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A ‘privateer or corsair’ was a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign vessels during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having vessels be commissioned into regular service as warships. The crew of a privateer might be treated as prisoners of war by the enemy country if captured.

Historically, the distinction between a privateer and a pirate has been subjective, often depending on the source as to which label was correct in a particular circumstance. The actual work of a pirate and a privateer is generally the same (raiding and plundering ships); it is, therefore, the authorization and perceived legality of the actions that form the distinction. At various times, governments indiscriminately granted authorization for privateering to a variety of ships, so much so that would-be pirates could easily operate under a veil of legitimacy.

(From Wikipedia) In the days of fighting sail, a letter of marque and reprisal was a government license authorizing a person (known as a privateer) to attack and capture enemy vessels and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale. Cruising for prizes with a letter of marque was considered an honorable calling combining patriotism and profit, in contrast to unlicensed piracy, which was universally reviled. In addition to the term lettre de marque, the French sometimes used the term lettre de course for their letters of marque. "Letter of marque" was sometimes used to describe the vessel used: a letter of marque generally refers to a lumbering square-rigged cargo carrier that might pick up a prize if the opportunity arose. A ‘privateer’ was a fast and weatherly fore-and-aft-rigged vessel heavily armed and heavily crewed, intended exclusively for fighting.

A letter of marque and reprisal would include permission to cross an international border to effect a reprisal (take some action against an attack or injury) authorized by an issuing jurisdiction to conduct reprisal operations outside its borders.

See also Pirates, Privateers, Corsairs, Buccaneers: What’s the Difference?  ( Encyclopaedia Britannica)


While there is some mention of Jewish pirates in antiquity, especially during the Hasmonean period, most operated after the Spanish expulsion of the Jews in 1492. They attacked the Catholic Empire's shipping both as Barbary corsairs from their refuge in the Ottoman Empire and privateers by bearing letters of marque from Spanish rivals such as the United Netherlands. Many Jews were involved economically in backing privateers attacking Spanish ships. They all viewed this as a profitable revenge strategy for the expulsion and the Inquisition's continued religious persecution of the Jews in the Old and New Worlds.

Their accomplishments included helping to defeat the Spanish-Imperial fleet at the 1538 Battle of Preveza, leading to the only successful capture of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628, helping the Dutch capture part of Brazil from Portugal and in the 1655 British conquest of Jamaica from the Spanish.


Ancient Jewish life was concentrated around in the highlands of the Samarian and Judaean Mountains, located some distance from the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, Jews were initially not very active in seafaring or navigation. After 142 BCE, the Jewish Hasmonean state acquired ports of their own. Joppa (Jaffa), Ashdod and Gaza were added to their domain, and a small number of Jewish sailors developed.

Jewish pirates were first mentioned by Josephus. There is a drawing of a pirate ship following two merchant ships at Jason's Tomb in Jerusalem. The drawing shows three ships, one of which is a war ship with Jason holding the bow and getting ready to shoot. The painting is dated back at early 1st century BCE. Seleucid Empire decay was a result of the Maccabean war, and was followed by an influx of Jewish and Arab pirates operating from Levant. Pompey's journey to Judea may indicate a connection between Jewish and Cilician pirates. As a matter of fact there were so many Jews at the sea, some of which were pirates, during Pompey's time that king Antigonus II Mattathias was accused in sending them out in purpose.

By the end of First Jewish–Roman War, also known as The Great Revolt, Jews who had been driven out of Galilee rebuilt Joppa (Jaffa), which had been destroyed earlier by Cestius Gallus. Surrounded and cut off by the Romans they rebuilt the city walls, and used a light flotilla to demoralize commerce and interrupt the grain supply to Rome from Alexandria.

In his The Jewish War Josephus wrote:

“ They also built themselves a great many piratical ships, and turned pirates upon the seas near to Syria, and Phoenicia, and Egypt, and made those seas unnavigable to all men. ”

In July 67 Vespasian attacked Joppa. The people of Joppa took to the sea, but a pre-dawn storm wrecked the ships. Many drowned, others killed themselves. Those who survived the wreck, numbering about 4,200, were killed by Romans. Joppa was destroyed once again.

“ But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred.

After Joppa's destruction for the second time Vespasian built a citadel there to prevent the Jewish pirates from taking the city over for the third time. The Romans considered their victory over Joppa's pirates very important, and commemorated it with the large number of coins for "naval victory".


Iberian Jewish Pirates

The Age of Exploration was in part enabled by a crucial navigational advances developed by the primarily Jewish Majorcan cartographic school as well as Abraham Zacuto's ephemerides (gives the positions of naturally occurring astronomical objects as well as artificial satellites in the sky at a given time or times.). Zacuto was the Royal Astronomer and Historian of Portugal until he fled the Inquisition. Vasco Da Gama even lent his name to his Jewish pilot Gaspar da Gama. Many Jews also worked as ship navigators. Their knowledge and skills in ship navigation suddenly expelled from Iberia made enemies of the state were contributing factors to the development of Jewish piracy.

After Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, many of them settled in the friendlier Muslim lands of the Mediterranean (the Ottoman Empire for example). Like their Muslim compatriots who were likewise expelled in 1492, Jews were also looking to revenge Inquisition brutality by sharing with Muslims the newest military technique and secrets used by Christians. And they also joined in on the Muslim Anti-Christian Piracy of the Mediterranean, such as Sinan Reis and Samuel Pallache.

The English State Papers of 1521 bear evidences of Sinan Reis, who sailed with Hayreddin Barbarossa:

“ As to Coron, it was reported at Rome a few days ago that Andrea Doria was informed that the famous Jewish pirate had prepared a strong fleet to meet the Spanish galleys which are to join Doria's nineteen”

Christopher Columbus himself noticed a great symbolism in expulsion Jews from Spain and sea voyages of discovery, when he started his diary with this statement:

“ In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and the territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake, with sufficient men, my expedition of discovery to the Indies.”

Jewish pirates of Jamaica

Today there are only around 200 Jews living in Jamaica. However, at some point 20% of Kingston's population were Jews of Portuguese-Spanish ancestry, while Spanish Town was founded by escaped Jews. The first Jews landed on the island in 1530 just 40 years after it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. While for a time the Columbus family's rule kept out the Inquisition, when their power was eroded and the Church began threatening the crypto-Jewish populace, they aided the British conquest of the Isle. Under the British, Port Royal Jamaica was home not only to privateers bearing letters of marque for operating against the Spanish, some of whom were Jewish, but was also home to a large Jewish community which economically backed the raids against the Spanish.

In 2008 an old Jewish cemetery was discovered outside Kingston. Some tombstones have not only Hebrew writing, but are also marked with the skull and crossbones — pirate symbols.

Jewish pirates of Jamaica named their ships for ancient Jewish heroes and prophets like Prophet Samuel, Queen Esther and Shield of Abraham. They targeted Spanish and Portuguese merchant ships. One of the most famous Jewish pirates of Jamaica was Moses Cohen Henriques Eanes, who in 1628, led with Piet Pieterszoon Hein the only successful capture of the Spanish treasure fleet.  He went on to aid the Dutch capture of northeast Brazil from Portugal.



Moses Cohen Henriques Eanes

He was a Jewish Sephardic pirate, operating in the Caribbean.

Henriques Eanes helped Dutch naval officer and folk hero Admiral Piet Pieterszoon Hein, of the Dutch West India Company, capture the Spanish treasure fleet in the battle of the Bay of Matanzas in Cuba, during the Eighty Years' War, in 1628.

Part of the Spanish fleet in Venezuela had been warned because a Dutch cabin boy had lost his way on Blanquilla island and was captured, betraying the plan, but the other half from Mexico continued its voyage, unaware of the threat. Sixteen Spanish ships were intercepted; one galleon was taken after a surprise encounter during the night, nine smaller merchants were talked into a surrender; two small ships were taken at sea fleeing, four fleeing galleons were trapped on the Cuban coast in the Bay of Matanzas. After some musket volleys from Dutch sloops their crews surrendered also and the Dutch captured 11,509,524 guilders of booty in gold, silver, and other expensive trade goods, as indigo and cochineal, without any bloodshed. The Dutch did not take prisoners: they gave the Spanish crews ample supplies for a march to Havana. The treasure was the company's greatest victory in the Caribbean.

Henriques Eanes then went on to lead a Jewish contingent in Brazil during the Dutch rule, and established his own pirate island off the Brazilian coast. After the Portuguese recapture of Northern Brazil in 1654, Moses fled South America and ended up as an advisor to Henry Morgan, the leading pirate of the time.

Sinan Reis, also Ciphut Sinan, (Hebrew: סנאן ראיס‎‎, Sinan Rais; Arabic: سنان ريس‎‎, Sinan Rayyis; d. 1546?) or "Sinan the Chief", and Portuguese: Sinao o Judeo, "Sinan the Jew",
From Wikipedia

He was a Barbary corsair and Jewish pirate who sailed under famed Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa.

Born to a Sephardic Jewish family which fled Spain and possibly relocated to the then Ottoman ruled Smyrna, Sinan sailed as a Barbary corsair, a type of privateer or pirate, under the Ottoman flag. There are several cases of Jews who upon fleeing Iberia turned to attacking the Empire's shipping, a profitable strategy of revenge for the Inquisition's religious persecution. He was based out of Mediterranean points including Santorini, and fought in several key battles against the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire, at the time ruled by the same man, Charles.

The English State Papers of 1521 bear evidences of his actions:

As to Coron, it was reported at Rome a few days ago that Andrea Doria was informed that the famous Jewish pirate had prepared a strong fleet to meet the Spanish galleys which are to join Doria's nineteen

His moniker "the Great Jew", appears in a 1528 reference by the Governor of Portuguese India, who mistakenly believed that Sinan was sent by Suleiman the Magnificent to aid the King of Calicut.

Sinan sailed under famed Barbary corsair and Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa at the 1538 Battle of Preveza against Charles' Imperial fleet and its commander, Andrea Doria. Sinan suggested landing troops at Actium on the Gulf of Arta near Preveza, an idea which Barbarossa initially opposed, but which later proved to be important for securing the Ottoman victory.

Around 1540, Sinan's son was travelling by sea to meet him after one of Sinan's victories. The boy was taken captive by Emperor Charles' forces and was ultimately handed over to the Lord of Elba, who baptized him and raised him at court.  Barbarossa made several unsuccessful attempts to ransom Sinan's son. While sailing nearby in 1544, Barbarossa sent an envoy to Elba to again attempt to free the boy. The island's Lord replied that his "religious scruples forbade him to surrender a baptized Christian to an infidel"[this quote needs a citation]. Infuriated, Barbarossa landed men at Piombino, sacked the town, and blew up the fort, after which the ruler agreed to release his "boy-favorite". The news from Barbarossa reached Sinan at Suez on the Red Sea, where the "Great Jew" was constructing a fleet to aid an Indian ruler expel the Portuguese.

Sinan (the pirate) is not buried in a Jewish cemetery in Albania. because that fact refers to the grave of Kapudan Sinan (Sinanüddin Fakih Yusuf) Pasha (admiral of the Ottoman fleet 1550-1554) who lies buried near his mosque in Üsküdar (Istanbul). Note that the Turkish word for Scutari (in Albania) is also Üsküdar).

Yaakov Koriel

Yaakov Koriel was born to Jewish family that converted to Christianity under pressure from the Inquisition when Yaakov was a child. As a young man, Yaakov Koriel was a captain of the Spanish fleet until he was caught by the Inquisition. He was freed by his sailors, most of whom were marranos themselves. For many years after that his only goal was revenge. He had three pirate ships under his command. Little is known about what happened to him later. Some believe that eventually he made his way to the Holy Land, studied Kabbalah and died peacefully of old age.

Samuel Pallache
From Wikipedia,

Portrait of a contemporary Man in Oriental Costume by the Rembrandt workshop, used to illustrate a book about Samuel Pallache[1]

Samuel Pallache (Hebrew: שמואל פלאג'י, Shmuel Palach) (c. 1550 – February 4, 1616) was a Jewish-Moroccan merchant, diplomat and pirate who was sent as an envoy to the Dutch Republic in 1608.

Pallache was born in Fez, Morocco. His family originated from Islamic Spain, where his father had served as rabbi in Córdoba. Sometime in the first half of the 16th Century, following the Christian conquest of Islamic Spain (the Reconquista), the family fled to Morocco, where Jews, like Christians, were tolerated as long as they accepted Islam as the official religion. This allowed a vibrant Jewish community to emerge in Morocco, serving as a bridgehead between the Islamic, Christian and Jewish worlds.

After a delegation from the Dutch Republic visited Morocco to discuss a common alliance against Spain and the Barbary pirates, sultan Zidan Abu Maali in 1608 appointed the merchant Samuel Pallache to be his envoy to the Dutch government in The Hague. Officially, Pallache was his "agent", not ambassador.

On June 23, 1608, Pallache met stadholder Maurice of Nassau and the States-General in The Hague to negotiate an alliance of mutual assistance against Spain. On December 24, 1610, the two nations signed a treaty recognising free commerce between the Netherlands and Morocco, and allowing the sultan to purchase ships, arms and munitions from the Dutch. This was one of the first official treaties between a European country and a non-Christian nation, after the 16th-Century treaties of the Franco-Ottoman alliance.

The story goes that, one day, Pallache's horse-drawn carriage met the carriage of the Spanish ambassador in The Hague. The two carriages were unable to pass one another and, to cheers from onlookers, the Spanish ambassador's carriage had to make way for Pallache's carriage.

Research has shown that Pallache secretly acted as a double agent.[citation needed] He maintained close ties with the Spanish court and passed classified information about Dutch-Moroccan relations on to the Spanish. At the same time, he was passing information about Spain back to the Dutch and Moroccans. When this eventually came to light, he fell out of favor with the sultan.[citation needed]

In addition to his diplomatic affairs, Pallache also continued his activities as a merchant, actively trading between the Netherlands and Morocco. He also got permission from Prince Maurice for privateering activities. The goods obtained through these pirating activities were sold along the Moroccan coast.

In 1614 he captured a Portuguese ship and, unable to bring its cargo ashore in Morocco, sailed for the Netherlands. A heavy storm forced him to seek refuge in an English port where, by request of the Spanish ambassador, he was arrested and imprisoned. Eventually prince Maurice came to his aid and managed to bring him back to the Netherlands. However, he had lost all his money by then and fell ill shortly thereafter. On February 4, 1616, he died in The Hague, and was buried in the Sephardi-Jewish cemetery Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, near Amsterdam.

Jean Lafitte (c. 1780 – c. 1823)
(click to go to website for more information)

He was a French-American pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte". The latter has become the common spelling in the United States, including for places named for him.

Lafitte is believed to have been born either in France or the French colony of Saint-Domingue. By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre Lafitte. After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. By 1810, their new port was very successful; the Lafittes pursued a successful smuggling operation and also started to engage in piracy.

Though Lafitte warned the other Baratarians of a possible military attack on their base of operations, an American naval force successfully invaded in September of 1814 and captured most of Lafitte's fleet. Later, in return for a legal pardon for the smugglers, Lafitte and his comrades helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in early 1815.

The Lafittes became spies for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence and moved to Galveston Island, Texas, where they developed a pirate colony called Campeche. Lafitte continued attacking merchant ships as a pirate around Central American ports until he died circa 1823, trying to capture Spanish vessels. Speculation about his life and death continues among historians.

by  Professor Steven Plaut (Haifa University), Oct 15 2008


They did not sing "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Manischewitz," nor do they ever seem to appear in any of the Disney films about pirates in the Caribbean. The website carries not a single reference to them.

And while September 19 has for a number of years now been designated International Talk Like a Pirate Day (there are even Internet courses available in pirate lingo), none of its initiators seems to have had Ladino (the language spoken by Jewish refugees expelled by the Spanish and Portuguese after the Reconquista) in mind.

Swashbuckling buccaneers who took time to put on tefillin each morning? Better get used to the idea. Long overlooked, the history of Jewish piracy has been garnering increasing interest, with several serious books and articles telling its epic tales.

Many Jewish pirates came from families of refugees who had been expelled by Spain and Portugal. They took to piracy as part of a strategy of revenge on the Iberian powers (though lining their pockets with Spanish doubloons was no doubt also a motive). Many of these pirates mixed traditional Jewish lifestyles with their exploits on the high seas.

Jewish refugees from Portugal first settled in Jamaica in 1511, probably originally as sugar growers, and some took up piracy. The British, led by Admiral William Penn (the father of the William Penn who established Philadelphia), took over the island from the Spanish in 1655, reportedly with assistance from local Jews and Marranos (crypto-Jews), all of whom were allowed to remain.

By 1720, as many as 20 percent of the residents of Kingston were Jews. Over time, Ashkenazi Jews arrived and their synagogues operated alongside the Sephardic ones (the congregations all merged in the 20th century). Jewish tombstones dating back to 1672 have been found there, with Portuguese, Hebrew and English inscriptions.

Some Jews went into local Jamaican politics, and there were so many in the Jamaican parliament in the 19th century that it became the only parliament on earth that did not hold deliberations on Saturday. The Jewish community of Jamaica today numbers a couple hundred and calls itself the United Congregation of Israelites in Jamaica (UCIJA). The active synagogue there is built in Sephardic style and is one of the few left in the world with a sand floor. Naturally, its official website includes a page on the pirate ancestors of Jewish residents (The United Congregation of Israelites - Kingston, Jamaica)  

According to an article earlier this year in the Israeli weekly Bakihilot, municipal workers in Kingston recently uncovered a long forgotten pirate graveyard. Among the tombstones are those with Jewish stars and Hebrew inscriptions, together with pirate symbols such as the skull and crossbones.

Similar Jewish pirate graves have been found near Bridgetown in the Barbados and in the old Jewish graveyard in Curacao. Jamaican-born Jewish historian Ed Kritzler claims that Jewish pirates once operated there, raiding the Spanish Main wearing tallis shawls. He's just published a book titled ‘Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean’ and conducts private tours of the ‘Jewish pirate coves’ of Jamaica.

Kritzler's book includes the saga of one MOSES COHEN HENRIQUES, who participated in one of history's largest sea heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques sailed together with Dutch Admiral Piet Hein, of the Dutch West India Company, who hated Spain after having been held as a slave for four years on a Spanish galleon. They raided Spanish ships off Matanzas Bay in Cuba, commandeering large amounts of gold and silver.

Henriques set up his own pirate "Treasure Island" on a deserted island off the Brazilian coast on which Jews could openly practice their religion. (He also served as adviser to Henry Morgan, perhaps the most famous pirate of all time; Errol Flynn played Morgan in the movie "Captain Blood.") After the recapture of Brazil by Portugal in 1654, some of these Jews would sail off to set up a brand new Jewish community in a place called New Amsterdam, now known as New York.

In many cases Jewish pirates collaborated with Holland, a friendly and welcoming state for Jews. One such pirate was RABBI SAMUEL PALLACHE,  a leader of the Moroccan Jewish community in Fez. Born in The Hague, he was son of a leading rabbi from Cordoba who ended up in Morocco. From there he was sent to Holland as envoy of the Moroccan sultan, who was seeking allies against Spain. He became a personal friend of Dutch Crown Prince Maurice, who commissioned him as a privateer, and served for years as a pirate under a Netherlands flag and with Dutch letters of marque. Rabbi Pallache recruited Marranos for his crews.

In other cases Jewish pirates worked for the Ottomans. A Jewish pirate named SINAN, known to his Spanish prey as "THE GREAT JEW" was born in what is now Turkey and operated out of Algiers. He first served as second in command to the famous pirate Barbarossa. (No connection to the fictional Barbarossa of the Disney films.) Their pirate flag carried a six-pointed star called the Seal of Solomon by the Ottomans.

Sinan led the force that defeated a Genoan navy hired by Spain to rid the Barbary Coast of corsairs. He then conquered Tripoli in Libya, and was eventually appointed supreme Ottoman naval commander. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Albania.

A Jewish pirate named YAAKOV KORIEL commanded three pirate ships in the Caribbean. He later repented and ended up in Safed as one of the Kabbalah students of the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria) and is buried near the Ari's grave.

A pirate named DAVID ABRABANEL, evidently from the same family as the famous Spanish rabbinic dynasty (which included Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel), 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 The Jerusalem. According to at least one report, he was the person who discovered what is now called Easter Island.

Several Jewish corsairs operated against Spanish ships off the coast of Chile. There are reports that their galleys were kosher and they abstained from raids on the Sabbath. A maritime museum in Chile today holds letters of communication among these pirates composed in Hebrew.

One pirate leader was named SUBATOL DEUL. On a trip up the coast he stumbled across a ship under the command of the pirate Henry Drake, son of Sir Francis Drake. They decided to create an alliance of anti-Spanish pirates, the "Black Flag Fraternity."

Deul and Drake reportedly buried treasure on an island near Coquimbo in 1645. A chapter in the book Piracy & Plunder: A Murderous Business, by Milton Meltzer, is devoted to Deul's swashbuckling career.

There also were Jewish corsairs based in Curacao next to Venezuela. The local Curacao rabbi once berated his community's pirates when they thoughtlessly attacked a ship owned by a fellow Jew. At least it wasn't done on the Sabbath.

THE HISTORY OF JEWISH PIRATES goes far back: Josephus mentions Jewish pirates operating in the seas off the Land of Israel in Roman times. There is a drawing of a pirate ship inside Jason's Tomb in Jerusalem. The Hasmonean Hyrcanus accused Aristobulus, his brother, of "acts of piracy at sea." In its last days, the Seleucid Empire (the one fought by the Maccabees) was plagued by Jewish and Arab pirates.

Pirates operated from coves along the Levantine coast for centuries, and my own city of Haifa was once known as The Little Malta because of its notorious pirates. (The local pirates these days seem to specialize mainly in computer software.)

The fact that some Jews seemed to have taken so easily to the pirate lifestyle may have been due in part to other skills developed by Jews over the centuries. Cartography, for example, was considered a Jewish specialty in the 15th and 16th centuries, and Christopher Columbus is believed to have consulted the work of a Jewish cartographer, one Abraham Cresque of Mallorca, who produced the Catalan Atlas in 1375. Portuguese Jewish cartographers and scientists contributed to Vasco Da Gama's voyage of discovery to the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. Jews also worked on ships as navigators.

Perhaps the most important Jewish pirate of all was the Caribbean pirate JEAN LAFITTE, a familiar name to many American schoolchildren. He and his men, pirates trained in cannon fire, came to the aid of General (later President) Andrew Jackson and played a critical role in winning the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. A Jean Lafitte National Historic Park stands today on the outskirts of the city.

What is still largely unknown is that Lafitte was a Jew, born either in Western France or in what is now Haiti. A while back my friend Edward Bernard Glick, a retired professor of political science living in Oregon, published an article in the Jerusalem Post (July 14, 2006) on Lafitte's Jewish origins and it stirred up a storm of interest. Parts of Rabbi I. Harold Sharfman's book Jews on the Frontier also discuss Lafitte's life.

According to Glick, "[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."

Glick claims the British tried to recruit Lafitte to guide them through the swamps to ambush the Americans, but Lafitte instead showed General "Old Hickory" Jackson Britain's battle plans to attack New Orleans. The rest is history.

Years before the Battle of New Orleans, Louisiana Governor William C. C. Claiborne placed a reward of $500 on Lafitte's head. Lafitte retaliated by putting a $5,000 bounty on the head of the governor. Neither collected.

Lafitte later commanded his own "kingdom" named Campeche on the island of Galveston, Texas, then nominally under Spanish rule. Some of Lafitte's trading activities were conducted by Jao de la Porta, a Portuguese Jew from Spanish Texas. Among their clients was Jim Bowie, made famous at the Alamo and also for the special knife.

Mention of Jewish pirates can pop up in some unexpected places. Just before Rosh Hashanah this year, the liberal Huffington Post website carried a post by humorist Andy Borowitz "reporting" that the group of SOMALI PIRATES who had just hijacked a ship full of Ukrainians in the Gulf of Aden was calling a halt to the piracy in honor of the Jewish High Holidays.

Wrote Borowitz: " 'To all of our Jewish friends, we say a hearty Shana Tova,' said pirate spokesman Sugule, moments before the pirates hoisted a Star of David flag over the captured ship. Sugule took pains to indicate that while the pirates were taking a Rosh Hashanah break from their usual plundering and pillaging schedule, they were doing so only out of respect for Jewish pirates and not because they are Jewish themselves. 'None of us Somali pirates are Jewish,' he said. 'Except for Abe in accounting, who's half.' "

And there are others who are getting into the spirit of things. The Jewish humor website listed a set of halachic (Jewish law) challenges for Jewish pirates, including the following:

Personally, I think the biggest challenge to Jewish pirates occurs at Purim. After walking around all year decked out like that, what could they possibly dress up as? Accountants?

In a way, the legacy of Jewish pirates is alive and well in Israel today. One of the most outstanding examples of the Jewish state's derring-do was when it stole five gunboats out of the port of Cherbourg in France - ships that had already been paid for by Israel but that France, as punishment for Israel's Six-Day War victory, was refusing to deliver.

Israeli agents operating through a front corporation seized the ships on December 25, 1969 and sailed them to Haifa. The details of that piracy are engagingly told in The Boats of Cherbourg (1997) by Abraham Rabinovich.

“So let's swab the decks, count our doubloons and grant the Jewish pirates their proper place in history. In other words, it's time to put the oy back into "ahoy."


Jewish Pirates of the Carribean  Edward Kritzler, Anchor Books 2008

Jewish Pirates, Livius

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean     Jerusalem Post,  By Gil Stern Stern ZOHAR   APRIL 9, 2016



While there were some Jewish pirates during the Hasmonean period, most sailed after the Spanish expulsion of the Iberian Jews.  They attacked the Catholic Empire's shipping from the Ottoman empire or for Spanish rivals such as the United Netherlands  and by backing  local privateers. They viewed this as a profitable revenge strategy for their expulsion and the Inquisition's religious persecution in the Old and New Worlds.

Their accomplishments included helping to defeat the Spanish-Imperial fleet at the 1538 Battle of Preveza, leading the only successful capture of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628, aiding the Dutch capture of part of Brazil from Portugal and helping in the 1655 British conquest of Jamaica from the Spanish.







Pirates of


Jewish Pirates
of Jamaica


Moses Cohen Henriques

Sinan Reis
The Great Jew

Yaakov Koriel

Jean Lafitte

Rabbi Samuel Pallache




Dr Steven Plaut
Israel Geneology 2012 (32.52)


Darryl Freedman 2009 (4.20)


Unpacked 2019 (4.45)


crestedduck64 2017 (17.27)