Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yitzchak Rabin's Legacy, The Altalena

The Israeli media is now full of 1984-style programs and statements in memory of their idol, Yitzchak Rabin. In contrast, many of us remember a different Rabin and a different Israeli History.
Yitzchak Rabin was a David Ben Gurion loyalist, a Palmach officer, an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Chief of Staff, twice Israel's Prime Minister, who was murdered (assassinated) after a public appearance at a Left wing rally, fourteen years ago. Since then Israel's Left, media, politicians, academics etc have used it as the springboard, justification for massive character assassination against anyone who dares to disagree with their opinions and ideology.
If this was literature, instead of history, it would be written as a classic case of poetic justice, "...a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, and often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character's own conduct."

That brings us to the Altalena, a tragedy caused by vile hatred of Jew against Jew. It dwarfs the despicable sezon, when Ben Gurion's followers gave names of fellow Jews to the British to have them arrested and worse.
In 1948, Menachem Begin's Irgun had managed to buy much-needed arms for the battle for Israel's Independence. An agreement had been reached with the new provisional government concerning how they were to be used and distributed, with a priority for freeing Jerusalem's Old City. But David Ben Gurion tricked him and ended up sending his soldiers, including Yitzchak Rabin, to attack the ship, sink the weapons and murder Jews.
"Begin had meanwhile boarded the Altalena, which was now heading for Tel Aviv. He hoped that it would be possible to enter into a dialogue with the Provisional Government and to unload the remaining weapons peacefully. But this was not the case. Ben-Gurion ordered Yigael Yadin (acting Chief of Staff) to concentrate large forces on the Tel Aviv beach and to take the ship by force. Heavy guns were transferred to the area and at four in the afternoon, Ben-Gurion ordered the shelling of the Altalena. One of the shells hit the ship, which began to burn. There was danger that the fire would spread to the holds which contained explosives, and the captain ordered all aboard to abandon ship. People jumped into the water, whilst their comrades on shore set out to meet them on rafts. Although the captain flew the white flag of surrender, automatic fire continued to be directed at the unarmed survivors. Begin, who was on deck, agreed to leave the ship only after the last of the wounded had been evacuated."
The late Shmuel Katz, told me that he had always believed that the main goal of the attack was to assassinate Menachem Begin, whom Ben Gurion considered his strongest rival. Menachem Begin, always the noble gentleman, in his naive innocence could never accept such a theory, nor would he demand apologies and cheshbon nefesh, accounting of the soul, from those who attacked him and his followers.
In Psychology there's a principle called projection, "Projection also appears where we see our own traits in other people..." That explains why Menachem Begin and Israel's pro-Jews in the Land of Israel Right wing do not constantly verbalize character assassination and incitement against the Left, but the Left always does it against the Right.

The Israeli Left has a documented history of discrimination and violence, for example the Altalena and Amona, against the Right, though they have no problems constantly proclaiming us as violent and guilty of attacking fellow Jews.
Israeli society is still suffering from pre-State hatreds and the Yitzchak Rabin murder is being utilized as a tool against a large and growing segment of the Israeli public. I don't know if we'll ever really know who was behind that assassination. I just know that the Left has enthusiastically adopted it as their mantra, their weapon of choice against loyal and innocent Jewish citizens.

Shiloh Musings

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jews and Navigation

Pre-Columbian Navigation
Intercontinental trade was pioneered by Persian Jews who pioneered the "Silk Route" to the heart of China in the fifth century BCE.1 Augustus, the first Roman emperor, is said to have commissioned "the first travel guide" from Isidore of Charax (a town on the Euphrates River estuary on the Persian gulf). Centuries later, while the Europeans were still deep in the Dark Ages, Persian Rhadanite scholar/travelers pioneered land and sea trade routes to the Far East.2
"These merchants speak Arabic, Persian, Roman, Frankish, Spanish, and Slavonic," wrote Ibn Khurdadhih in the ninth century CE, "They travel from East to West and from West to East by land as well as by sea."3
Judaic savants were largely responsible for the invention and development of the instruments and astronomical tables which thereafter facilitated world-girdling sea voyages.
Jews had long learned from the Talmud that the world was a globe. In the fourth century, the Jerusalem Talmud (Aboda Zara, 42c) unequivocally asserted that the world was globular in form. The Zohar (Leviticus 1.3) was even more specific, declaring that the earth rotates on its axis like a ball.. The great Maimonides and other medieval Judaic scientists subscribed to that concept.
Th thirteenth century fabulist Isaac ben Sahulla made the antipodean theory familiar widely among the Jews in his work, Meshal haKadmoni. The theory held that people’s feet pointed to the center of a spherical earth. Thus, the concept of a globular world was inherent in Judaic tradition from the most ancient times. Roger Bacon (1213-92), an English friar, quoted Hebrew sources to show that Asia could be reached by sailing west from Europe. The church proscribed the reading of Bacon’s books and Bacon was imprisoned.
Rationalists of the early Renaissance continued to be restricted by the church for propounding "Judaic" wisdom. Deviation from an earth-centered universe was treated as heresy. Long after the church’s posits became indefensible, Judaic astronomical precepts were ignored.
In the thirteenth century, the King of Castile, Alfonso the Wise, instructed Judah ben Moses Cohen, and Isaak be Sid, a Chasan (cantor) in a Toledo synagogue, to update astronomical tables compiled by Judaic astronomers in the eleventh century, and to translate them into Spanish. They became known as the "Alfonsine Tables," and were used by Galileo and Kepler four centuries later to develop their theories.
Astronomical tables were likewise compiled by Joseph ben Wakkar at Toledo in 1396, and in Aragon by various Judaic savants. Other significant calculations were made by Emanuel ben Jacob, known as "Bonfils de Tarascon." The tables were used in conjunction with an astrolabe, an instrument introduced into the Arab-speaking world by a remarkable Jewish genius, Mashala of Mosul, "the phoenix of his age." The use of the astrolabe, an instrument for taking the altitude of heavenly bodies, in conjunction with the astronomical tables, helped determine a ship’s position at sea.
The quadrant was another device as important as the astrolabe for navigation on the high seas. That instrument measured the right ascension (angle from the horizon) of the sun and stars. An advanced model, designed by Rabbi Joseph bn Makhir, became known as the Quadrant Judaicus. Rabbi Makhir compiled the calendar used by Dante, and was quoted as a authority long after his passing by Copernicus and Kepler.
Another Rabbi, Levi ben Gershom, in southern France, devoted 136 chapters to astronomy in his major work, The Wars of the Lord. Included in that work was an improved quadrant that became known as Jacob’s Staff. For three centuries thereafter, Renaissance explorers depended on Gershom’s instrument for determining latitude and the local hour.4
Nautical instruments and astronomical tables were adjuncts to maps in guiding seafarers to their destination. The most notable cartographers could be found among the Jews. Geographic intelligence was a boon of Judaic dispersion into the Diaspora. Information gleaned by Judaic travelers, deposited with compatriots along their itinerary, was transmitted to other passing Judaic travelers. Geographic intelligence was likewise passed along through correspondence delivered by these travelers from region to region.
Majorka, strategically placed midway between Africa and Europe, became a beehive of Judaic map-making. The Majorcans were unrivaled seafarers, knowledgeable about coastal configuration. The Jews among them became cartographers par excellence.5
Abraham Crescas headed a renowned map-making family. Their works illustrate countless books on travel and geography, and are the valued possession of museums. Abraham was appointed "Master of Maps and Compasses" by Juan of Aragon. As compensation, he obtained permission to build a mikvah for his co-religionists. Abraham and his son, Jehuda, produced what is probably the most famous of ancient maps, a mapamundi depicting the Atlantic coasts and the "mysterious ocean" beyond.
Jehuda continued as a cartographer after his father’s death, but was forced to convert in the wave of baptisms of 1391. He assumed the name Jayme Ribes. Eventually he was invited to Portugal by Prince Henry "The Navigator," where he became the first director of the famous nautical observatory as "Maestre Jacome de Majorka."
Haym ibn Risch, another outstanding Majorcan cartographer, was likewise forced to convert in 1391. He adopted the name Juan de Vallsecha. He was probably the father of Gabriel Vallsecha, author of yet another famous mapamundi, one later used by Amerigo Vespucci.
Still another significant cartographer of Majorka was Mecia de Vildestes. An outstanding map by Vildestes dated 1413 is proudly featured at the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris.
The Church Concedes: the World Goes Around
Colonialist ambitions finally superseded church astronomical strictures; Greed for gold took precedence over dogma.
The Italians point to the Florentine, Paolo Toscanelli, as the inspiration for Columbus. Toscanelli, following the Judaic precept that the earth was globular, calculated its circumference to be about half its actual length. The acceptance by Columbus of this calculation led him to believe that a westward voyage to the Indies was feasible.6
Columbus never met Toscanelli. He conferred with Abraham Zacuto (1452-1515), a professor at the University of Salamanca, about the feasibility of a westward voyage to the Near East. Zacuto was the most reputable astronomer of the day. Zacuto’s astronomical tables, together with his perfected astrolabe, made the voyages of navigators like Columbus possible. Zacuto plotted the route to be taken, and instructed Columbus on it.
Zacuto got no thanks for his pivotal contribution to Spain’s greatness. In 1492, when the Columbus expedition was assured, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain was under way. Abraham Zacuto found himself facing the Inquisition. He refused baptism, fled to Portugal, and was immediately honored with an appointment as Astronomer-Royal, the most prestigious scientific post in the western world. In Portugal, Zacuto’s activity reached its zenith. He devised a newer and improved astrolabe which became the standard in subsequent voyages by all the colonialist adventurers.
When the inquisitorial plague blighted Portugal in 1497, Zacuto refused to convert; he managed to escape to North Africa, where he wrote the well-known chronicle, Sepher Judaism.
The series of astronomical tables Zacuto compiled at Salamanca were translated into Latin and Spanish by his pupil, Joseph Vecinho, and published by the Judaic printer, "Magistor Ortas" at Leiria in 1496. Despite Zacuto’s Judaic identity, his tables were carried in the voyages of the fleets of Columbus, Vasca de Gama, Joao da Nova, and Albuquerque. Vasca da Gama’s ships were also outfitted with Zacuto’s astrolabe.
Just as Columbus had conferred with Zacuto before Zacuto was forced to flee Spain, so Vasca da Gama conferred publicly with Zacuto before sailing from Lisbon on July 8th, 1497; he took affectionate leave of Zacuto in the presence of his entire crew. Zacuto was forced to flee Portugal soon thereafter.
Much is made about Da Gama’s "discovery," in disregard of the substantive Judaic presence in India, dating from before Roman times. Jews were respected in many of the princedoms along India’s coast; many rose to exalted positions. On arriving at Anchediva, not far from Goa in India, Da Gama was greeted by a tall Jew with a flowing white beard who had risen to the rank of admiral to the viceroy of Goa.
Cecil Roth notes that Da Gama’s treatment of the old man was particularly ungrateful. Da Gama had him seized and tortured until he consented to be baptized and to pilot the Portuguese flotilla in Indian waters. Roth adds that da Gama’s own grandson, Gaspar da Gama, was a "New Christian." Gaspar was one of the first Portuguese to set foot on the soil of Brazil.
"Another victim of the forced conversions," adds Roth, "was Pedro Nuñes, who, a mere child at the time, subsequently became professor of mathematics at Coimbra, and chief cosmographer to the crown of Portugal. He, too, remained closely attached to Judaism in secret; so much that at the beginning of the seventeenth century... his grandsons were tried by the Inquisition for ‘judaising.’"
In 1537 Nuñes’ Treatise on the Spheres was published; it laid the foundation for Mercator’s work, "and thus for the whole system of modern cartography." Nuñes also developed a revolutionary instrument for graduating mathematical instruments. It was called the Nonius, and was subsequently used be Vernier in a somewhat improved version, and is still essential for exacting engineering. The last king of Portugal, unsuspecting of Nuñes’ Judaic origin, had no hesitation in calling this Marrano scientist "the most distinguished Portuguese nautical astronomer."

Samuel Kurinsky (HHF)

The first hero of the Portuguese discoveries!

Who was João Gonçalves Zarco?
He was a Portuguese Jew converted to Catholicism, and member of the House of Prince Henry the Navigator, when this Prince became the Administrator of the Order of Christ in Tomar, in the center of Portugal .
Zarco distinguished himself as a military hero in the campaigns of Ceuta and Tangier and became also an expert sailor in the Portuguese caravels in the southern part of Portugal and also along the north cost of Africa . Because of his maritime experience Prince Henry sent him together with Tristão Vaz Teixeira to go in search of “some islands in front of the African coast that appeared drawn in old maps.”
In 1418, João Gonçalves Zarco and his sailors took sail along the northwestern coast of Africa but their caravel was caught by a storm and they were lost at the high sea for several days, until they arrived at an unknown island.
They named it first Devine Spirit but then changed its name of Porto Santo, meaning Salvation Port because it saved their lives.
After examining the island that had no human inhabitants they returned to Portugal and reported the good news to their master Prince Henry who became very enthusiastic and asked them to go back again in the following year in 1419. But this time they took with them another member of Prince Henry’s House, a fellow named Bartolomeu Perestrelo. This time they went to colonize the new island of Porto Santo .
On the same caravel they took a female rabbit and she delivered a board the ship several little rabbits which they let loose when they arrive at Porto Santo, with the message: “Love thyselves and multiply”. And they did. In a short while there were so many rabbits in the island that they ate all the pastures necessary for the other domestic animals.
From the island of Porto Santo they observed on the horizon that on southwestern “there was always a permanent dark cloud”, but the sailors thought that could be smoke coming from hell were the bad souls were burning… or could be the place were the sea sudden dropped and the caravels just fell into hell…
But at the beginning of the summer, one day that was more clear, João Gonçalves Zarco got his courage together with his sailors and went to check that “dark cloud” and they were overwhelmed with want they discovered. They found an island covered with vegetation and so much wood that they named it Madeira which means wood in English. They thought they had found Paradise !
Where was Zarco born?
Historians are not in agreement as to where João Gonçalves Zarco was born. Some say Tomar, other indicate Lisbon , and still others say Matosinhos or Porto . Some even show papers revealing that in the XII century Zarco families already existed in Portugal even before her Independence in 1139. For sure there are legal documents in which the name Zarco already appears during the Kingdom of Dom Dinis [ 1248-79 ]. This is evidence that the name Zarco was not invented by the discover himself.
Is his name Zarco or Zargo?
Another battle that goes on among the historians concerns his name: should it be Zarco with a C, of Zargo with a G.
The old historians contemporary of the Zarco such as Gomes Eanes de Azurara, João de Barros e Damião de Góis always used his name Zarco with a C.
Some people say that the name Zarco came from a legend that in the military campaign in Ceuta the discoverer was the only one able to kill a very strong Arab and his name was Zarco and after that the Portuguese soldier started using the same Zarco. I never heard of a hero that adopted the name of his victim. This is such a stupid legend that should never be repeated.
But there is another very simple thing that the historians do not reveal or they do not know.
The name Zarco is Jewish, but it can be also derived from the Arabic. Why? Because the Jews lived the in the Iberian Peninsula for more than two thousand years, in the territory that later became Portugal . Even today more than 50% of the Portuguese people have Jewish blood!
On the other hand the Arabs came to the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and they stay there until Granada was taken by the Spaniards in 1492. This is total of 781 years.
In Portugal the Arabs lived until 1249 when King Dom Afonso III conquered Algarve . Therefore the Arabs were in Portuguese territory for a total of 538. The Arabs left a large influence of their civilization not only in names, place names but also in the Portuguese language. We should note that the name Algarve is derived from the Arab = “Al –Gharb” which means “Occidental” or sunset. The Jews also have a similar term. They call the Portuguese “Sephardic” which means “Occidental”. But the first ones to call the Portuguese “Occidental” were the Greeks with their term”Iberos” which also means “Occidental”.
If we consult the Jewish dictionary we will find out that the word “Zakhar” means “male organ” and “Zarkor” means “project” or “ejaculate”. This is the reason why “Zarkor” has the same meaning as “ Colon ” in Greek! This statement is very important for the analysis of the Columbus ’ Sigla or of Cristóvão Colon.
Zargo meaning beetle!
With respect to the name Zargo with a Z we should clarify that exists in Madeira island a parasite, and insect of the Madeira’s fauna, called zargo with a G, which belongs to the species of koleopteros among which the beetles are the best example. “koleopteros” is a scientific word composed by two Greek terms “Koleos” = vagina , plus “pteron” = meaning wings, because the larvae of the beetles look like a “vagina with wings”…
After this scientific explanation, I do not think it is just , nor decent, to called the great navigator Zargo with a Z !
But even more important for this discussion is for us to analyze the Zarco’s signature. Where we see what looks like a G, it is the Jewish letter K therefore with the sound o C. If the same letter in Zarco’s signature was the letter G, it should appear like an inverted Y. We should note that in the Jewish alphabet there are no vowels. Therefore we should not hesitate in declaring that the name of the navigator has to be Zarco with the letter C.
I hope that the people from Madeira will never consider their discover to be a beetle… and use always his correct name ZARCO with a C.
Why was Zarco a hero of the discoveries?
João Gonsalves Zarco was the first hero of the Portuguese maritime discoveries.
It was Zarco who made the first and most important maritime discovery: Porto Santo and Madeira , representing the first great conquest of the navigators to take control of all seas. It is really a pity that the History of Portugal does not give to his achievement the place it really deserves. Zarco was for the maritime discoveries what Yuriy Gagarin, Russian, and John Glenn, American, did for the Exploration of Outer Space. Unfortunately neither the Portuguese Government with headquarters in Lisbon, nor the Regional Government of Madeira have placed João Gonçalves Zarco on a pedestal that he merits, so his example can be shown to present and future generations.
Where in Porto Santo is the work that Zarco did?
My wife and I went to Porto Santo on May 2005. Fascinating island! Magnificent beach! We asked where the house of João Gonçalves Zarco was located, but nobody could tell us. We visited the so called “Casa do Colombo ” – House of Columbus-- but it does not show anything outstanding related to its discoverers. Too bad! The historical-cultural authorities of the archipelago should use the “Casa do Colombo ” as a museum and show in a didactic form to the visitors, in Portuguese and English, six dioramas:
“Casa do Colombo ” – The House of Columbus on the Island of Porto Santo dedicated to the navigator. Unfortunately it informs the visitors that he was born in Genoa !...
(1) First diorama should be about the School of Navigation at Sagres demonstrating that its principal objective was to find the water route to India around the Cape of Good Hope .
(2) The second diorama will display the arrival of the discovers at the Island of Porto Santo with the models of the beach and of the caravel, stressing the importance of this first discovery in the History of the World.
(3) Third diorama will treat the beginning of colonization with the rabbits, other domestic animals, cereals and even humans.
(4) The discovery of Madeira and the arrival of the navigators at the small island of the Fort of São José, and how Madeira developed into a such fascinating community, agriculturally and otherwise.
(5) The comparison of the Portuguese discoveries with the Explorations of the Outer Space, by showing cartography and photos to demonstrate that the conquest of Outer Space is the continuation of Humanity’s spirit of discovery stimulated by the Portuguese of the XV and XVI centuries, who became the first nation in the world to initiate the globalization that everyone is talking about now.
(6) And finally one diorama describing the historic relations of Cristóvão Colon (or Columbus) with his family members in Porto Santo and Madeira .
Unfortunately the exhibit in “Casa do Colombo ” belittles the Portuguese maritime history and only glorifies that Columbus was born in Genoa !...

Manuel Luciano da Silva

Jewish Traders of the Diaspora

Jewish Dispersion, a Bane and a Boon
The dispersions of the Jews from their homelands proved to be both a bane and a boon. Again and again Jews were ripped from their roots. Again and again Jews were obliged to make a new life in strange surroundings. Nonetheless, some factors worked in their favor. Most importantly, the Jews were a literate people who shared a common language with their relatives and compatriots in other lands. The Jews have not only been the "People of the Book" but the people who, in the main, could read a book. Literacy leads not only to learning but to the transfer of information from persons unknown, even from persons long dead. Importantly, it leads to the ability to communicate over time and space.
The Jews enjoyed a commercial advantage by virtue of familial ties and ability to communicate. Having a common interest, they established commercial liaisons of mutual benefit, and were, often uniquely, able to issue letters of credit that were certain to be honored months later from distant lands.
Throughout the ages the participation of the Jews in the evolution of commerce was far out of proportion to their numbers. Jewish communities were rarely deployed into primitive hinterlands, but in ports that gave them access to their peers abroad, or along trade routes, or in centers at the forefront of the technological revolution. Subsequent displacements widened the web of their commercial contacts. Jews became integral to the international trade of the countries into which they settled or were hurled. Inter-national intercourse became part and parcel of Jewish life.
Erudite Jewish traveler-traders maintained an interchange of Judaic law and cultural precepts between the dispersed communities. Jewish identity was preserved through the links provided by world-girdling sages.

Samuel Kurinsky (HHF) - Click on the link to read the whole article

Jewish war vets receive monument

In honoring Jewish military veterans with a stone monument at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly Township, local vets were sending a message.
"Jewish people have served in every war this country has fought," Gerald Order, 65, commander of the Department of Michigan Jewish War Veterans, said at the unveiling Sunday.
Organizer Stanley Eisenberg of Rose Township -- a 75-year-old veteran of the Coast Guard who served during the Korean War -- said the monument cost about $1,800 and was dedicated by the state's Jewish War Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary.
The monument stands knee-high along a paved path with other memorials near a quiet, tree-lined waterfront.
"It's a place where we can come in prayer and thank God for everything He has given us, everything we have worked for, everything we have sacrificed our life for," said Bernard Feldman, 77, of Southfield, a Korean War veteran who served in the Navy on the USS Smalley.
Officials at the dedication didn't know how many Jewish military veterans there are in Michigan or across the country. But a document on the National Museum of American Jewish Military History's Web site, published in 2004, says nearly 1 million had served in the armed services during the 20th Century.
About 60 people attended Sunday's dedication, including Rabbi Karen Companez of Temple Beth El in Flint.
"We come together to honor the memories of those who are no longer with us," Companez said.
"We come together to offer support for one another."

Detroit Free Press

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rear Admiral to address Indiana Jewish Historical Society

One of the highest-ranking members of the U. S. Navy, Rear Admiral Harold L. Robinson, will address the 38th annual meeting of the Indiana Jewish Historical Society Sunday October 25th at the Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis. Rear Admiral Rabbi Harold L. Robinson who is also Chaplain Corps Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters, Director of Religious Programs, and Marine Force Reserve presentation is free to the public at 1:30 PM. He will discuss “Jews in the United States Military, Past and Present.” Reservations are required for a noon brunch for the society’s installation of new officers and the annual meeting. The cost of the brunch is $20 per person.

Six-term IJHS President Trent D. Pendley of Furnessville will introduce his friend the keynote speaker. Rear Admiral Robinson is a native of Boston who earned a Bachelor of Arts from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1968. He earned a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters in 1972, a Master of Arts and ordination as a Rabbi in 1974 all from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1999 the College Institute awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in 2005 Coe College conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He was Rabbi of Temple Israel of Gary, Indiana, (1974-1977), the Cape Cod Synagogue (1977-1998) and of B'nai Zion Congregation in Shreveport, La. (1998-2006) During this time, he has served on numerous boards and commissions, including 12 years on the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, six years on the Resolutions Committee of Reform Judaism and four years on the Commission on Religious Living of Reform Judaism. He currently serves as the Director of the Jewish Welfare Board-Jewish Chaplains Council.

Commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1971, Rear Adm. Robinson received a superseding commission as a Chaplain in 1975. His Reserve Component assignments have included Training Officer, Executive Officer and twice Commanding Officer of MAF Rel 101; and Regimental Chaplain, 25th Marine Regiment 4th Marine Division. He was assigned as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of SUBLANT Rel 101, and as Force Chaplain, Iceland Defense Force. He served as the Group Chaplain for the 4th Force Service Support Group, USMC, and as Seabee National Chaplain.

In 2000 he was assigned to the Chief of Naval Chaplains Office as Special Assistant for Reserve Manpower. His Flag assignment is: Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters and Director of Religious Programs, Marine Force Reserve.

Rear Adm. Robinson also served as the President of the COMNAVRESFOR Policy Board FY 2005, the first staff corps officer so assigned. Rear Adm. Robinson is a Fleet Marine Force Qualified Officer.

Overseas active duty assignments have included: Naples, Italy: Holy Lock, Scotland; Keflavik, Iceland; Okinawa, Japan; Guam; Manama, Bahrain; and Djibouti. He has visited our forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar and Kuwait.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Aaron Lopez's Struggle for Citizenship

Aaron Lopez, a Jewish merchant and philanthropist from Newport, Rhode Island, died in a carriage accident in 1782. On hearing of Lopez’s death, president Ezra Stiles of Yale College wrote that Lopez was an "amiable, benevolent, most hospitable & very respectable gentleman … without a single Enemy & and the most universally beloved by an extensive Acquaintance of any man I ever knew." Despite the widespread esteem in which Lopez was held, however, only 21 years earlier he and another Newport Jew, Isaac Elizer, were not allowed to become naturalized citizens of Rhode Island. Their case illustrates the limits of political rights for some Jews in pre- Revolutionary America.

The Lopez family left Portugal for New York in 1740. They had been living as conversos in Portugal. Once in America, the Lopez’s reclaimed their Jewish identity. The family moved to Newport in the 1750s and became active in shipping, whaling and the manufacture of candles. After living in Newport for nine years, Aaron Lopez applied to become a naturalized citizen.

There is no official record of the reasons why the Rhode Island Superior Court turned down Aaron Lopez and Isaac Elizer’s naturalization application, but the two men were not content to accept rejection. They appealed to the lower house of the Rhode Island legislature for redress. The house granted their request– but only grudgingly, and in part. The legislature voted to approve the naturalization applications if the two men returned to Superior Court and took an oath of allegiance. The legislature went on to say, however:

Inasmuch as the said Aaron Lopez hath declared himself by religion a Jew, this Assembly doth not admit himself nor any other of that religion to the full freedom of this Colony. So that the said Aaron Lopez nor any other of said religion is not liable to be chosen into any office in this colony nor allowed to give vote as a free man in choosing others.

Even worse, when Lopez and Elizer’s appeal of the Superior Court’s actions reached the upper house of the Rhode Island legislature, that august body voted to return the case to the court. The upper chamber explained that the English Parliament had given the courts jurisdiction over naturalization and therefore the Rhode Island legislature had no business interfering.

The case was reheard in Superior Court on March 11, 1762. Ezra Stiles’ recorded the day’s events. First, the court pronounced a sentence of hanging on a notorious thief; then it sentenced an arsonist to the same fate. A perjurer was then sentenced to the pillory. Finally, according to Stiles, "The Jews were called to hear their almost equally mortifying sentence and Judgment: which dismissed their Petition for Naturalization." Stiles mused, "Whether this [the order of the cases] was designedly, or accidental in proceeding upon the business of the Court I dont learn."

The court reasoned that Parliament had authorized naturalization in the colonies to increase their population. Because Rhode Island had become so crowded by 1762, the justices reasoned, the act no longer applied there. The court continued:

Further by the charter granted to this colony, it appears that the free and quiet enjoyment of the Christian religion and a desire of propagating the same were the principal views with which this colony was settled, and by a law made and passed in the year 1663, no person who does not profess the Christian religion can be admitted free [that is, as a voter or office holder] to this colony.

The court’s verdict led Reverend Stiles, an assiduous student of Jewish history, to reflect, "I remark that Providence seems to make every Thing to work for Mortification to the Jews, & to prevent their incorporating into any Nation; that thus they may continue a distinct people."

At this point, Isaac Elizer dropped his quest to become a naturalized citizen of Rhode and English subject. Aaron Lopez persisted. Eighteen days after his rejection by the Rhode Island Superior Court, Lopez’s agent began inquiries in Massachusetts to determine what was required for Lopez to be naturalized in that colony. The agent determined that Lopez needed only to produce proof that he had resided honorably in Rhode Island for seven years and to establish a few months’ residency in Massachusetts.

In April of 1762, the Lopez family moved temporarily across the border to a home in Swansea, Massachusetts. In October, seven months after his rejection by the Rhode Island Superior Court, Aaron Lopez appeared at a court session in Taunton, Massachusetts with a certificate from the deputy governor of Rhode Island that he had "deported [himself] as a good and loyal subject of his Britannic Majesty." The court granted Lopez his naturalization, after which the family returned to their beloved Rhode Island.

When British forces captured Newport during the Revolutionary War, Lopez abandoned home and business and fled to Leicester, Massachusetts, where he joined other displaced Newport patriots. On his way back to Newport when the Revolution ended, Lopez met his untimely end in the carriage accident for which he received the posthumous appreciation of Reverend Ezra Stiles and his fellow patriots.


Cochin Jews

There has been a lot of dispute about the date of arrival and settlement of the Cochin Jews in the ancient Kerala port of Cranganore, as renamed by the British (Kodungaloor to the Malayalis or Shingly to the Jews). There has been a history of trade between the Malabar (North Kerala – Cochin was then a part of Malabar) Coast and Israel, long before the establishment of the Cochin Jewish community. S.S.Koder in a paper presented in 1965 to the Kerala History Association traces the history of Jews in Kerala and states that “ from the 5th to the 15th century CE the Jews of Cranganore have had virtually an independent principality ruled over by a Prince of their own race and choice.”

There have been many theories regarding the Cochin Jews. One of them being - the first Jews to arrive in Kerala were said to be part of King Solomon’s fleet, resulting in the exodus from Persia in the 5th century BCE. Another theory is that the Kerala Jews were descendants of the Jews taken to Babylon by the Persian emperor Nebuchadnazar. However, it is widely believed that the first Jews came to Kerala as traders, after the destruction of the Second Temple of Palestine in the first Century BCE.

Another disputed theory amongscholarsisregarding the date of the copper plates handed by the 4th Century Kerala Ruler, Cheraman Perumal (Sri Parkaran Iravi Varman) to the Jewish chieftain, Joseph Rabban, granting him revenue and land. Joseph Rabban was thus made the prince of Anjuvannam and a Jewish principality was established in Cranganore in 379 CE. This date is disputed by various scholars and ranges from 379 to 750 CE. The copper plates are inscribed in Vattezhuthu, originally in Tamil script then prevalent in Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu), South Malabar and Travancore (Kerala). The relationship between Cheraman Perumal and JosephRabban is illustrative of the cordial relationships between the Hindus and Jews, which is still maintained in Kerala.

The Jews initially settled in Shingly (Cranganore), which was later abandoned for Cochin, as a result of the onslaught of the Moors in 1524 and the Portuguese invasion in 1550. The Cochin community was established under the patronage of the Maharaja of Cochin, Bhaskara Ravi Varma (of Perumpadappu Swarupam, one of the ruling royal families of Kerala), who donated land and property next to his Dutch Palace in Mattancheri, adjacent to the temple of his family deity, Pazhayannur Devi Temple . This theme of welcome, royal patronage and hospitality is a guiding metaphor for Hindu-Jewish symbiosis in Kerala. Even in recent times, the Department of Education in Kerala, consults the community on dates of Jewish festivals. Although holidays are not declared, examinations are not conducted in Keraladuring these auspicious datesof the Jewish calendar.

At present there are only 13 Jews in Mattancheri and about 50 in neighbouring Ernakulam. Most members of the Cochin community are over 60 years of age, with the youngest member being 30. During my interviews with the Cochin Jews, I found that the “promised land” of Israel, practice of endogamy and adherence to the Judaic religion were other reasons for emigration. When I asked Yosef Hellegua whether the Jewish enterprise would not have contributed towards the current economic growth of India, I was caught unawares. Yosef retaliated with the question of why I emigrated to the West and whether I would come back. While I have no answer to his question, I reiterate my own.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Sailors Hymn

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea; and the hunter, home form the hill”. These verses from the poem by A.E. Houseman, are mute reminders of the contribution that the State of Israel’s small, but important naval forces make for the security of their country. The loss of four members of an Israeli missile boat when struck by a Hezbollah launched missile, once again brings attention to a branch of Israel’s armed forces who have managed to perform their duties in both peace and war, with the loss of relatively few of their comrades. The only graphic exception, outside of this recent incident was the accidental sinking of the Israeli submarine, Dakar, which sank with all hands on board on its maiden voyage back to Israel from England in 1968 after being purchased from the British Royal Navy. Only recently did the true fate of the Dakar and its crew of 69 become known when the long vanished sub was finally located on the bottom of the Mediterranean off the Island of Crete.

Many countries who have both military navies, as well as merchant marine fleets, have their own version of the Sailor’s Hymn. One of the most notable, composed by American Rear Admiral Charles Jackson in 1879, and heard often by U.S, Navy choral groups, begins as follows:

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.

Though based on a Christian Protestant song, sung by coastal churches where sailing vessels were a vital part of the lives of people living in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, the song is still a fitting tribute to those who brave the seas and ocean’s waves on ships of all types; for both war and peace.

Being a Jewish State, Israel cannot use this hymn to honor its men at sea. It would be fitting, therefore for a special song to be composed, with both music and words to pay tribute to those naval personnel who have fallen in the line of duty. The Torah and other parts of the Holy Scriptures have many verses and psalms dealing with the sea, and deliverance from it, including the Chapters from Genesis dealing with Noah and his family, and a later separate book, the Book of Jonah. Both of these examples have fitting excerpts which, together with the proper musical rendition would make into a most beautiful Sailor’s Hymn for Israel’s naval personnel.

The announcement by the Israeli Navy that the bodies of all four sailors were found at least brings some comfort to their grieving families who can now bury their love ones and visit their graves. Those lost at sea, however, such as the Dakar’s crew, are lost forever; as trying to recover them from more than 2,000 feet of water is too difficult, considering the logistical factors involved. They, together with literally thousands more worldwide, share the sea as their common grave.

Still, proper attention needs to be paid to these brave men and the important duties performed for the welfare of their nation. And nothing more suitable and fitting a tribute is needed than to compose a special hymn or prayer in their honor, which will be a lasting reminder of the duties sacrifices by this special branch of Israel’s military forces.

One Jerusalem

Obituary: Murray Aronoff

Murray Aronoff, a crew member of a retired steamship, the Exodus 1947, on its aborted voyage to transport 4,500 Jewish refugees from France to Palestine in 1947, died on Dec. 30 at North Shore University Hospital-Cornell University Medical College in Plainview. He was 75.

The cause was complications resulting from Alzheimer's disease, said his son, Aaron.

During the Exodus's journey, the British, who were trying to balance Arab and Jewish interests in the Middle East, opposed the large influx of refugees to the region, and boarded the ship in international waters, trying to turn it back. Mr. Aronoff called together a group later called Murray's Marauders, about 400 volunteers, who fought off the troops. During the battle, he was injured by a steel-tipped gun.

Mr. Aronoff was a deckhand on the ship, which belonged to the Haganah, a Jewish resistance group in Palestine. Bernard Marks of Cincinnati was the first officer. ''Murray's Marauder's defended the ship,'' Mr. Marks said, referring to the battle. It lasted from 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on July 18, 1947, as the British tried to take the ship. ''They had side arms, machine guns and tear gas,'' he said, ''and we had canned food and potatoes and rocks.''

The refugees were taken to Germany, but most eventually made it to Palestine. The incident drew international attention to the plight of the refugees, and was believed to help spur the creation of the modern state of Israel. The writer Leon Uris based his novel ''Exodus'' in part on the ship's journey.

Mr. Aronoff was born in Worcester, Mass., where his father was a house painter and an active Zionist. Mr. Aronoff, who shared his father's Zionist passion, could not fight in World War II because he had had polio as a child, his son said.

Until his mid-30's Mr. Aronoff was a professional speaker for the United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds, his son said. He worked for years in New York City's garment district as a salesman and part owner of a factory, and lived in Bethpage most of his life. In the late 1960's he was active in raising $500,000 to rebuild the Bethpage Jewish Community Center, which had burned. In his later years he helped lead several trips with college students that retraced the route of the exodus. He was also a former president of the American Veterans of Israel.

In addition to his son Aaron, who lives in Bellmore, N.Y., Mr. Aronoff is survived by two other sons, Keith, of Boca Raton, Fla.; and Craig, of Merrick, N.Y.; two daughters, Faith Aronoff of Manhattan and Andrea Aronoff of Bayside, Queens; and nine grandchildren.

NY Times

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

US Navy Jewish Penant

The Jewish worship pennant was approved by the Secretary of the Navy in December 1975 as the equivalent of the traditional church pennant used for Christian services. It is flown above the ensign at the ensign staff (not underway) or gaff (underway) while Jewish services are being conducted aboard a warship by a naval chaplain. The pennant is white with a rounded tip and the emblem of the Jewish chaplaincy--the tablets of Moses surmounted by the Magen David all outlined in dark blue--set with the top toward the hoist.

Jewish Women in the Navy

The history of women serving in the United States Navy began in the Civil War when nuns of the Roman Catholic religious orders came aboard hospital ships to assist the wounded. While the first trained nurses served in the Navy during the Spanish-American War, it was not until 1908 that the Navy Nurse Corps was officially established and produced over 12,000 women who served during World War I. The Navy "WAVES" or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service force was officially established on July 30, 1942. The WAVES were created to initiate a rapid buildup of Navy personnel at the outset of WWII to address an acute shortage of manpower. With the establishment of a women's reserve force, Congress hoped to enlist a total of 10,000 women and 1,000 officers to aid in the war effort.

Bernice Sains Freid, Bebe Koch,and Lt. Miriam "Mimi" Miller each served in the Navy WAVES during World War II. Miranda Bloch represents one of the first Jewish women in the Marines and Cindy Gats served in the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

more at Jewish Woman's Archieve

Rabbi Douglas

Not long ago the Jewish people celebrated Rosh Hashana, the new year, 5770. Wow! That's a long time. I am not very religious, but it reminded me of an incident that happened when I was filming the movie, "In Harm's Way". I played a naval officer, a bitter flier under John Wayne's command. After raping Jill Harworth, the girlfriend of Wayne's son, played by Brandon de Wilde, I sacrificed myself on an air mission.

The most exciting thing about the production was that we got to shoot on the USS St. Paul, a cruiser, as it sailed from Seattle to Hawaii. And there was Otto Preminger, the director, treating the personnel like his own personal crew, the boat like a prop, yelling to the captain, in his German accent, "Push the boat the other vey, so ve get the sunlight!"

I shared a bunk with one of the officers, Josh Nelson, who I was surprised to learn was Jewish. I never think of naval officers as being Jewish, maybe because I didn't know any others when I was one. I asked Josh if many of the crew were Jewish.
He said, "A few."
I said, "Do you ever hold religious services?"
"I tried to, but it's hard to get them interested enough."
"Suppose I conduct the religious service?"
"would you? Could you?"
"Yes," I said, "Why don't you tell your friends that tomorrow, Friday night, I'll conduct the service."

That Friday evening, we were all dining at the captain's table - John Wayne, Burgess Meredith, and of course Otto Preminger - when over the loudspeakers:


Well, this caused a little ripple. Heads everywhere bobbed. And I, very dignified and nonchalant, stood up and said, "Would you excuse me, Captain? I have to officiate at this service." John Wayne and Burgess Meredith, curious, came over later. Otto Preminger, a Jew, didn't. In a borrowed yarmulke and prayer shawl, I conducted the Friday evening service, remembering the old Hebrew prayers that I learned when I was a poor boy living in Amsterdam, when the people in my synagogue wanted little Issur to become a rabbi, and I didn't know how to tell them I wanted to be an actor. That night on the USS St. Paul was the fulfillment of my debt to them.

I don't think it matters what religion you follow as long as your faith tells you to care for others.

Kirk Douglas

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obituary: Yossi Harel

Yossi Harel, who renamed the rickety ship he commanded Exodus 1947 and sailed it to legend as a symbol of the righteousness of the mission by Jews to settle Palestine in the face of British opposition, died Saturday at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 90.

His death of a heart attack and burial were widely reported in the Israeli news media.

Britain, which controlled Palestine under an international mandate, had in 1939 restricted the number of Jews it would allow to move there to 75,000 over five years, a tiny figure compared with the number who were desperate to go there. Partly because of pressure from Arab countries, Britain held fast to this pre-World War II limit, even as Holocaust survivors tried to go to a biblical homeland.

Harel commanded the main clandestine operations bringing immigrants to Palestine and personally delivered 24,000 of them, a quarter of the total. He is particularly remembered for his command of four large ships. He named one Exodus to recall the Jews' escape from Egypt.

The Exodus never made it to the Palestinian shore. But it made a dazzling sight as it approached the port of Haifa. Loudspeakers blared "Hatikvah," which would become Israel's national anthem. What would be Israel's flag snapped in the wind.

It was there that British forces boarded the boat and engaged in a violent encounter with Holocaust survivors, leaving three Jews dead and hundreds injured. The unintended symbolism could not have been stronger: the British used tear gas and delivered the Jews to an old Nazi SS camp near Hamburg. The events caused wide outrage and prompted support for the Zionist dream.

This vivid tale quickly assumed the mythic power in the Israeli independence struggle that the Boston Tea Party had in America's. It was turned into "Exodus," a popular 1958 book by Leon Uris, which two years later became a film directed by Otto Preminger. Paul Newman portrayed Harel, who was called Ari Ben Canaan in the movie.

Yoram Kaniuk, an Israeli author, wrote in a biography of Harel that the state of Israel was established not in May 1948, when independence was declared and the British left, but on July 18, 1947, when the Exodus valiantly sailed toward certain confrontation in the port of Haifa.

"The state of Israel came into existence before it acquired a name, when its gates were locked to Jews, when the British fought against survivors of the Holocaust," Kaniuk wrote in a biography of Harel, "Commander of the Exodus" (2000).

Yossi Harel was born Yossef Hamburger on Jan. 4, 1918, in Jerusalem; he and his twin brother represented the sixth generation of his family to be born there. The Guardian reported in its obituary that he had a troubled youth, and, after a series of labor jobs, he left his family at 14 to join the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that later became the core of Israel's military. Kaniuk called him a "Zionist cowboy" in his book.

Harel joined the British Army during World War II and was badly injured in fighting in Greece. He then worked to transport as many Jews to Palestine as possible, legally or illegally. The Daily Telegraph reported that in mid-1946 he was sent on a secret mission to provide agents in Greece with gold to use in bribing European governments to speed up the transit of Jews to Palestine.

Exodus 1947 began as the merchant vessel President Warfield, which was being scrapped after service for both the British and Americans in World War II. It was secretly purchased by Haganah and left Baltimore on Feb. 25, 1947. Yossi, whom Haganah had earlier ordered to study coastal navigation, took command at an Italian port. The refugees boarded at Sète, France, on July 12.

Six days later came the confrontation with the British. At first Yossi encouraged resistance, but then surrendered to prevent further casualties. The next day, members of a United Nations special committee overseeing developments in Palestine watched refugees being transferred to British ships for return to Europe. The committee recommended that the British mandate end and a Jewish state be established. The United Nations General Assembly authorized this on Nov. 29, 1947.

Harel was a bodyguard for Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, a top official in Israel's post-independence navy and then a naval architecture student in the United States. Various Israeli and British news reports said he studied naval architecture or engineering in Los Angeles or at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1954, Moshe Dayan, chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, called him back to Israel to head Unit 131, a secret Israeli group that had spies in Arab countries. His immediate task was to clean up after a botched Israeli plot to carry out bombings in Egypt to persuade the British and Americans that they could not afford to withdraw from Egypt.

The Telegraph said he went on to pursue a successful business career, which also served as a cover for continuing work for Israeli intelligence.

Harel is survived by three children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In a speech in La Jolla, California, in 2005, Harel gave statistics to show that running the British blockade was deadlier than Israel's war for independence. He said that 6,000 of 40,000 to 100,000 Jews who fought in the war were killed, or 1 percent. Of the 100,000 who tried to get through the blockade, 3,000 died, or 3 percent.

"With all these casualties, they kept coming, they didn't stop," he said. "A nation destroyed was coming back to life."

- Douglas Martin

Obituary: Paul Shulman

Paul Shulman, a former United States Navy officer who went on to become the first commander of Israel's Navy, died on Monday in Haifa. He was 72.

He died from heart disease, his daughter-in-law, Aliza, said.

Mr. Shulman, a New York native, was the deputy commander of a Navy destroyer in World War II. He left the United States Navy in 1945.

He immediately joined the effort to smuggle refugees and arms from Europe into Palestine, which was administered under a British mandate. In November 1948, six months after the founding of Israel, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Mr. Shulman, who was then 26, to set up Israel's Navy. Fighting for control of territory continued until January 1949. In his nine months as commander, he laid the ground for Israeli's modern navy, known for mainly for protecting Israel's borders from incursions by Arab guerrillas.

He commanded two important actions toward the end of the 1948-49 war, a blockade of the Gaza Strip and the capture of Ein Gedi, which secured Israel's hold of the Dead Sea's southwestern coast.

He is survived by his wife and two sons. Further details were unavailable.

- NY Times

A Jewish captain leads Navy's "Truman" into action.

The one thing that is constant about life on an aircraft carrier is the noise. The constant roar of jet aircraft engines on the deck is complemented by other sounds heard throughout the ship and below deck: the explosive booms coming from the catapults launching planes and the reverberations of the restraining wires on the steel deck that enables others to land.

Yet the sound that seems to garner the most attention on board the USS Harry S. Truman is, ironically, among the softest they will hear: the even tones of the voice of Capt. Herman "Herm" Shelanski.

""I've never heard him even raise his voice," confides one of Shelanski's officers, who admits that this low-key style is hardly typical of naval behavior when it comes to the person in charge. "But he's always in command of the situation. He's the sort of a person who makes you want to meet or exceed his expectations."

As another officer put it, referring to the captain's average height (approximately 5 feet 7 inches), "His physical stature isn't so big. But his presence is huge. Everyone on board feels it."

Shelanski, a native of Wynnewood, is a veteran of 27 years of naval service, during which he has risen from a young aviator piloting E-2 Hawkeyes to now being the commanding officer of one of the Navy's elite weapon systems: a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, whose air wing of more than 80 tactical and support aircraft (including squadrons of the latest F-18 Hornets and Super-Hornet jets) can project America's strength around the world.

Shelanski, who is married and the father of two teenagers, took command of the Truman in the spring of this year. In the Atlantic in September, some 200 miles from its home port of Norfolk, Va., the Truman will put to sea and sail to the Persian Gulf, where its aircraft and pilots will be flying missions providing support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

Shelanski's role is to be, as he put it, "mayor of the city" -- of a floating airport that's home to more than 5,000 sailors and aviators. As long as the Empire State Building is tall, the Truman is an enormous vessel whose maze-like compartments below decks can take sailors weeks to find their way around.

"While its namesake's trademark "Give 'Em Hell" slogan is emblazoned around the ship as a symbol of its crew's fighting spirit, another of the 33rd president's favorite sayings is embodied in the conduct of the man who commands it: "The Buck Stops Here."

"There's a lot of different leadership styles and a lot of pressure to be who you are not," says Shelanski. "But I'm a believer in being who you are and treating people with respect."

A Grandson of Immigrants

Though decades of flying and sea duty have given him the experience of command, he makes no secret of the fact that a big part of who he is can be traced back to his origins: as the grandson of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants to the United States who settled in Philadelphia in the early 20th century.

"I always wanted to serve my country and a lot of that has do to with being Jewish."

When asked what would prompt the son of a prominent doctor, who was a Bar Mitzvah at Har Zion Temple and a graduate of Lower Merion High School in the 1970s to join the Navy, his answer is simple: "I always wanted to serve my country," says Shelanski. "And a lot of that has do to with being Jewish."

Military service was hardly the norm for middle-class Jewish young people in the 1970s, but Shelanski says that the message of pride and patriotism in America was a big part of his upbringing.

On his desk in his spacious and luxurious in-board cabin (used mostly for dinners and ceremonies) are pictures of his father, Morris Shelanski, who served as a doctor in the Navy during World War II, and a cousin who was a naval aviator. Their example of service was and remains important to the captain.

"I knew that I was fortunate. A lot of our family died in the Holocaust. It makes me think of what could have happened if we hadn't come to America," he says. "I wanted to give back to this country. I also understood that the strength of the United States is directly proportional to the safety of Israel."

Yet a career in the Navy was not really in his plans when he left the area to attend the University of Colorado, where he graduated in 1979. A self-described "outdoor kid" with an itch to fly, the following year found him at a naval-aviation officers candidate school from which he emerged with the newly minted rank of ensign. Two years later, he earned his wings and was flying E-2C Hawkeyes.

'But it was only going to be a temporary job," recalls Shelanski. "I was going to do it for a while, and then go and be a doctor," following in his father's footsteps.

What changed his plans?

"I was having too much fun to stop," the captain acknowledges. "I really enjoyed what I did. The intensity, the excitement and the thrill of it was what kept me in."

And the fact that he was very good at his job.

It's clear from his record that, from the start of his career, Shelanski was selected by his superiors for special responsibilities.

Flying the Hawkeye -- the Navy's tactical airborne warning-and-control-system platform -- made him "the quarterback" of air missions.

During his first sea deployment, he says that he found himself on the spot during a confrontation with Soviet aircraft that were attempting to track his carrier during a Cold War exercise in the Pacific.

As a lieutenant junior grade, he decided to change his air wing's plans to meet the potential threat while in the air. Shelanski radioed the change of plans down to the commanding admiral on his ship and waited for the answer to chutzpah with baited breath.

After a pause, he says, the response came back. "Roger that" -- terse approval that was all he needed.

"It was a big thrill," he says.

From there, it was a steady progression of promotions as he rose to be a commander of a Hawkeye squadron, stints as executive officer of an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, commander of a fighting command ship, the USS La Salle, as well as various naval staff positions in the United States and at NATO.

Along the way, he picked up a Master of Science in electrical engineering and space engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and studied at the Armed Forces Staff College, as well as receiving nuclear-power training. His duties have taken him to various parts of the globe, including postings in Italy and Bahrain, a place that was no less foreign to him than some parts of the United States and which differed greatly from his Northeast upbringing.

Physically fit at the age of 50, though he doesn't fly very much anymore, he still works out daily in the ship's gym and planned to compete with crew members in physical-fitness tests.

Keeping the Faith

Yet one theme that has been constant throughout a career has been his willingness to be candid about his Jewish identity in a service where he often found himself one of the few, if not only, Jews around.

He has discovered little prejudice, though a lot of ignorance, about Judaism and Jews.

Though he knows that anti-Semitism was commonplace in the military in his father's day, Shelanski says that he has discovered little prejudice, though a lot of ignorance, about Judaism and Jews.

"It's a little bit more responsibility," he says of being the first Jew a sailor may meet.

"I always understood and loved Judaism. To me, being Jewish means asking how do you treat the stranger because we were strangers," explains Shelanski.

His philosophy has always been to "be open and honest, to care for people and to take care of people. The secret of success as a leader is to understand people. I got that from my parents, especially my dad."

Despite the difficulties of being cut off from all the usual Jewish connections, he found ways of holding on to who he was while staying close to his comrades.

In one instance, he recalls, while serving with a squadron in a remote location where all were away from their families on the holidays, he served as a kipah-wearing Santa Claus to cheer up his friends at a Christmas party. Under all circumstances, he says, "I wanted to say who I was."

While keeping Judaism was tough as a junior officer, it's much easier for a naval captain.

On board the Truman, Shelanski not only has his own private stores of food, but has hosted kosher seders in his quarters for the crew. He also regularly attends Friday-night Shabbat services in the ship's chapel along with the approximately 12 to 15 other Jewish crew members, a group that includes a cross-section of the crew: officers, aviators and enlisted personnel who say the Sabbath service provides an oasis of rest amid the stress of their 24/7 workdays at sea.

The centerpiece of Jewish life on the Truman is a Torah kept in an ark donated by the chapel of the Naval Academy. The scroll, which was dedicated in a formal ceremony this past June, originated in Lithuania, where it was saved from the Holocaust. At the ceremony was another Torah, the one that Israel's first president Chaim Weizmann gave as a gift to President Truman and which was on temporary loan from the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

The Torah dedication was "very emotional," as well as something that brought both the Norfolk Jewish community and the Navy closer together.

As was the case on the Reagan, where he also helped bring a Torah to the chapel, most sailors didn't know what it was.

"I wasn't sure what the sailors would think," admits Shelanski. "But the response was tremendous. There wasn't a dry eye in the place as non-Jews felt the importance of it. I've found that people liked to learn about Judaism. And Christians see it as a way to go back to their roots."

Faith can be important in a profession in which lethal danger is commonplace.

Indeed, faith can be important in a profession in which lethal danger is commonplace.

That was brought home to the crew of the Truman even before their deployment in Iraq, when one of their Hawkeye radar planes crashed into the ocean after a takeoff at night during an August training session for a young pilot.

Shelanski, who was asleep in his other, much smaller cabin just off the bridge, where he spends most of his time, reports that he was at the helm directing the search-and-rescue efforts within seconds.

The search lasted 36 hours, but it was rapidly apparent, he says, that the plane and the three people on board would not survive. What they found, he adds, was "heartbreaking" -- wreckage and helmets, but no bodies.

It was the first crash of a Navy Hawkeye in 14 years. And it proves to Shelanski that the worst thing that can happen on board is "complacency," something he continues to fight.

"Carrier duty is very unforgiving of mistakes. We have to learn from our mistakes," concludes the captain.

In the Gulf, the Truman's planes are scheduled to fly as support for soldiers and marines. Some of the crew are also slated to be on the ground, serving as liaisons between the troops there and the ship to coordinate missions.

Everyone and everything must be constantly checked and re-qualified, he explains. While in the Persian Gulf, he says, "we know the pilots are going to be flying into harm's way. There's always a risk. The better we train, the better our chance of success."

Though the conflict is one that has lost support from many Americans, the Truman is prepared to do its part in the fighting.

"Some people in the navy were upset about the decision to go in," Shelanski confides. "But that doesn't mean we're not enthusiastic to win. We go where our nations' leadership tells us to go. Our task is clear and there's not a person on the ship who doesn't want us to succeed."

History Lessons

As a student of history, Shelanski says that he is cognizant of the threat from Iran and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has declared his intention to destroy Israel and is attempting to gain nuclear capability.

"Most sailors and officers here are aware of the history. We know what happened when another nation [Nazi Germany] that made threats of annihilation was ignored. The sailors are happy that we're standing up to these people, and hopefully, our presence will deter them."

As with Iraq, he defers to civilian leaders to make the decisions about what to do. Still, Shelanski says that he hopes diplomacy and a coalition of Western powers will cause Iran to step back from the brink.

But, he warns, the Iranians "should understand that we have more than enough to stop them."

The crew of the Truman hopes to return home to Norfolk after several months at sea sometime next summer. As to his own future after his term as captain of the Truman ends (he is scheduled to leave it in early 2009), Shelanski is uncertain. Some in the Navy consider him a serious candidate for promotion to the rank of admiral.

Though flattered by the idea, he says that is a decision that will have to be made by his family. He's not certain that he wants to uproot them again, which would be a certainty if he is promoted.

"We'll figure that out when we get there," he remarks.

"I know my sailors. They're not numbers. They're people. My goal is to bring everyone here home."

But before the homecoming that he's already looking forward to, duty in a war theater awaits.

With that in mind, would he want his own children to follow in his footsteps?

His answer is in the affirmative.

"I'd like my children to serve," at least for one hitch, he says, so they can give back to his country as he has done.

"But that makes you think about what's important enough to send my [children] out to get killed," notes the captain. "Unfortunately, there are times when we must do that."

Noting that all aboard the Truman are volunteers, he also says that "they're all someone's children."

Most on board tend to speak of themselves as "warriors," but their captain is aware of the cost of combat.

"I understand as a father what it means to see the consequences of war," he says. "I know my sailors. They're not numbers. They're people. My goal is to bring everyone here home."

- Jonathan S. Tobin

Israeli Navy: A Tiny, but Hard-Hitting Battle Force

At the onset of the War of Independence, the Israeli Navy consisted of five large ships that could be considered in the category of “warships.” An American Annapolis graduate, Paul Shulman, was commander of the navy. Among the 65 to 95 crew members of each of the warships, about three dozen were Machalniks, most from the U.S. and Canada.

Three of the five warships had been built in the US and Canada for service in World War II, than retired at the end of the war. Those three and one other were purchased for use as Aliyah Bet ships. While bringing surviving holocaust Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine, they were intercepted by the British and impounded.

At the beginning of the War of Independence, those four ships were at anchor, rusting away along the water breaker inside the harbor area of the port of Haifa – and were known as part of the “Shadow Fleet.”

In addition to the warships, there were about two dozen small harbor craft known as the Small Fleet Crafts and a seagoing tugboat.

The four original Israeli Navy warships were:

Eilat/A-16, former Aliyah Bet Medinat-HaYehudim (The Jewish State), originally US Navy Icebreaker Northland.
Haganah/ K-20, former Aliyah Bet Hagana, originally Royal Canadian Navy Corvette Norsyd.
Wedgwood/ K-18, former Aliyah Bet Wedgwood, originally Royal Canadian Navy Corvette Beauharnois.
Maoz/ K-24, former Aliyah Bet Ben Hecht (Abril had been built in Hamburg Germany at the Krupp shipyard facilities as a passenger cruise ship named Citra and later on was sold to an American owner who operated her till the outbreak of WW II; at that time, the US Coast Guard took it over to become a coastal patrol gun boat until the end of World War II, when it was sold to a shipping company)
The four ships were refurbished by a newly- formed Israeli Naval ship repair facility with the assistance of the Kirshtein\Greenspan and Ogen private shipbuilding and repair companies in the Haifa Bay area. These four ships were joined in October 1948 by Noga/ K-26, the former Yucatan, originally US Navy PC.1265.

The five warships were manned by former merchant seamen, some of the Aliyah Bet ships crew members, Israelis who had served in the Royal Navy during World War II and Machal volunteers from all over the world. The total personnel of the Israeli Navy at the onset of the War of Independence was approximately 2,000 men and women. This number included the crews of the warships, the harbor craft, headquarters and hospitals. Most of the Machalniks were World War II veterans with various service experiences and qualifications. The newly refurbished and crewed warships served on coastal patrol duties in the Mediterranean and engaged in naval combat with the Egyptian warships and bombardment of enemy coastal installations in and around the Gaza area, all the way to Port Said in Egypt.

Many of the crew, especially the young Israelis, were trained on the job by members of the crew who had prior military and maritime experience or professional qualifications.

The Israeli Navy looked to the Machal volunteers for maritime experience and the ability to serve in responsible positions as deck officers, skippers, radar and radio operators, communications supervisors, gunnery officers, bosons, engineers, electricians and engine maintainers. Basically, everyone had to adapt to new or unfamiliar equipment and operating requirements in the five ships.

Although English was spoken by many of the crews, the official language was Hebrew and some Machalniks had problems learning it. Machal women only served on shore assignments as nurses in the Bat-Galim Base Hospital and in administrative positions in various bases and the headquarters in Stella-Maris on the Carmel in Haifa.

In addition to Paul Shulman, a number of Machalniks served as ships officers, as well as group leaders on shore installations and ships repairs facilities. The Israeli War of Independence was not one continual battle, neither on land nor sea. It was fought with sometime-long intervals of cease-fire. During the cease-fire periods, the five warships were routinely on patrol duty, safeguarding the Israeli shoreline and ranging as far as the islands of Cyprus and Crete, the Syrian border and Turkey to north and northwest, and to Ashkelon, Gaza, and the Egyptian port of Port Said to the south.

There were always several ships out on patrol duty on rotational basis, while some of the ships were on standby in or around the port of Haifa or Tel Aviv. The remainder would be in port for refueling, emergency repairs, provisioning and R&R for the ships’ crews.

On Aug. 24, 1948, Haganah/ K-20 and Wedgwood/ K-18 seized the Argiro, which had on board 8,000 Rifles and 10 million rounds of ammunition. These arms and ammunition were quickly delivered to the Israeli Armed Forces. This encounter was known as the Pirate’s Booty Operation. The Argiro had been sailing under the Italian Flag with an Italian crew. The war materiel was originally bought from Czechoslovakia by representatives of Arab countries who were buying arms from all over Europe. The cargo had previously been aboard another Italian ship, Lino, which was sunk in the port of Barrie Italy by Israeli Mossad operatives several months earlier. The cargo aboard the Lino had been well-packed and preserved. It was recovered and loaded onto the Argiro, which was then directed to Egypt. Two Mossad operatives boarded the vessel in a severe storm at sea near Crete, convinced the Italian crew that they had no chance to get to their designated port and arranged for the two Israeli Navy warships to board and confiscate the cargo and sink the Argiro.

On October 19, 1948 the Haganah/ K-20, Wedgwood/ K-18, Maoz /K-24 and Noga/ K-26 engaged an Egyptian corvette and three Egyptian spitfires. They downed one of the spitfires and damaged the corvette, which escaped back to its base at Port Said. On October 22, 1948, the same four warships encountered the Egyptian Navy flagship King Farouq. The King Farouq was sunk and an Egyptian minesweeper was damaged.

In this battle in the Ashkelon-Gaza coastal area, Israelis successfully deployed an underwater demolition commando unit and high speed torpedo boats.

Also in October fighting, all four warships participated in the bombardment of Egyptian shore installations in the Ashkelon area, and prevented the Egyptian Navy from evacuating its retreating Armies.

By the end of the war, the Machalniks from the US and Canada had provided a critical core for the fledgling Israeli Navy, and some of them became training personnel after the war for the navy that was growing in fighting ships and personnel.

- David Hanovice

Putting the Oy Back into 'Ahoy'

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 (
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 challenges for Jewish pirates, including the following:

If you have a hook instead of a hand, on which arm do you put tefillin?
Does your treasure map show how far the eruv extends?
How long do you wait, after capturing a plundered ship, to put up a mezuzah in the captain's cabin?
Should you cover your eye patch with your hand when you say the Shema?
Can you wear a leather boot over your peg leg on Yom Kippur?
Are you able to carry on the plank on Shabbos? If your parrot is on your shoulder, is that carrying?

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."

A Man of Three Worlds

Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew in Catholic and Protestant Europe

In the late fifteenth century, many of the Jews expelled from Spain made their way to Morocco and established a dynamic community in Fez. A number of Jewish families became prominent in commerce and public life there. Among the Jews of Fez of Hispanic origin was Samuel Pallache, who served the Moroccan sultan as a commercial and diplomatic agent in Holland until Pallache's death in 1616. Before that, he had tried to return with his family to Spain, and to this end he tried to convert to Catholicism and worked as an informer, intermediary, and spy in Moroccan affairs for the Spanish court. Later he became a privateer against Spanish ships and was tried in London for that reason. His religious identity proved to be as mutable as his political allegiances: when in Amsterdam, he was devoutly Jewish; when in Spain, a loyal converso (a baptized Jew).

In A Man of Three Worlds, Mercedes Garcõa-Arenal and Gerard Wiegers view Samuel Pallache's world as a microcosm of early modern society, one far more interconnected, cosmopolitan, and fluid than is often portrayed. Pallache's missions and misadventures took him from Islamic Fez and Catholic Spain to Protestant England and Holland. Through these travels, the authors explore the workings of the Moroccan sultanate and the Spanish court, the Jewish communities of Fez and Amsterdam, and details of the Atlantic-Mediterranean trade. At once a sweeping view of two continents, three faiths, and five nation-states and an intimate story of one man's remarkable life, A Man of Three Worlds is history at its most compelling.

- Johns Hopkins University Press

Oy-yuy-yuy, & a bottle of Schnaps

My editor was firm: Pirates of the Caribbean movies made a billion “so we’ll call your book Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.” I agreed: “Yes, a great title, but truth be told, most of my Jewish pirates were nowhere near the Caribbean.”

The Meditteranean was plundered by both the Pirate Rabbi of Holland Samuel Palache, and Sinan the Jew, Barbarossa’s 2nd in command; Chile was Suboltol Deul base, and Moses Cohen Henriques’ pirate island was off the coast of Brazil.
“But o.k. if we have to go with that title, there were a couple of Jewish pirates in the Caribbean.” I told him about Jamaica’s Bartholomew the Portuguese, a successful failure, famous not for his successes but for his escapes, and the pirate Jean Lafitte known to Americans as the hero of the battle of New Orleans who wrote “my Jewish-Spanish grandmother, a witness at the time of the Inquisition, inspired in me a hatred of the Spanish crown” And it was off Cuba that in 1628 Moses Cohen Henriques captured the Spanish Silver fleet, a billion dollar haul in today’s currency.

So, I told him I’m fine with Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. But can he give it a broader subtitle like Sephardic Pioneers or Underground in the New World? "No," he said. But for you my UJCL readers, you are mishpoche and therefore I have to tell you the full story.
The major role of Jews and pirates was we were like the brains behind their brawn, i.e. We advised and backed them.

From the Age of Discovery, secret Jews sailed with the explorers, marched with the conquistadors and were among the first settlers in every New World colony. This early history is largely unknown because few knew these pioneers were Jewish. Forbidden entry because of their religion, Iberian Jews posed as New Christians from Portugal, the one settler group that did not require proof of Catholic ancestry.

A mercantile people, Jews in the New World went about their business
(as merchants, traders and ship owners) of becoming the first merchant class in the Spanish Empire. As long as they pretended to be Christian and delivered the goods, no one questioned too closely their religiosity. For most of the l6th century, the parties were content with the trade-off: The king needed the Jews to insure his cash flow, and they needed him to keep the Inquisition at bay.

Each colony had an underground community of Jews known only to each other and brethren in other colonies. Together they dominated commerce.
In the 16th century, when the known world doubled in size and international trade became big business, conversos established a trade network that spanned the globe. In concert with Jews scattered world-wide by the Sephardic Diaspora, they formed a global tribe of inside traders, a world wide intelligence network bonded by heritage, language and a hatred for Spain.

Once their trade network was established, however, Jews became expendable. In the l6th and l7th centuries, thousands of New World conversos were arrested, tortured and tried. Found guilty, their wealth was confiscated, and they were first flogged, then either imprisoned, strangled, burned to ash, condemned to work in the salt mines of Venezuela, or row galley ships across the Pacific from which none returned.

Jamaica Haven
“They are good and useful spies,” said Oliver Cromwell of the Jews who when the Inquisition threatened, advised him in the conquest of Jamaica. Welcomed by the English, Jews from all over the New World shed their converso cloaks and moved to Jamaica. The community soon included ship owners from Mexico and Brazil, traders from Peru and Columbia, and ship captains and pilots from Nevis and Barbados. Together their knowledge of New World trade was unsurpassed. By 1660, Jamaica had become the Jews’ principal haven in the New World. Situated in the middle of the shipping lanes, Jamaica was an ideal base from which to strike at Spanish shipping, and engage in contraband trade with the Main. Jamaica’s Jews were major players in both activities.

Having convinced the island’s new leaders that the best way to defend the colony and have it prosper was to invite the pirates of the Caribbean to move there, Port Royal became the home base of the feared Buccaneers of the West Indies and piracy the island’s chief industry. Jewish merchants, in coded correspondence with converso merchants in the Spanish colonies, were able to ascertain what ship was sailing when, its cargo, route, destination, and what its captain may have secreted in his cabin. Thus informed, they financed and advised the buccaneers, and got first dibs on the booty.

Port Royal’s English merchants, new to the New World, could not compete with those they called “descendants of the Crucifers of our Lord,” and repeatedly petitioned for their expulsion. One complained:
“The infinite number of Jews who daily resort to this island have made Port Royal their Goshen and will do nothing but trade…This is a great and growing evil and had we not warning from other Colonies we should see our streets filled and the ships hither crowded with them. This means taking our children’s bread and giving it to the Jews. We did not want them at Port Royal, a place populous and strong without them.

Another by 72 “Christian merchants” accused the Jews of practicing what is today normal business practice:
“The great Mischief we suffer by them is that their trading is a perfect monopoly, for they are a kind of joint stock company, and not only buy the choicest and best goods, but frequently buy up whole cargoes, and undersell petitioners, which they can better bear by their penurious way of living…”

Prejudice could not stand up to economics. Jews’ contribution to Jamaica and England’s prosperity determined the Crown’s position in their favor. In two decades (1656-1676), in large part due to the role of these proven entrepreneurs of wealth in the silent trade (illegal trade with Spanish colonies) and their dealings with the buccaneers, Jamaica funneled to England an estimated four million pounds of silver. England’s Committee of Accounts noted the island had become “the base for the greatest flow of silver and gold [and] more bullion is yearly imported from thence than from
all other of the King’s dominions laid together.”

Port Royal, with its wealthy Jewish merchants, ship owners and synagogue, was known as the “Treasure House of the Indies”. In the ascendancy of the Buccaneer Admiral Henry Morgan, the Jews found their “Joshua.” His six raids on Spanish ports, financed by the merchants, and culminating in the burning of the “Golden City of Panama,” brought the Spanish Empire to its knees. In the Treaty of Madrid in l670, Spain acceded to Europe’s right to settle the New World...and Jews were finally free to be Jews.

The Great Earthquake of 1692 brought a climatic end to the pirate port when the sea swallowed two-thirds of Port Royal. From an infamous pirate capital, Jamaica, by 1698, had become a sugar island worked by 40,000 slaves, and after 1713, “the centre for slave distribution in the Caribbean and North America.” It was then that England’s Royal African Company was awarded by the asiento – the monopoly right Spain granted to conduct the slave trade with Spanish America. A few Jamaican Jews did participate in the trade, but most dealt in dry goods. This fact was noted in a London petition in 1735 that protested the on-going effort of rival merchants to exclude Jews. Their defenders (92 Jewish and non-Jewish merchants) wrote: “The Jews [in London] are almost the only persons that send any dry, fine goods to Jamaica, at their own risk, and on their own account…for the supply of the inhabitants of the island, and for making proper sortments of goods for the Spaniards…”

As Jewish involvement with piracy petered out in the Caribbean, the rovers and their Sephardi sponsors disbanded, only to reunite when in the following century a budding new nation would enlist them in its fight for liberty. In the American Revolution, a dozen prominent Jews sided with the rebels as privateers. Celebrated as founders of early Jewish congregations, it is not commonly known that these men owned and operated more than a few of the pirate ships that captured or destroyed over 600 British ships and took cargoes and prizes with an estimated value of $18 million.

- Ed Kritzler