The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities (FCJE) has received 6,000 applicants within the last month following the passing of a new law by the Spanish government granting Sephardim the entitlement to dual citizenship.
The Spanish government passed a new law on June 11 affecting over 3 million Sephardic Jews internationally, which allows them to become dual citizens, a first after their ancestors were exiled in 1492.
The initiative would allow Sephardic Jews the right to work in the European Union and travel freely through Europe.
Sephardic Jews will be able to apply for citizenship within the next three years beginning in October. Sephardim applicants must fulfill some prerequisites such as; providing evidence of their Sephardic Jewish background and proving their association with Spain which includes passing a language test and general knowledge examination on Spanish culture and politics. Their Jewish heritage must be confirmed by the FCJE or local rabbis, and in other cases they should be fluent in Ladino (mix of Hebrew and Spanish), or at least carry a Sephardic last name or be observant of Jewish tradition.
Sephardic Jews along with Moorish Muslims were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and 1501. Following the law, descendants of Spanish Muslims have condemned the fact that no such offer was made to them whose ancestors shared the same fate of Jews at the time. They were forced to leave during the Catholic rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella unless they converted to Catholicism. 50,000 chose to convert to avoid exile.
Prior to the expulsion in 1492; 300,000 Jews lived in Spain. The Sephardic Jewish populations were predominantly present in the medieval cities of Toledo and Cordoba. Approximately 45,000 Jews currently live in Spain.
“The Spanish government should grant the same rights to all those who were expelled, otherwise their decision is selective, if not racist,” said Bayi Loubaris, the president of the Association for Historical Legacy of Al Andalus, in his statement to Spanish EFE in February.
However, according to Nuh Arslantas, Associate Professor at Marmara University Faculty of Theology, who spoke to Anadolu Agency, the Jews “do not believe that the offer is sincere, rather they regard the offer as efforts to attract Jewish investors into Spain, which is dealing with economic depression,” and adds that some Jews even think it would be a “big sin” to apply for Spanish citizenship.
Quite intriguingly, the law followed soon after the Spanish government’s offer of residency permits to foreigners who would purchase property in Spain valuing more than 190,000 Euros.
Analysts say the costs involved to apply for the citizenship may deter many Sephardim.
According to a report published in the New York Times on May 26, Sephardic Jews living in Turkey are prepared to take up the citizenship offer.