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A weekend in Lithuania
2008Karaites in Trakai
Trakai: The karaites Ethnographical Exhibition Museum

As the churches, the Kenesa was closed but fortunately the Karaites ethnographic museum was open. The who?
OK, maybe you’ve never heard about the Karaites. That’s alright. This religious community has quite members.

Numbers vary according to estimations, but it’s thought that there are between 15 000 and 30 000 Karaites worldwide, most of them living in Israel, Turkey, the United States and Ukraine.

The museum is really worth visiting. I didn't take any pictures from the inside, but you can find some photos here.

Trakai: The karaites Ethnographical Exhibition Museum

The Karaites are a Middle Eastern religious community which originated in Baghdad. Their name means “to study the scriptures”.
Their scripture is the Tanakh and they reject the Rabbinic Talmud. 

On the 15th Century 380 Karaite families were brought to Trakai from Crimea (In present day Ukraine) by Vytautas, Grand Duke Of Lithuania.
Over the centuries some of them became part of the nobility.

Today only a few families remain in Trakai and Lithuania: the community had 257 members in 1997.

The Kenesa Of Trakai, Karaite Temple

Ukrainian and Lithuanian Karaites are generally called Qarays, "Crimean Karaites", or most commonly Karaim, the Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Polish name given to the community.

Most Crimean Karaites deny their Israelite origins and consider themselves as descendants of the Turkic Khazars. This is not the case of Karaites living is Israel or elsewhere.

The Kenesa, Karaite Temple. Trakai, Lithuania

The Kenesa is the name given in Central Europe to the Karaim place of worship. In Israel the name is just Karaite Synagogue.
The word Kenesa comes from the Aramaic translation of "assembly". Beit Knesset is the Hebrew word for synagogue.

There are few Kenesas in the world, most of them are to be found in Ukraine and the main is in the city of Eupatoria, Crimea.
There are two Kenesas in Lithuania, this one in Trakai, and another one in Vilnius. I didn’t visit the latter.

Karaite Houses in Trakai

Karaim traditional houses have three windows: one for God, one for the family, and one for Grand Duke Vytautas.

If you want to know more about the Lithuanian Karaims, you can visit their website at this location.