Spain to approve citizenship measures for Sephardic Jews
Spanish lawmakers were set Thursday to give final approval to a law to right a “historical mistake” and ease the path to citizenship for the descendants of Jews it expelled in 1492.
The measure, championed by the center-right government, grants dual citizenship rights for Jews with Spanish ancestry, who are known as Sephardic Jews.
Under the previous 1924 law the government had discretionary powers to award Sephardic Jews nationality but candidates had give up their previous citizenship and they had to be residents of Spain.
The new law gives Sephardic Jews the same dual citizenship privilege Spain currently grants only to people from its former colonies and neighboring Portugal and Andorra.
The bill — which was introduced last year and which the government said was an effort to right a “historical mistake” — has the support of all major parties and it is expected to pass final reading in the lower house of parliament by a wide margin.
“This is a historic day, an impor- tant day, an emotional day,” the president of the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, Isaac Querub, told journalists on the steps of parliament ahead of the vote.
“It is a day of hope, a day of joy and we hope that this will make Spain a better place,” added Querub, whose ancestors took refuge in North Africa after they were expelled from Spain.
The Spanish government estimates that about 90,000 people will apply for citizenship, although officials admit there is no precise way of knowing how many descendants meet the criteria.
Applicants do not have to be practicing Jews but they must have their Jewish heritage vetted by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities or by rabbis where they live.
They will also have to pass tests on Spanish language culture, prove they have a “special connection” to Spain and travel to the country at their own expense to apply.
The law will come into effect in October and will expire after three years although it could be extended by another year if deemed necessary.