he used to spend every holiday at the Mass’oudah home.

After the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated from the Jordanians in 1967
Mordecai went to the Jewish Quarter to find the ancient Karaite Synagogue in
with the roof caved in and full of rubble. He watched as the Jewish Quarter
was rebuilt and wondered when the Karaite Community would rebuild the
ancient Karaite synagogue. After several years he saw nothing was being
done so he borrowed a camera from a friend and took pictures of the
mound of rubble where the synagogue had once stood. He then published a
letter with a picture of the ruined synagogue and circulated it among the
Karaites who were moved at seeing the ancient synagogue in such a state.
his efforts had an effect and the Synagogue was rebuilt. After the Karaite
Synagogue in Jerusalem was rebuilt Mordecai attended regularly. At the
Synagogue he met visitors from all over the world who came asking about
Karaism and for many years he served as the only guide to those seeking to
become Karaites.

Throughout the years Mordecai travelled to many distant lands and spent much
time in his father’s native Istanbul. He learned several languages
including English, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, French, and others. All these
he spoke and read fluently in addition to his mother tongue, Judeo-Spanish,
which was the only language his Greek mother and Turkish father had in
common. He was a great man and a great friend and the world will be empty
without him.

Mordecai Avraham Alfandari, The Light of Israel

Oh how the might have fallen;
The glory of Israel lies slain on the highlands!

The winding alleys wail at their bereavement;
No more shall the wise man walk through them.

The Jewish Quarter is desolate and the Shuk has fallen silent;
Geulah, Zephaniah St., and Bukharim all mourn their loss.

No longer shall wisdom be taught in Kikar Davidka;
No more shall Torah be heard on Navon Street.

The sky is gloomy and the sun hides in shame;
for The Light of Israel has been extinguished.

Mordecai was a just man
and perfect in his generations,
and Mordecai walked with God.

May His Memory be Blessed,

Nehemia Gordon
The Karaite Korner
POB 7816
Jerusalem 91078

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