Daybook · On Adventure · On Places & Travel

Daybook: Jewish Pirates Ahoy! Or Just, Oy.

I’m getting started on background research for a piece about Barbados, and came across this book which published earlier this week: Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom–and Revenge by Edward Kritzler.

Jewish pirates –oh what fun! . So, it turns out that the famous pirate Jean Laffite? Raised by a Jewish grandma (maybe) and married a Jewish woman named Cristina Levine.  There’s just endless joke potential, and it feels like it could be inspiration for an all new Hanukah song by Adam Sandler.

But why is this so funny? Check out this thoughtful review in The Forward by Benjamin Ivry:

Could the thrills pirates offer to some readers — and filmgoers — be a
method of turning the tables on today’s international terrorists by
exulting over safely remote historic deeds, committed for arguably
justified motives? To blot out present-day terrorist obscenities, is it
somehow comforting to enjoy tales of old-time terrorists who fought on
the right side? Back in the days when Jews were hunted down from
country to country as permanently stateless exiles, they were treated
like pirates, who likewise did not benefit from the protection of any
nation. A pirate was, as the ancient Roman saying went, hostis humani generis,
an enemy of all mankind. The outcast status of Jews is not so distant
that an emotional recollection, however deeply buried, of outlaw status
makes Jewish pirates more vividly present in our imaginations than we
might have suspected.

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