Krymchaks - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. In the past all Krymchaks practiced Orthodox Judaism, which was a central and unifying force in the community. Their prayer book ( Makhor Minhag Kafa ) was based on a combination of several Jewish traditions. Their synagogue service, religious practices, and Hebrew pronunciation were also somewhat different from those of the Ashkenazi Jews. Thus, in the synagogue the Krymchaks prayed sitting on carpets spread on the floor. To discuss everyday business in the synagogue was forbidden; so as not to occasion secular discourse, Krymchaks entered and exited the synagogue as a single group. After the shutting down of Krymchak synagogues, and especially in the wake of World War II, the extent of religious worship sharply declined. The observance of the rules of kashruth ceased altogether. In the early 1980s only a handful of elders attended the Ashkenazi synagogue in Simferopol', and even then only during the High Holidays.

In the past, various folk beliefs and superstitions, especially the fear of the evil eye, were widespread among the Krymchaks.

Arts. Krymchak secular literature consisted mainly of recorded folklore in the Krymchak vernacular language. Handwritten collections of songs, tales, riddles, and proverbs were carefully recorded, supplemented, and kept from generation to generation. Musical folklore was widespread as well. No family feast or celebration would be complete without a round of folk songs. New songs continued to be composed even after World War II; most of these were inspired by the Holocaust.

Medicine. Whereas at the present time the Krymchaks avail themselves exclusively of the services provided by modern medicine, in the past they practiced folk medicine, including various magical remedies.

Death and Afterlife. Concepts of death and afterlife, along with corresponding rituals, were mainly those of Orthodox Judaism. After World War II a new cultural institution, the tkun, was established to commemorate Krymchaks who perished in the Holocaust. From the cultural point of view, tkun is a mixture of general Jewish tradition, analogous to Ashkenazi yahrzeit (mourning rituals), interwoven with local Krymchak traditions and even with non-Jewish traditions.


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