The Pirate Rabbi

08 Feb 2016

On February 6, Jewdayo, the daily history blog of, posted this entry about Samuel Pallache, known as the “Pirate Rabbi.” Reprinted with permission.

Samuel Pallache, known as the “Pirate Rabbi,” died on this date in 1616 (some sources say February 4) in Amsterdam, the city where he had founded a community of Sephardicconversos in 1591. Pallache, who grew up in the Jewish quarter of Fez in Morocco, had rabbinical training but opted to follow in the footsteps of Sinan, the 16th century “Famous Jewish Pirate” (aka “The Great Jew”) who had avenged himself against the Inquisition by raiding Spanish ships in the Mediterranean. Pallache’s own exploits as a privateer sailing under the Dutch flag and for the sultan of Barbary were also legendary. He was also responsible for one of the first official treaties between a European country and a non-Christian nation, signed between Morocco and the Netherlands in 1610. In 1614, Pallache commanded a small Moroccan fleet that seized some ships belonging to the king of Spain, with whom Morocco was at war. The Spanish ambassador had him arrested and tried for piracy, a trial that ended in an acquittal. At Pallache’s funeral, Prince Maurice of Nassau and the city fathers of Amsterdam marched behind his bier, followed by every member of the Jewish community, including women and children.

“Here is a Jew Pirate arrested that brought three prizes of Spaniards into Plymouth . . . he shall likely pass out of here well enough for he has league and license under the King’s hand for his free egress and regress which was not believed until he made proof of it.” — Letter from John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, British ambassador at Venice (reprinted in Jewish Quarterly 14, 1902

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.