Friday, May 8, 2009
Jewish Pirates...Who Knew?
Over my years of going back and forth to St. John (where that Reef Bay resides), I've learned that if I can manage to pry myself loose from the beach, the snorkel mask, or a colada, there's some really interesting history to be had in the Caribbean. Edward Kritzler's book "Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean" confirms that point once again, and with breathless, interesting aplomb. Throw away all stereotypes of matzo balls and nervous mothers, because that guy that Johnny Depp portrayed so well on screen, well, he was very likely Jewish.
Yes, that's right, between the Spanish Inquisition and about 1670, Jews found a home in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica. They had been banished from Spain and most of Europe, where the Spanish king and queen divested them of most of their wealth and their lives during the Inquisition. During the ensuing diaspora, the New World seemed like a possible safe place to set up, especially since it was so far from the raging religious intolerance of Europe. Although many Jews ended up being driven from Brazil and other Portuguese holdings, others found safe harbor in Jamaica and other islands. It was here that the Jewish pirates flourished, joining with the British to plunder Spanish ships. And they apparently did such a good job of this, that Spain ended up losing it stronghold in the Caribbean, allowing Britain, Holland, and the Danes put up stakes there. Those Jewish pirates succeeded in taking from Spain some of the blood and profit they had ripped so viciously from their ancestors.
If you want to read a thoroughly interesting book on a forgotten corner of history -- with a bit of justice and revenge thrown in for good measure -- try "Jewish Pirates." The beach will never look quite the same again -- or the deli.