A Few Thoughts On Where A Hero Came From

Richard Dansky’s New Hero Character

So the main character in my story in Stone Skin Press’ upcoming anthology, The New Hero (vol. 1) is a Magical Pirate Rabbi. That’s how I describe him when people ask about the story, and that’s about as good a way as any to sum him up. Yes, he’s a pirate. Yes, he’s a rabbi. Yes, there is magic in the story, though how much magic, I’ll let you, dear reader, decide for yourself.

(The story, incidentally, is called “The Thirty-Ninth Labor of Reb Palache”. This implies that there are at least thirty-eight other labors, though to be completely truthful, at this pointl I’m only certain as to what about six of them might have been.)

And yes, people dig the Magical Pirate Rabbi. It’s a fun juxtaposition of characteristics – you hear “rabbi”, you think maybe an avuncular guy in a skullcap who’s a bit worried that someone accidentally scheduled the synagogue singles bowling tournament over Yom Kippur. You think “pirate”, you think Johnny Depp channeling Pepe Le Pew. Cognitive dissonance for the win, with the added fun of magic on top of it.

The funny thing is, then, that Reb Palache was based on a real guy. I found him in the pages of Edward Kritzler’s fascinating book Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. The historical Samuel Palache was a pirate, a spy, a diplomat, a merchant, and depending on whom you believe, the first man to settle openly as a Jew in Amsterdam. On top of that, he negotiated the first treaty between a Christian country and a Muslim one, founded the first minyan in Amsterdam, and commanded a Moroccan fleet during wartime. I like to think that if they’d had internet memes in the days when he was stomping around the Iberian coastline, there would have been all sorts of Chuck Norris-style references to Reb Palache.  (In fact, the whole Palache family was full of this kind of awesomeness. Go check them out. I’ll wait.)

But in the end, that’s the beside the point. The real Reb Palache was all kinds of interesting. Hopefully my fictional version does right by him. I’d like to think so.
And on Wednesday, you’ll be able to tell me if I did.

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