According to the dedication to one of the Laffite family Bibles, she is identified as a Spanish Jew -- Juive Espagnole -- which might be another way of saying that she was Sephardic.
The idea that Jean Laffite could have had a "Jewish" grandmother seems distasteful and also perhaps unlikely to many admirers of the privateer. By the same token, people who identify themselves as Jewish may have trouble claiming the privateer as related, because his actions in life do not fit a Jewish stereotype.
But part of the problem with all this is that public relations have painted all people descended from those banished from ancient Israel as Ashkenazi, Yiddish speaking ultra-conservative, religious fanatics or modern progressives with left-wing leanings. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are Jewish populations all over the world, including in Ethiopia and Yemen.
There is and was prejudice against non-Ashkenazi Jews in various Jewish subcommunities. Whether they are Sephardic, Yemenite or Beta Israel, they tend to be looked down on by Ashkenazi populations, for being too eastern, too dark or downright barbarians.
When I watched the video embedded below, about a young man named Yehye Nehari, born in Yemen to a mother of Israelite descent and kidnapped at age seven by ultra-orthodox Jews to live in New York where he was tortured for four years by being told he needed to speak Yiddish, because that is the language the Messiah speaks, I wondered about his mother. Nehari arrived in Israel at age eleven, alone, without family, and in the video we meet him at the end of his Israeli military service. His mother and sisters were flown in to see him. They had not seen each other for twelve years.
Posted by שוקי שיינפלד on Monday, March 2, 2015
The mother is that rather young woman who is dressed colorfully in Yemenite clothing and is seen speaking into a cell phone in Arabic. She seems much less troubled or inhibited than her son. Notice how she doesn't let the Israeli men help her out of the van? See how confident and sure of herself she looks?
We think of women wearing eastern garb as being downtrodden or enslaved, but there is more than one side to that story.
The culture clash between the Ashkenazi progressive Zionists and the polygamous Yemenites they are trying to convert to Western ways is played to comic good effect in the movie Sallah Shabati.
In this movie, Topol plays the Oriental equivalent of the Ashkenazi character Tevye that he played in Fiddler on the Roof.
The Yemenite Jewish population still practiced polygamy when European Jewry had given it up in an attempt to fit in among their neighbors. While a European Jew had to give a dowry for a husband to provide for his daughter upon marriage, a Yemenite father expected to receive a bride price.
Communism, popular in Europe at the time of the return to Israel, was unheard of among the Yemenites. The problems of the liberated, progressive woman who is an adult, yet unmarried and works without pay in the dairy barn of her kibbutz seemed strange in comparison.
The diasporatic population of ancient Israel went in many different directions. Wherever they went, they ended up looking very similar to the local population and speaking the language of the land in which they lived. There are even some who emigrated to China and still can be identified there today.
In all probability, Zora Nadrimal did not resemble the stereotype of the Jewish grandmother that we tend to have today in America. She was not from the German speaking Ashkenazi populations. She did not know Yiddish. She was not part of a pacifist community that depended on an urban, industrialized society to exist. She did not teach Jean Laffite to turn the other cheek, and she was tough as nails when it came to seeing her grandchildren go off to war. Seafaring ran in her family.
But because of the current stereotypes, the stigma of the Jewish grandmother is one issue that prevents admirers of Jean Laffite from considering the authenticity of the Journal, whereas the non-Yiddish values of the grandmother turn off most American Jews, because they cannot identify.