Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jewish Pirates: Ahoy Vey!

Repost with slight changes

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow night at sundown.

What would be an appropriate topic, albeit perhaps a little afield from the subject of genealogy, for a blog post combining the two?

How about Jean Lafitte, the possibly Jewish Pirate?

[image - late 19th century artist's conception. [source]

The facts of his origins, and those of his demise as well, depend upon whether you believe the "Journal of Jean Lafitte" is a forgery or not. Discovered in the possession of a claimed descendant.
"My grandmother was a Spanish-Israelite. ... Grandmother told me repeatedly of the trials and tribulations her ancestors had endured at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. ... Grandmother's teachings ... inspired in me a hatred of the Spanish Crown and all the persecutions for which it was responsible -- not only against Jews." [source]
According to one account, Jean Lafitte was killed upon the General Santander, an armed private vessel in the service of Columbia, on Feb. 5, 1823, at the age of 41. In the Gulf of Honduras, the General Santander encountered two Spanish privateers or warships, and was mortally wounded in a brief battle with the vessels and buried at sea ...  
According to Lafitte's Journal ( which many believe to be a hoax, claimed to have been found by a great grand son of Lafitte) written by Lafitte himself in 1851, he took the name John Lafflin and died in St. Louis in his 70s. [source]
As a St. Louisan, this last definitely interests me. Though I have been unable to determine where John Lafflin (whether or not in reality Jean Lafitte) is supposed to be buried. Mysteries tend to surround pirates, don't they?

However, while the origins of Jean Lafitte are controversial, in Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, author Edward Kritzler makes the claim for several others. Some of the earlier ones are said to have gone into the piracy business as revenge against the inquisition.
One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest." [source]
Of course, pirates tend to break a few commandments in their daily routine. Ends rarely justify the means, and revenge isn't generally considered a morally appropriate explanation for deeds. One wonders if the above Jewish pirates recited the Al Chet (confession of sins) yearly on Yom Kippur.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor Day Weekend - 2017

Happy Labor Day Weekend

As you light up your barbecues this weekend and enjoy your day off from work Monday (those who have the day off) - take some part of the day to consider the advancements we have made in workers' rights over the last century - Many of us may have ancestors who worked in the coal mines or sweatshops.

Also, consider in what ways the struggles aren't over.

Here's a playlist of songs which may help.

A Pict Song - Rudyard Kipling (1917)

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall,
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk—we !
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood !
We are the rot at the root!
We are the germ in the blood !
We are the thorn in the foot !

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes,—and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed ! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same ?
Yes, we have always been slaves;
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves.

We are the Little Folk, we ! etc.