Squanto; The Lost Israelite

I can still picture my old Sunday School teacher. A kindly man who received pennies for putting up with 20 hooligans like me and you every Sunday morning. I remember how he stood by his desk in a suit that even Elijah, a notoriously lousy dresser would have rejected. And I remember how he patiently explained that, after the reign of Solomon - maybe the first of the tax and spend liberals - his kingdom was divided in two. There was Israel, the Northern Kingdom and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Soon after the split, Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, who banished our kinsmen to the corners of the known world. This historical event instigated one of the great mysteries of all time. “THE LOST TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL!” Really. I kid you not. Historians, bible scholars, TV producers, and internet babblers continue to ponder this mother of mysteries.

On the puzzle index it ranks above the lost continent of Atlantis. Even cultural anthropologists turn away from the question of why the cave dwellers of 10,000 BC never chopped up a dinosaur liver with a little onion, a few hard-boiled eggs, a tablespoon of schmaltz - to examine this deeper question of the invisible, wandering vagabonds of old Israel. In the age of exploration - the 17th through the 18th Century - biblical hochems - Jews and Christians alike - were all asking that age-old question - where are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel?

And every time a crowd of yellow, white, or dusky natives massed on a newly discovered shore to stare at the great sailing ships from Europe, some seaman would lean over the rail and shout, “Hey, Du bist Yiddish?” or some such clever question.

Among the stronger candidates were the American Indians. Don’t ask how they traveled from Samaria to North America. Anthropologists hate nasty questions that demand factual answers. But their usual answer to this pivotal question is “in a boat, dummy!”. But Jews and boats were never friends. How many of your Jewish friends could fix a warped propeller blade or an off-center transaxle shaft?

Yes, they colonized the New World, say the theorists, and were waiting with the gift of Thanksgiving for those weary, hungry Puritans; every one of whom, like your next door Christian neighbor, can fix an off-center transaxle shaft blindfolded, even. Jews roast turkey in onion, wine gravy. Gentiles fix boats.

Here’s a few other reasons that lead me to suspect that Squanto - the founder of Thanksgiving - and his tribe were Jewish.

  1. Thanksgiving is Shavuous lightly disguised. A harvest festival, fitting in Fall when the crops are all safely in the barn. Notice the pumpkin theme; then consider that pumpkin would do as well as carrots or sweet potatoes in Tsimmes.
  2. Who else but an Israelite like Squanto would have the Chutzpah to walk into that Caucasian encampment armed only with a turkey. (Some of the old Puritan chronicles call him Schlomo!! Is that a give-away or what?)
  3. Remember those stern Puritans, like our Polish ancestors, preferred davening to pinochle as a pastime. They were Old Testament oriented. Their G-d thundered justice in Leviticus, not in the namby-pamby books of the prophets who fixated on social justice and forgiveness. So they felt right at home with those displaced Jews of the New England Diaspora.

Besides that, weren’t the so called “Indians” smart enough to get out of the Manhattan real estate market at the top? Didn’t they sell out for 35 bucks worth of beads, which they converted to cash; no paper - no notes - no stock. Just hard American dollars. Know how much 35 bucks, compounded since the 17th Century, amounts to today? Many times more than the assessed value of that island crowded with skyscrapers. And they never had to worry about tenants. “Squanto, come fix the toilet.” “Squanto, the rug in my office needs replacing.” “Squanto, you didn’t send me a receipt.” Who needed headaches? They stayed home and ate roast turkey on Friday nights. And maybe lit candles.