Saturday, April 9, 2016
Jewish pirates of the Caribbean
...THE MOST famous of the Caribbean’s Jewish pirates, or privateers, was Moses Cohen Henriques. His name is of Portuguese origin. Like many of his contemporary buccaneers, Henriques’s life is shrouded in mystery. Together with Dutch folk hero Admiral Piet Pieterszoon Hein, Henriques captured a Spanish treasure fleet off Cuba’s Bay of Matanzas in 1628. The booty of gold and silver bullion amounted to a staggering 11,509,524 guilders, worth around US$1 billion in today’s currency. It was the Dutch West Indies Company’s greatest heist in the Caribbean.Another notable – if poorly documented – Jewish pirate was Yaakov Koriel, who commanded three pirate ships in the Caribbean. Upon repenting, he retired to Safed where he studied mysticism under the famous kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (known as the holy Ari). Koriel is buried near the Ari’s grave in the Upper Galilee town’s Old Cemetery. Similarly a pirate named David Abrabanel, evidently from the same family as the famous Spanish rabbinic dynasty (which included Don Isaac Abrabanel who fled Spain in 1492 after unsuccessfully trying to bribe Ferdinand and Isabella to rescind their catastrophic expulsion decree), joined British privateers after his family was butchered off the South American coast. He used the nom de guerre “Captain Davis” and commanded his own pirate vessel named Jerusalem.
Henriques, Koriel and Abrabanel spoke Ladino, and knew the sting of the anti-Semitic slur marrano, meaning pig. The most infamous American Jewish freebooter spoke French, and knew the insult of maudit juif (damned Jew).
A US national park in Louisiana proudly bears the name of Jean Lafitte of New Orleans. According to the aforementioned author Edward Kritzler, the kosher swashbuckler was the inspiration for Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.According to retired political science professor Edward Bernard Glick (“Lafitte’s Jewish origins,” The Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2006) “[Lafitte] was a Sephardi Jew, as was his first wife, who was born in the Danish Virgin Islands. In his prime, Lafitte ran not just one pirate sloop but a whole fleet of them simultaneously. He even bought a blacksmith shop in New Orleans, which he used as a front for fencing pirate loot. And he was one of the few buccaneers who didn’t die in battle, in prison or on the gallows.”...