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Monday, January 17, 2022

Shame on Spain for Reneging on Citizenship Offer to Sephardic Jews

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Sholom Schreirber
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Our current Sephardic brothers and sisters, are all descendants of the approximately 50,000 Spanish and Portugese Jews, who, in 1492 and 1497 respectively, were given the choice by their nations’ monarchs: “Convert to Catholicism, leave our countries or die!” Those who were expelled, escaped and migrated to other countries in the Middle East; North Africa, North and South America. Recent estimates puts the number o Sephardim worldwide to be 3.5 million. A credit to them for having maintained their customs and Ladino language. And whatever lands in which they took residence, greatly benefited from their achievements and contributions.

 

And recently, in a belated but welcomed gesture of reconciliation and repentance, both Spain and Portugal passed laws in 2015, offering descendants of the original Sephardim  to become citizens by proving a connection with medieval Spain through their family trees, language skills or belonging to a religious community. Jews who get Spanish nationality under the new law are not required to actually move to Spain. A naturalization ceremony can be performed at a Spanish consulate in their home country. The window for the Spanish law was supposed to shut down in 2019, but has been extended until September, 2021. The Portugese law is open ended and has no time limitations. It’s estimated that Spain has received an estimated 140,000 requests for citizenship from Sephardim worldwide.

 

But, there’s a rub. According to The New York Times, which based its reporting on Spanish government data, over 3,000 such applications have been suddenly rejected in the past few months and 17,000 others have not received any response to their written requests for citizenship. Not written, but surely an issue to consider, is that Muslims, claiming to be descendants of Muslims who were also expelled from Spain during the Middle Ages, are also demanding citizenship from Spain. They call it, “Historical Justice” whatever that means. This Muslim claim may be why Spain is now reneging on its promise to Jews. But, actually, there’s no comparison between the expulsion of Jews and Muslims. Our argument in casting the Muslims’ claims aside is that the Jewish presence in Spain predates the arrival of Christianity in that  country and that their expulsion was a clear matter of bigotry.

 

By contrast the Muslims in Spain were actually colonial occupiers, calling the overrun Iberian peninsula, Al-Andalus, and imposed Arabic as the official language and the Koran as the rule of law. And in addition, the descendants of Muslims expelled from Spain are believed to be in the millions, mostly living now in North Africa. To grant citizenship to them would flood Spain with millions of refugees wreaking destruction on the country. We call on the Spanish authorities to continue accepting and processing the applications for citizenship from Sephardic Jews, until the extension period of September, 2021 is upon us. And even the small percentage of them who would move back to Spain would benefit that nation with their contributions in their intelligence, education, skills and work ethics. To Spain we say, “Do the right thing!”

 

 

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