Are questions about non-rabbinic forms of Judaism (Karaite, Sadducee, Essene, etc.) in scope here?

I've added a tag () to at least group these questions. It would be great if someone with privileges can add relevant synonyms of the sects.

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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/23475/759 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26064/759 and comments thereon
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 6:16
  • What synonyms would you like added? Tell me here in a comment. (Others can suggest things too.)
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 18:35
  • @DoubleAA You should add 'karaite-judaism', 'sadducee-judaism', 'haymanot', 'hellenistic-judaism', and consider 'Samaritanism', but I'm not sure if that one is on topic. I did not include 'essene-judaism' because as far as I know that was a type of Rabbinic Judaism - but maybe it should be included anyway. Maybe also 'beta-israel'.
    – Ariel
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 20:10
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    I think Samaritan is certainly worthy to be included. There might (for example) be a question about Samaritans and Rosh Chodesh. I wonder whether Samaritans, though, should get tagged with samaritan-judaism or just samaritan. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 22:40
  • @DoubleAA I think 'essene-judaism' and also 'qumran' and 'dead-sea-scrolls' Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 1:35
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    @DoubleAA There is an existing tag 'ethiopian-beta-israel' which may need to be merged.
    – Ariel
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 9:32
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    Since Karaites are considered Jews according to Sephardic halacha, because they are quoted by Saddiah Gaon in instances in which he agrees, but mostly when he disagrees, i think they are on topic. Although i think they are outside the realm of expertise of most of our users.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 8:16
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    @Aaron "Since Karaites are considered Jews according to Sephardic halacha...i think they are on topic" That doesn't follow. Jews aren't on topic. Judaism is. The fact that a certain person is a Jew doesn't make questions about that person's religion on topic and certainly not questions about them.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 17:50
  • @Ariel: The Yerushalmi calls the Boethians the "Beis Issiim". And that closes the gap between Josephus's list of the major movements of the day with the names of movements our sages drop. But if that's true, the Essenes were not a rabbinic Judaism. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


See the answers to this question, which do not discuss non-rabbinic Judaism specifically, but whose points can be expanded to them. My own answer there says:

The question asks:

1. Are questions asked from the perspective of, or about, a particular movement on-topic? Always? Only halachic movements like Conservative? Never; this is an Orthodox site?

Monica Cellio's answer (hereinafter "MC" (just for ease and WADR)):

Asking questions about, or from the perspective of, any Jewish movement or community should be permitted.

I agree in general, but we need a question to be answerable and (as the FAQ list says) "for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more".

Thus, it cannot be "Can someone explain this practice of Mysect Judaism?" where Mysect Judaism lacks Jewish-tradition-based sources that discuss the question.

As far as I can tell from what little I know about Karaite Judaism, that last paragraph applies to its practices directly where such practices differ from mainstream Judaism's, or at least to most such. Definitely this can be decided on a case-by-case basis, though.

Compare https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/472.

I'm guessing you asked this as a followup-to the recent question "Are there any Jewish sects which regard the Oral Law… as unlawful addition to the religion? If yes who are they and what are their beliefs?". The last part of that ("what are their beliefs?") is off-topic IMO per what I wrote above. The rest of it is, from the perspective of the asker, not off-topic, since it asks about something that the asker doesn't know lacks Judaism sources; a good answer might be "yes, but such is not generally considered Judaism; the most prominent example is the Karaites" with a link to more information.

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    Thank you for stepping up to make a ruling - one that is nuanced, wise, and founded on precedent.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 16:55
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 17:58

While it might at times seem less than diplomatic, it makes little sense to broaden the scope of the site to include offshoots of Judaism that promote ideas generally considered to be heretical by the overwhelming majority of mainstream authorities (e.g. the outright rejection of Maimonides 13 principles of faith and/or the denigration of the Jewish sages). If one were to include such outside sects, the boundaries defining the scope of the site become, at best, capricious. After all, Christianity also claimed to be the "true" Judaism. Islam, as well, is an offshoot of and/or borrows heavily from the faith. Furthermore, atheistic and/or Reconstructionist Jews have their own religion they christen "Judaism". What remains off-topic? I think it's important to be to distinguish being appropriately respectful of persons from other socio-religious backgrounds without having to abandon one's own sense of religious identity and one's own traditions, in the name of a false pluralism.


Personally I consider the following to be scope on this website.

Sects that can trace their tradition back thousands of years to our Rabbinic Tradition. Karaites, who are an offshoot of Rabbinic Judaism, have inherited a lot from us. Just because they reject 80 and keep 20, doesn't mean that 20 isn't legitimate Judaism. If it's legitimate enough for Saadia Gaon to write with Karaites, and occassionally accept their positions, then how could it not be Judaism?

I apply a similar methodology to Ethiopians. Their path through history is more obscure, so less can be traced back. But the ways in which they have not deviated to the left or right should be upheld as Judaism.

I also apply this methodology to the various sects around the time of the destruction of the second temple. All of those Jewish sects probably had more access to knowledge and tradition than we do now. So it's useful to discuss their versions of the dead sea scrolls for example, but their documents about how they personally ran their community I would not consider on topic.

Our Biblical tradition celebrates us being Goy Echad, one nation. I think we should do our best to not deviate from this for this website. All sorts of Jews will find this website, Egyptian Karaites, Ethiopian Jews, Indian Jews. We do not need to be threatened by how their practice is different than ours, just like Ashkenazim and Sepharadim shouldn't be threatened of each other.

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