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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

My Machberes

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Madrid's vice mayor with Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger and Jules (Yitzchok) Fleischer.

Jews And Spain

Jewish history in Spain dates back more than 2,000 years. Jewish scholarship began to flourish there beginning in the 8th century. Spanish rulers, whether Christian or Muslim, valued their Jewish subjects and, with fluctuations, generally granted them wide tolerance. Torah scholarship was valued and codification of Jewish law began there. Sadly, the Edict of Expulsion of 1492 brought an end to Jewish communal life in Spain.

Today, Jewish communities, which were bolstered in the 1970s by a considerable influx of Argentinian Jews, mainly Ashkenazim, are multiplying in Spain.

The Jewish Cemetery of Toledo

Efforts to contain defilement at the Jewish cemetery in Toledo have achieved notable success. Dating back more than 700 years, the Jewish cemetery there, like cemeteries in other Spanish cities, are snapshots of the Golden Era of Jewry prior to the expulsion of 1492 and the subsequent inquisitions. Several hundred such cemeteries are known to exist, none of which has had a new interment since those times.

When the municipality of Toledo decided to expand the facility of a school constructed in the 1980s, human bones were unearthed during construction. Upon further examination and investigation, the ground was determined to be that of a Jewish cemetery. Experts further ascertained that several leading Torah scholars were interred in that cemetery.

A number of international campaigns focused on convincing the local Spanish municipality, as well as the federal Spanish government, of the unique sanctified character of Jewish cemeteries. Violating a Jewish cemetery is sacrilege. Unless a grave is in physical danger, re-interment is never a consideration.

Some of the campaigns overlapped and actually hampered communications with Spanish governmental officials. What should have been campaigns of education and negotiation sometimes lapsed into condemnations and confrontations. Denouncing potentially cooperative officials, whether at the local or federal level, is counter-productive. Receptive Spanish officials suddenly found themselves being publicly vilified.

The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) is the international organization led by the widely respected London rosh yeshiva Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger. Beginning in the summer of 2008, when the defiled cemetery was determined to be Jewish, CPJCE began its outreach to Spanish governmental representatives in Spain, England, Israel, and the United States.

In December of that year, the Jewish federation of Spain, consisting of 13 traditional and Orthodox congregations and operating three Jewish day schools, contacted CPJCE by letter, asking for help in the matter of the Jewish cemetery in Toledo. Using its decades-long diplomatic connections, PJCE established a dialogue with parties both in the local government as well as on the federal level.

L-R: Rabbi Sholom Eliezer Teitelbaum, Hon. Fernando Villalonga, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum.

Bones unearthed from graves in the cemetery were placed into sealed containers for later disposition. A noted historian and cemetery expert from Israel came to Toledo to study the situation. The historian is also a greatly respected architect. The building efforts were put on hold until a mutually satisfactory agreement could be reached by all parties.

The Jewish cemetery, because it had not been used for more than 600 years, was not on any register of sensitive sites. Further, some in the local municipality insisted that the school’s immediate need for more space superseded what many considered an unimportant, old, out-of-service, undocumented burial ground. The historian-architect who determined that it was, indeed, an important old Jewish community cemetery, submitted a redesign of the school expansion that would not be desecrating the cemetery.

The architectural redesign was acceptable; however it had an additional cost of $1.3 million, which the local underfunded municipality could not possibly provide. After protracted negotiations, the Spanish federal government announced it was willing to underwrite half of the additional cost.

Meetings In New York

A New York Congressman arranged for a meeting between representatives of UJCare of Williamsburg, the Hon. Jules (Yitzchok) Fleischer, member of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and Spain’s then-Ambassador to the United States to meet in May 2009 with Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, at his study in Kiryas Yoel.

The then-Spanish Ambassador, Fernando Villalonga, advised the Satmar Rebbe that the Spanish government was developing an agreement with municipalities on a protocol to follow should similar issues arise in the future. Villalonga also told the Rebbe that the Spanish federal government was in the process of returning all remains from the Toledo cemetery for reburial before the end of June 2009.

Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger was in Brooklyn at that time and met at Beis Medrash Vayoel Moshe in Williamsburg with a number of rabbis involved in the negotiation process, and favorably reviewed a report by Rabbi Moshe Hershaft, a London member of CPJCE, stating that he had personally visited the Toledo cemetery and inspected and approved the designated places in the cemetery where reburial of the exhumed bones would be re-interred; visited the safeguarded bones that were being kept in sealed containers in an honored and secure storeroom under guard; and received a certificate of authority to remove and re-inter the bones.

Shavuos And The Reality Of Redemption

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Having walked through the Valley of Death, I feel I can understand Shavuos better.

My wife and I just returned from Auschwitz and other tragic sites in Poland. We were never there before and I had thought we never would be, but an opportunity arose and we took it.

What does this have to do with Shavuos?

Everything.

Once upon a time, we were slaves in Egypt. Hashem took us out and we marched for seven weeks through the desert. We arrived at Mount Sinai, where we became one with Him. Our kesubah is called the Torah.

Our rabbis teach us that the Final Redemption will resemble the Redemption from Egypt. Mitzraim was real; Har Sinai was real. Auschwitz was real. And so, it is clear, the Final Redemption will be real. If the impossibly bad could happen, the impossibly good can happen.

Having felt the reality of Auschwitz, I think I understand better what Egypt was, how real it was, how terrifying it was, how endless and all-encompassing it seemed.

I have seen the gas chambers. I stood under the “showers.” I have seen the ovens. I have seen a “lake” of ashes, all that physically remains of uncounted thousands of children and their mothers. I stood on the platform where Mengele pointed, right or left. I have seen the torture cells. I have stood where our brethren stood, in their filthy striped rags, for up to nineteen hours during “roll call,” in the brutal sun and freezing cold.

Hitler, may his name be ground to dust, did not torture and kill us in order to conquer the world. He tried to conquer the world in order to kill and torture us.

For the thousands of non-Jews who come there, Auschwitz is a museum. For us, lehavdil, it is reality, a plague that is still killing us.

At the site of the crematoria, I thought about Yom Hadin, the Final Day of Judgment, and the words of the Av Harachamim prayer:

“Father of compassion, who dwells on high, in His powerful compassion may He recall with compassion the devout, the upright, and the perfect ones, the holy congregations who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Name . May He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of His servants ”

In Egypt we dropped down to within a hair’s breadth of eternal destruction, and Hashem lifted us to within a hair’s breadth of Shamayim. When Nachshon ben Aminodov entered the Red Sea up to his nostrils, the sea split for him and for his people.

At Auschwitz, we fell into the cesspool of the world, up to our nostrils in the filth of the nations that hated us. At the Final Redemption, Hashem will lift us high, high, higher than the heavens.

“Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy” (Taanis 30b).

This Shavuos, let us understand that it is all real. As Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, told me years ago, before our first trip to the Holy Land: “You should know that we can learn the truth even from the English language: Israelis real.

Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, came from the depravity of Moab, just as we have emerged from the depravity of Auschwitz. This is the way of Hashem. “He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute” (Psalm 113).

In the third chapter of Megillas Ruth, Boaz wakes up on the threshing floor and sees a strange woman lying at his feet. Ruth explains to him why she is there. He replies, “And now, my daughter, do not fear. Whatever you say, I will do for you . Now while it is true that I am a redeemer, there is also a redeemer closer than I. Stay the night. Then in the morning, if he will redeem you, fine. Let him redeem. But if he does not want to redeem you, then [I swear that] as Hashem lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

The Ben Ish Chai explains that these are not only the words of Boaz speaking to Ruth, but also of Hashem speaking to His People. Hashem is saying to Am Yisrael: “Stay through the long night of Exile. Don’t give up. The morning will come. When it does, you have a ‘closer redeemer,’ your own mitzvos and good deeds. Perhaps they will be sufficient to redeem you when Mashiach comes. But if not – even if you do not have sufficient mitzvos and good deeds to save you on that Great Day – if you have been loyal to Me, then I swear that I Myself will redeem you. Do not fear!”

Think Amalek

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Someone asked me what we should have in mind on Purim.

I would answer with one word: Amalek.

You want simcha?

You want geulah?

Think Amalek!

Chazal stipulated that we read Parshas Amalek directly before Purim. Why? Because without understanding the threat there is no liberation.

Without understanding the reality of Amalek there is no reality in Purim.

“Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the Land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” (Devarim 25:17-19)

Imagine the scenario. We have just been liberated from Egypt. God is guiding us through the desert. Our enemies seem to have vanished under the Red Sea. We have nothing to worry about. We can take it easy now.

BOOM!

Out of nowhere comes the worst threat of all. The nation that “did not fear God,” whose entire existence is focused onhatred of us, whose jealousy of the Children of Israel is a consuming passion, suddenly appears with murderous malice and threatens us with complete annihilation, God forbid. Just when we thought everything was perfect.

Twice a day, at least, we say the following words:

“And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I will provide rain for your land that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied .”(Shema/Devarim 11)

Beautiful. Perfect. We are satisfied and well fed in our beautiful land.

What comes next?

“Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you and you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land that Hashem gives you.”

What happened? We were so secure. Why were we suddenly banished?

Leaving Egypt is not enough. Sitting complacently in our land is not enough. “Not by bread alone does man live” (Devarim 8:3).

When we walk the road of life complacently, that is when Amalek strikes. And he is deadly.

Like everything else in our holy Torah, Purim has direct meaning this very day, this moment. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim – what happened to our fathers is a sign for the children.”

Look around. The world is in flames. Israel is surrounded. We are all surrounded.

And what are we doing? We are sitting at the table of Achashveirosh, eating and drinking.

We are satisfied. All is good. The banquet is glatt kosher!

This is the most dangerous moment, right now. The moment when we believe we are secure. We live in a bounteous land, a land that has treated us well. We are free citizens, able to pursue any path we desire. We are comfortable.

But the footsteps of Amalek can be heard.

How did Moshe Rabbeinu battle Amalek? It sounds unbelievable:

“Moshe, Aharon and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It happened that when Moshe raised his hand Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand Amalek was stronger. Moshe’s hands grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, and Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one on this side and one on that side, and he remained with his hands in faithful prayer until sunset.” (Shemos 17:10-12)

How can this be? Moshe Rabbeinu defeated Amalek by raising his hands? Come on! We are trying to deal with reality here.

But this is reality. This is our only way out.

Beware the banquet. It’s a trick.

Do you think we are secure? Do you think we can “eat and be satisfied”? The time has not yet come. We will be secure only when we raise our hands and understand that our security comes from the One Above. We must pray with all our heart and soul. And if our hands are “heavy,” we must help each other. We must hold our friend’s hands up in the air and help him pray, help him learn Torah. And he in turn will help us.

Spain To Israel: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The anti-terror campaign made a mockery out of any concern for human rights. Collateral damage and injury to innocent bystanders were regular and common features of the campaign. Anti-terror paramilitary fighters and forces routinely engaged in torture of captured terrorists.
 
Numerous death squads sought out the terrorists and their supporters, quietly exterminating them behind the scenes. The government pretended to have no knowledge of their actions. Government anti-terror personnel kidnapped terrorists and held them without any regard for habeas corpus. Anti-terror militias routinely crossed the borders and snatched terrorists hiding in neighboring countries or killed them there. Bombs were planted in order to kill the terrorists.
 
Many of those killed or tortured were not members of or connected with any terrorist groups. Many of the anti-terror operations took place in violation of international law and even of national laws. To suppress the terror, the government pressured other countries to crack down on the refugees and to deport them.
 
The above three paragraphs describe the anti-terror crackdown by the democratic country of Spain in the last years of the twentieth century. Spain has been fighting against Basque separatist terrorism for decades and especially against the ETA organization, which seeks secession of the Basque territories from Spain. ETA is considered responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people in Spain, a number that pales in comparison with Palestinian barbarism. (And Spain has a population almost six times that of Israel.)
 
The long bloody war by Spain against its own terrorists is of interest in light of the decision by a Spanish court, in response to a lawsuit brought by a Palestinian group, to indict Israeli army officers and political leaders for the “crime” of fighting terrorism and protecting Israeli civilians.
 
Just what did these Israelis do that persuaded the Spanish court it was necessary to prosecute them – and in Spain, no less? In 2002 Israel bombed a building in Gaza where one of Hamas’s worst terror leaders, Salah Shahade, was hiding. The building was destroyed and the arch-terrorist and 14 other people were killed, including his wife and nine children.
 
Shahade was responsible for endless rocket and bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. It was arguably the most morally justified assassination since the killing of Admiral Yamamoto during World War II, and it is Hamas itself, due to its policy of sheltering terrorists behind children and civilians, that bears responsibility for the deaths of any alleged non-combatants in that and in all other Israeli retaliatory strikes.
 
Ah, Spain – the country whose legacy of crimes against Jews is topped only by that of Germany.
 
Put aside for the moment the impudence of a country like Spain – with its centuries of ethnic cleansing, fascism, Inquisitions, intolerance, and collaboration with Hitler – morally hectoring Israel about its behavior in its war against terrorism. One need not recall the centuries of Spanish history to see the Orwellian absurdity in all this.
 
In the 21th century Spain is stillfighting terrorism, using tactics that make Israel’s anti-terror operations look positively milquetoast by comparison. Yet it thinks Israel must limit its war against Islamofascist terrorism to goodwill concessions and constructive programs of capitulation.
 
The Basques are an ancient people, unlike the Palestinians. The Basques repeatedly gained and lost political independence throughout history. They suffered from aggression by the fascist forces loyal to Franco during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Guernica, the city famously devastated by Nazi planes sent by Hitler to aid Franco, was Basque.
 
While Basques enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, Basque separatists set up a number of groups after World War II. The most notorious and most violent is ETA, a Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1959 to fight for complete independence and separation from Spain. ETA is on the American and Canadian official lists of terrorist groups.
 
Concern and respect for human rights never interfered with the merciless Spanish pursuit of ETA terrorists. The war against Basque terrorism was led in the 1980s by GAL or Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberaci?n (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups) – little more than death squads illegally set up and run by officials within the Spanish government to fight ETA.
 
GAL was financed and protected by Spain’s Interior Ministry. It attacked Basques living in and operating out of France, as well as those inside Spain. Several Spanish government officials were convicted in 1997 for their role in the illegal campaign against the Basque terrorists. Among them was a former interior minister in the government of Socialist prime minister Felipe Gonz?lez. The prime minister publicly defended the anti-terror campaign, claiming that “democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons.”
 
On April 19 of this year, France, under pressure from Spain, arrested several ETA leaders, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, the head of ETA. There are more than 600 ETA members now rotting in Spanish prisons, with 150 more jailed in France.
 
Spain’s hypocrisy is evident not only in its doctrine of “fight terrorism as we say and not as we do,” pontificated when it comes to Jews defending themselves. It is no less outrageous when Spain lectures Israel about its “occupied territories” and security fence.
 
It happens that Spain occupies enclaves of territory on the northern Africa coast, Ceuta and Melilla, surrounded by Morocco, home to Spanish settlers. Morocco does not recognize the legitimacy of these Spanish settlements on its land. The Spanish interlopers in Morocco are walled in by – yes, you guessed it – a high security fence. Africans are not let in and in fact a number have been killed trying to sneak through.
 

The legitimacy of Spain’s possession of these occupied territories is flimsy at best, and they are completely unnecessary for Spanish security. But don’t expect the UN or Western “peace activists” to utter a peep about that anytime soon.

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com 

Kosher Food And Wine Experience

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

   Kosher wines have improved greatly in the last 20 years. Much of the credit can be given to the Golan Heights winery in Israel, which ignited the quality wine revolution when they released their first wines in 1983. Stateside, however, it has been the Herzog family and their Royal Wine Corporation that has introduced U.S.-based kosher consumers to premium wines.

 

   Recently, Royal Wine began to host an event known as the “Kosher Food and Wine Experience” to showcase their numerous offerings. On February 23, the third annual event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street in New York City.

 

   From Spain, a new winery in the Royal portfolio is Elvi Wines, which began producing kosher wines in 2002 with the leadership of consulting winemaker and agronomist Dr. Moises Cohen.

 

   Elvi produces a Spanish sparkling wine known as “Cava.” They are set to release their first white wine, a blend of sauvignon blanc and muscatel that has beautiful aromas of flowers, tropical fruit and bubble gum. But Elvi has become known for their Spanish-style red wines. I tasted six reds, including the 2007 Elvi Classico, their first mevushal wine. One of them is the 2005 EL 26, a wine I would be proud to pour at my Seder. A blend of five varietals, the EL 26 features a combination of aromas from mint and wood smoke to dark fruit and forest pine. This velvety wine has an excellent structure and long finish (aftertaste) and is a perfect pairing for roasts made with Mediterranean spices.

 

   Moving around the world we land in New Zealand where Goose Bay is producing world-class wines under the guidance of winemaker Philip Jones.

 

   Goose Bay wines are mevushal (flash pasteurized) and the only kosher wine made in New Zealand. Clean, crisp, and refreshing are not words one might associate with mevushal wines, but Jones’s wines prove otherwise. He furthermore believes that his method to quickly bring the juice (before it is fermented) up to 187 degrees and then quickly back down to 75 degrees helps to bring out some of the fabulous aromas his wines possess. The event featured the crisp 2007 Pinot Gris with its fruity pear aromas and the subtly elegant 2007 Pinot Noir, a delicious light-bodied wine with red forest fruit aromas and flavors. But when one thinks about New Zealand wines it is sauvignon blanc that first comes to mind, and the 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint. This light straw, almost clear wine has lovely citrus and grassy aromas. Lemon zest flavors and a zippy acidity make it a terrific match for spicy foods as well as sushi.

 

   Israel’s wines have gained recognition of late, following extensive tastings by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator magazines. While the larger wineries in Israel produce most of the country’s wine, they are outnumbered by the boutique wineries more than 20 to 1. The small family-run winery Castel is the darling of the boutiques.

 

   Castel is represented by patriarch and winemaker Eli Ben Zaken and his son and COO Eytan Ben Zaken, who make wines that they love to drink: a white from chardonnay, known as C Blanc du Castel, made in the style of a French white burgundy; two reds, both bordeaux blends; and the highly sought after flagship wine, the Grand Vin, and its little brother, the Petit Castel.

 

   They were pouring both the 2006 as well as the 2003 C Blanc du Castel. The 2006 had a big tropical fruit nose, but I preferred the 2003 that also possessed toasty and tropical aromas but was at this point in its life more subtle and elegant.

 

   They also poured two vintages of the Grand Vin. The recently released 2006 and the 2005 from a double magnum, which is three liters or the equivalent of four bottles. The 2006 Grand Vin seemed a bit young while the 2005 Grand Vin was delicious with black cherry, spice and earthy characteristics.

 

   But it was the 2006 Petit Castel that stood out. Made from 50 percent merlot, 45 percent cabernet sauvignon and five percent petit verdot, this wine had aromas of herbs and eucalyptus and lovely red and black fruit flavors. At about half the cost of its big brother, the Petit might not age as gracefully or pack the same punch, but it was showing very nicely and I would recommend popping the cork of a Petit with a steak or lamb stew.

 

   The show was a clear success, evidenced by the guest’s reluctance to leave. They were savoring the desserts and final sips of their wine until the lights went out and the final curtain closed on the 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience.

 

   Gary Landsman, a.k.a. the “wine tasting guy,” makes, sells, writes about and, of course, tastes wines. Visit his blog at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at gary@winetastingguy.com.

Kosher Food And Wine Experience

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

   Kosher wines have improved greatly in the last 20 years. Much of the credit can be given to the Golan Heights winery in Israel, which ignited the quality wine revolution when they released their first wines in 1983. Stateside, however, it has been the Herzog family and their Royal Wine Corporation that has introduced U.S.-based kosher consumers to premium wines.

 

   Recently, Royal Wine began to host an event known as the “Kosher Food and Wine Experience” to showcase their numerous offerings. On February 23, the third annual event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street in New York City.

 

   From Spain, a new winery in the Royal portfolio is Elvi Wines, which began producing kosher wines in 2002 with the leadership of consulting winemaker and agronomist Dr. Moises Cohen.

 

   Elvi produces a Spanish sparkling wine known as “Cava.” They are set to release their first white wine, a blend of sauvignon blanc and muscatel that has beautiful aromas of flowers, tropical fruit and bubble gum. But Elvi has become known for their Spanish-style red wines. I tasted six reds, including the 2007 Elvi Classico, their first mevushal wine. One of them is the 2005 EL 26, a wine I would be proud to pour at my Seder. A blend of five varietals, the EL 26 features a combination of aromas from mint and wood smoke to dark fruit and forest pine. This velvety wine has an excellent structure and long finish (aftertaste) and is a perfect pairing for roasts made with Mediterranean spices.

 

   Moving around the world we land in New Zealand where Goose Bay is producing world-class wines under the guidance of winemaker Philip Jones.

 

   Goose Bay wines are mevushal (flash pasteurized) and the only kosher wine made in New Zealand. Clean, crisp, and refreshing are not words one might associate with mevushal wines, but Jones’s wines prove otherwise. He furthermore believes that his method to quickly bring the juice (before it is fermented) up to 187 degrees and then quickly back down to 75 degrees helps to bring out some of the fabulous aromas his wines possess. The event featured the crisp 2007 Pinot Gris with its fruity pear aromas and the subtly elegant 2007 Pinot Noir, a delicious light-bodied wine with red forest fruit aromas and flavors. But when one thinks about New Zealand wines it is sauvignon blanc that first comes to mind, and the 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint. This light straw, almost clear wine has lovely citrus and grassy aromas. Lemon zest flavors and a zippy acidity make it a terrific match for spicy foods as well as sushi.

 

   Israel’s wines have gained recognition of late, following extensive tastings by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator magazines. While the larger wineries in Israel produce most of the country’s wine, they are outnumbered by the boutique wineries more than 20 to 1. The small family-run winery Castel is the darling of the boutiques.

 

   Castel is represented by patriarch and winemaker Eli Ben Zaken and his son and COO Eytan Ben Zaken, who make wines that they love to drink: a white from chardonnay, known as C Blanc du Castel, made in the style of a French white burgundy; two reds, both bordeaux blends; and the highly sought after flagship wine, the Grand Vin, and its little brother, the Petit Castel.

 

   They were pouring both the 2006 as well as the 2003 C Blanc du Castel. The 2006 had a big tropical fruit nose, but I preferred the 2003 that also possessed toasty and tropical aromas but was at this point in its life more subtle and elegant.

 

   They also poured two vintages of the Grand Vin. The recently released 2006 and the 2005 from a double magnum, which is three liters or the equivalent of four bottles. The 2006 Grand Vin seemed a bit young while the 2005 Grand Vin was delicious with black cherry, spice and earthy characteristics.

 

   But it was the 2006 Petit Castel that stood out. Made from 50 percent merlot, 45 percent cabernet sauvignon and five percent petit verdot, this wine had aromas of herbs and eucalyptus and lovely red and black fruit flavors. At about half the cost of its big brother, the Petit might not age as gracefully or pack the same punch, but it was showing very nicely and I would recommend popping the cork of a Petit with a steak or lamb stew.

 

   The show was a clear success, evidenced by the guest’s reluctance to leave. They were savoring the desserts and final sips of their wine until the lights went out and the final curtain closed on the 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience.


 


   Gary Landsman, a.k.a. the “wine tasting guy,” makes, sells, writes about and, of course, tastes wines. Visit his blog at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at gary@winetastingguy.com.

Putting the Oy Back into ‘Ahoy’

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

  They did not sing “Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Manischewitz,” nor do they ever seem to appear in any of the Disney films about pirates in the Caribbean. The website piratesinfo.com 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 (ucija.org/pirates.htm).

  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 Bangitout.com 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.”

  Steven Plaut, a professor at Haifa University, is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/putting-the-oy-back-into-ahoy/2008/10/15/

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