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Spain through the looking glass

Spain to grant citizenship to Sephardi Jews

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The Alhambra Decree of March 31, 1492 ordered Spain’s Jews to convert to Catholicism or leave the country by July 31.

Important update: 27/11/2012 The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain has placed the following announcement on its website: The new legislation [for Sephardi Jews interested in Spanish citizenship] has not yet been developed by the Ministry of Justice of Spain. As soon as the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain has more information we will post all the details.

Spain is about to repay a 500-year debt by granting citizenship to the descendents of Sephardi Jews expelled from the country at the end of the fifteenth century.

In an act of belated justice, any Jew who can prove links to Spain either through language or culture, or by having their origins certified by Spain’s Jewish federation, the Federación de Comunidades Judías de España, will now automatically have the right to Spanish citizenship.

The move – made possible under article 21 of Spain’s civil code which allows the country’s justice minister to grant citizenship ‘under special circumstances’– will speed up proceedings for the nearly 3,000 Jews who already have pending citizenship applications.

Spain will also push forward a change to the civil code which will allow Sephardi Jews to hold double nationality as is currently the case for Latin Americans as well as Portuguese and Filipino citizens.

About 3 million Jews are descended from Spain’s Sephardi Jews according to Spain’s Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. A quarter of a million of these continue to speak the Judeo-Spanish dialect of Ladino.

It is not yet known how many citizenship applications will follow the Spanish government’s announcement.

In a conference held yesterday to mark the decision, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo said the move to grant citizenship to these Sephardi Jews was about rediscovering the memory of a Spain which had been silenced for a very long term. He added that the new rules were the end of a long road towards land and liberty for those Spaniards who longed for Sefarad – the ancient Jewish name for Spain – and who now lived in the Diaspora.

In March 1492, the joint rulers of Spain, the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and King Ferdinand, signed the Alhambra Decree which ordered the expulsion from Spain of all Muslims and Jews who did not convert to the Catholic faith. The country’s vibrant Jewish community were given only four months to make that choice.

After being evicted from Spain, thousands of Sephardi Jews made their homes in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. They played a vital role in that community – then part of the Ottoman Empire – until the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War 2. Historians estimate that 98 per cent of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population was killed in Nazi concentration camps.

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Written by georgemills25

November 23, 2012 at 11:42

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