Seattle Woman to be Knighted by Spain for Assisting Sephardic Jews with Citizenship Process - The Jewish Voice
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Friday, December 2, 2022

Seattle Woman to be Knighted by Spain for Assisting Sephardic Jews with Citizenship Process

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It seems that doing a good deed in this world can lead to the kind of recognition that it deserves. According to a JTA report, Doreen Alhadeff the very first American Jew granted Spanish citizenship under Spain’s 2015 law to repatriate Sephardic Jews from around the world is now going to be knighted by Spain’s monarchy for helping others obtain that same citizenship.


On Monday, the Seattle Times reported that Alhadeff, who hails from Seattle is a 72-year old real estate agent. She is slated to receive knighthood next month by the Spanish monarchy under the order of Queen Isabella the Catholic


Queen Isabella I of Castile, along with Catholic monarchs and King Ferdinand II of Aragon established the Spanish inquisition in 1478 and it lasted until 1834, when it was abolished by Queen Isabella II. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain was done under the Alhambra Decree that was issued by Isabella I.


Alhadeff decided to help other Jews of Spanish origin regain citizenship and she took it upon herself to provide assistance to people throughout the world through the application process, the JTA reported. In 2016, she earned her own Spanish citizenship and was motivated by this to ensure that others like herself regain citizenship to the country that their descendants were expelled from.


JTA reported that in addition to helping people from Hong Kong to Greece and other countries, she also lent a hand to those members of  Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, an Orthodox Sephardic congregation in Seattle with their journey towards Spanish citizenship. The report indicated that this particular synagogue “holds fast to the traditions of the Island of Rhodes.” Alhadeff worked with the leadership of the synagogue and the Spanish Jewish community federation, or FCJE to assist those seeking to certify their heritage research.


The application process for Spanish citizenship is lengthy and complicated: those who apply must prove their Sephardic heritage and pass tests on Spanish language, culture and values through the Cervantes Institute, which only has four locations in the United States, as was reported by the JTA.  Prospective citizens must also get their documents notarized in Spain.

Speaking to the Seattle Times about her scheduled knighthood Aldaheff said,  “I think it shows unbelievable promise.” She added that “When I go to Spain, I feel home,” as was reported by JTA.


The JTA also reported that in 2016, when Alhadeff signed her citizenship papers, she told the Times of Israel,  “I felt a bit as if I were walking in the footsteps of my grandmother.”


Having spent a great deal of her life immersed in the Sephardic community that she lives in, JTA reported that Aldaheff recalls that many relatives, including her uncles, aunts and grandparents were conversing at home in a Judeo-Spanish language known as Ladino.  In fact, Alhadeff’s grandmother, Dora Levy, was the first known Sephardic woman to venture to Seattle, making the journey from then-Constantinople to Washington in 1906, as was reported by the JTA.


JTA also reported that Seattle is home to around 5,000 Sephardic Jews, the third-largest Sephardic population in the United States. The city’s Sephardic community now includes people from countries such as Morocco, Iran, the former Soviet Union, Israel and Mexico, but in the earlier years of the 20th century, Sephardic immigrants were predominantly of Turkish or Rhodesli origin.




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