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Incorrect Information from Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean

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  • Abraham Cohen Henriques (deceased)
    According to: Moses' brother is Abraham Cohen Henriques, an arms dealer who used his cunning and economic muscle to find safe havens for Jews. Also see
  • Moses Cohen Henriques (c.1595 - d.)
    Moses Cohen Henriques Eanes 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 Indi...
  • Samuel Palache, Hakham (1550 - 1616)
    Rabbi Samuel Palache grew up in Morocco but ended up in Amsterdam in 1610. He proposed that the Prince of Orange and the Sultan of Morocco get together. Rabbi Samuel Palache and his brother, Joseph, ...

"Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean" is a book by Ed Kretzler about the supposed Sephardi Jewish pirates who operated in the Caribbean. While some of the book is supported by evidence and documentation, there are many contentions with this book. This project is to discuss these contentions, find resources to prove or disprove the book's conclusions, and to ensure no misinformation relating to this book is put on geni.

Basic Synopsis of the Contentions
Written by Ton Tielen, a very well respected researcher in Sephardic studies, and taken from The Sephardic Diaspora group on Facebook.

"Samuel Pallache was motivated mainly by his self-interest as shown by Mercedes García-Arenal and Gerard Wiegers in their book “A Man of Three Worlds, Samuel Pallache”. They have done much to demythologise the various legends surrounding Samuel Pallache. Although their book was the main source for Ed Kritzlers writings about Pallache, Kritzler manages to resurrect all of the old myths. For example García-Arenal and Wiegers state categorically that Samuel Pallache and his family only came to Holland in 1608. Kritzler manages to place him in Middelburg in 1591 and in Amsterdam in 1605, despite the evidence in García-Arenal and Wiegers book.

García-Arenal and Wiegers have also shown that Pallache was a privateer. Kritzler turns him into a pirate. Kritzler turns Pallache into a benevolent patriarch, much beloved in Amsterdam. García-Arenal and Wiegers provide proof that Pallache’s relation with the Amsterdam Jews was strained at best.There is an apocryphal story about Samuel Pallache blocking with his coach the path of the coach of the Spanish ambassador in The Hague. Kritzler places the incident in London, for no apparent reason, except maybe it suited his narrative. Samuel Pallache was involved in a trade expedition to Morocco in 1611. The trip turned from trade to piracy, but Pallaches involvement in that piracy is unclear. By cleverly manipulating a quote from the book by García-Arenal and Wiegers, Kritzler beefed up Pallaches role in the expedition.

Sinan Reis was a vice-admiral in the service of the Sultan, and therefore not a pirate.

A Moses Cohen Henriques did indeed exist. It is difficult to see a likeness between him and the figure described by Ed Kritzler. There is only one source that might indicate that he was involved in the heist of the Spanish Silverfleet by Piet Heyn in 1628, and that is in a letter from an anti-semite to the Spanish Inquisition. That source mentions a Antonio Vaez Henriques aka Moses Cohen. Kritzler pretends to cite the quatation literally, but he adds Henriques to the name Cohen. He must have thought nobody would ever check that.Kritzler is unable to provide evidence for a single ship captured by Moses Cohen Henriques. (or, for that matter, for a single ship in the Caribbean captured by a Jewish pirate.)

Kritzler introduces a Cain and Able theme: the story of the brothers Moses Cohen Henriques and Abraham Cohen do Brasil. For his reconstruction he uses two (unrelated) families Vas and three families Cohen. Annoyingly for Kritzler, none of these three families Cohen has a Moses Cohen with a brother Abraham. Kritzler confuses the families Cohen Henriques, a Spanish family from Antiquerra, with the family of Abraham Cohen do Brasil (Ashkenazic, btw). What’s more: Kritzler knew this.

There is at least one fact in his book that Kritzler took from: History of the Netherlands Antilles, by Isaac Emmanuel. The book is not in the bibliography in Kritzlers book and that is for a reason: Emmanuel warned not to confuse Abraham Cohen Henriques (died 1639 in Amsterdam), and Abraham Cohen do Brasil (died 1671 in Amserdam.)

Some other points that are beside the truth in the Wikipedia article: Skull and crossbones aren’t pirate symbols, but vanity symbols, like an hourglass or the wind striking down a tree. The Portuguese Jewish cemeterity of Amsterdam is full of cross and bones while there no reports about Jewish pirates from Amsterdam. The Russian article that Wikipedia refers to, is about Jacob Coriel, but the beautiful image that accompanies it, is a perfect example of the skull and crossbones as a vanitas symbol, for it is accompanied by an hourglass, and by sickles (as waged by Death). Ishac Haim Senior Teixeira, needless to say, was not known as a pirate. No Dutch letter of marquee (issued to privateers) was ever issued to a Jewish captain, at least, I am not aware of them in literature.

There is a lemma in the Wikipedia article called Jewish pirates of Jamaica. In the short space of one paragraph four demonstrably false statements are produced, all based on Kitzlers book: Wikipedia states this: “The first Jews landed on the island [Jamaica] in 1530 just 40 years after it was discovered by Christopher Columbus.” To which two remarks can be made: 1. The sources talk about Portuguese. The Governor of Jamaica asked King Charles V to send him some 30 Portuguese farmers. 2. It has never been established wether Charles V did send these Portuguese, wether they arrived on Jamaica and wether they were Jews Wikipedia also states: “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.” The Columbus family were absentee owners of a title, no more, as illustrated above by the request of the Governor of Jamaica. It was send to Charles V, not to an heir of Columbus. There were some Jews who helped the British plot the capture of Jamaica, but these were London based Jews: Simon de Casseres, and an Antonio da Costa. And there was Campoe Sabbatha who guided the English trhough Jamaican waters, whose only claim to jewishness is his surame, because nothing else is known about him. And this: “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.” The source for this lemma is Ed Kritzler. But Kritzler does not produce sources for this statement. Contemporary sources about the conquest of Jamaica by the English do not talk about Jews, but about Portuguese. It took more than two centuries before someone “discovered” that these Portuguese were Jews."