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Posted Mar 9, 2010, 9:13 am
A Caribbean pirate named Moses is giving Jamaica an unexpected source of tourism dollars — Jews.
"No matter that Jamaica has just one synagogue and no rabbi, or that its Jewish community is down to around 200 people. It was once home to a Jewish pirate named Moses Cohen Henriques, according to one account," reports the Wall Street Journal.
Accoring to J-Grit.com, Moses Cohen Henriques was a pirate who, in 1628, along with Admiral Piet Hein of the Dutch West Indiana Co., pulled off a massive gold and silver heist from the Spanish. The two raided Spanish ships off the Cuban coast and seized the gold and silver that was destined for the New World.
Soon after, Henriques led a Jewish contingent to Brazil where he established his own pirate island. After Brazil's recapture by Portugal in 1654, Moses became an advisor to Henry Morgan, perhaps the most famous pirate of all. He was never caught and prosecuted for his crimes.
A global economic downturn and "ferocious" competition from Mexico mean that every traveler counts these days, Jamaican tourism director John Lynch told the Journal. Jamaica's Jewish history, he concedes, has "been a well-kept secret."
And for good reason, according to Edward Kritzler's "Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean."
So much of this history had been hidden, Kritzler determined, because Jews sailing with Columbus and others hid their religious identity in order to escape the persecution of Europe during the Inquisition, reports Jamaicajews.com.
Efforts have been made to highlight the Jewish history, including a Jewish cemetery in Lacovia, the recent uncovering of a synagogue in Spanish Town, and a synagogue is included in a walking tour of Kingston.
And in January, a Jewish history conference included topics such as architecture, music and religion to Caribbean Jewish identity and heritage, according to VisitJamaica.com.