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8 Little-Known Facts about Jewish Pirates


Jewish pirates? It’s not a joke. Turns out, some of the most well-known and respected buccaneers in previous centuries were Jews. These captains were not the dreaded pirates of popular imagination; many worked in the employ of Britain, the Netherlands, and other maritime powers, protecting those nations’ coasts and seas.

While many of the details of these captains’ lives are mysterious, historians have pieced together some details of their lives, giving us a glimpse into the little-known world of Jewish pirates. Here are eight interesting facts about Jews and piracy.

Abraham Henriques Cohen and the World’s Biggest Heist

Abraham Henriques Cohen started life as a secret Jew living under the Inquisition in his native Portugal. One of the most prominent merchants in Lisbon, he was discovered to be a practicing Jew in 1605 and publicly tortured, along with 150 other hidden Jews. This experience apparently led Cohen to decide to work against Spain and Portugal, the hosts of the brutal Inquisition.

After escaping to Amsterdam, Cohen seemingly became a secret agent for the Dutch navy, and made his way to the New World, settling in Jamaica, which was then a haven for Jews. He worked on behalf of the Netherlands to attack Spanish ships and frustrate Spain’s colonial designs in the New World.

Cohen teamed up with one of the most feared pirates of the time, Sir Henry Morgan, with the tacit backing of both the Dutch and British governments. In 1628, along with Dutch folk hero Admiral Piet Pieterszoon Hein, Cohen captured a Spanish treasure fleet off the coast of Cuba. The ships


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