Spain offers Sephardim new deal on citizenship

By Adam Feinstein, November 29, 2012
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Decision: Minister Ruiz-Gallardón (Photo: AP)

Decision: Minister Ruiz-Gallardón (Photo: AP)

In a landmark decision, the Spanish government has ruled that all Sephardim — the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 — will be able to acquire Spanish nationality wherever they live in the world, provided they obtain accreditation from the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities (FCJE).

The ruling was announced in Madrid on November 22 by the Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, and the Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo.

Mr Ruiz-Gallardón said the new legal procedure represented a substantial advance on the reform of Spain’s 1982 Civil Code which allowed Sephardi Jews to gain Spanish nationality but only after having lived in Spain for at least two years. The new law will be ratified shortly by Royal Decree.

Mr Ruiz-Gallardón said that his ministry had received “numerous” requests for Spanish nationality from around the world. For his part, Mr García-Margallo emphasised the historic links of the Jewish people with Spain. “Our relations have… never been forgotten and have intensified the more tolerant and democratic Spain has become,” he said, adding that he hoped the new law would “recapture the memory of a Spain which has been silenced for so long”.

We hope new law will recapture a memory of Spain

Isaac Querub, the president of the FCJE, declared that, just as March 31, 1492 — the date of the edict signed in Granada ordering the expulsion of the Jews from Castilla and Aragón — was a black day for Spain, November 22, 2012 would “pass into history as a day of clear blue sky and intense luminosity”.

There are around three million Sephardim around the world. Most live in Israel, the United States, France and Turkey but there are also sizeable communities in Latin America, especially Argentina, Mexico and Chile.

The Madrid ruling was welcomed by Sephardi communities worldwide. Osvaldo Sultani, of Argentina’s 60,000-strong Sephardi Federation — the largest in Latin America — said: “This measure, which we have been requesting for so many years, fills us with joy. It is an honour for all Sephardim and represents recognition for a people who have never forgotten Spain in 520 years and have never forgotten their language.”

Last updated: 5:14pm, December 3 2012