Head of Spanish Jewish Federation Hopes Emerging Citizenship Law Will be ‘Antidote Against Prejudice’
by Eliezer Sherman
The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities welcomed on Friday the lower parliament’s passing of a motion to allow the descendants of Jews who were exiled in 1492 to claim Spanish citizenship.
“We hope that Jewish life will be considered normal in Spanish society, which will act as an antidote against prejudice and stereotypes,” wrote federation president Isaac Querub Caro, in an op-ed for the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Thursday.
He said that many communities of Sephardi Jews — Jews who resettled following the 1492 Inquisition but kept many traditions from their religious and cultural practices in Spain — are awaiting the final passing of this law with “emotional expectation.”
The federation said it had already received over 5,000 submitted requests for information on the law, which could benefit millions of Sephardi Jews in many Latin American countries, the United States, Israel, Turkey and elsewhere.
The Spanish Jewish community today stands at just around 40,000 people of Spain’s mostly Catholic 47-million-person population. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Global Index in 2014, nearly one-third of Spaniards harbored antisemitic attitudes and beliefs, which was higher than Western Europe’s 24-percent average.
The law, if passed, will allow Jews claiming Sephardi descent to apply for Spanish citizenship as early as October, the Associated Press reported. Then, applicants would have a three year period to complete the application process, including providing the necessary proofs.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanual Nahshon praised the development, and said Spain was working to “fulfill its historic duty” to the Jews who were exiled from Spain.
Unlike neighboring Portugal’s repatriation law, the Spanish bill was amended to include more stringent criteria, such as passing a culture, history and language test, though Spain has four official languages.
Critics of the law question whether the Spanish government will use Castilian Spanish to test those seeking citizenship, given the other languages of Spain, including Catalan and Basque. University of Washington Professor Ana Gomez-Bravo, whose specialty is Spanish Jews of the Middle Ages, noted that the Jews who were exiled from Spain may not have spoken Castilian, and the language most commonly associated with Sephardi Jews is Ladino, a composite of mostly Old Spanish, Hebrew and other languages of medieval Spain. She called the possible Castilian test “linguistic politics.”
Sephardi Jews who receive citizenship will get full Spanish rights, including the ability to work in any member of the 28-nation EU.
According to the Guardian, a group representing the Moroccan community of Moriscos, Muslims who were expelled from Spain shortly after the expulsion of Jews as Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand continued to ethnically cleanse the Iberian peninsula, sent a letter to the current Spanish king demanding a similar law be issued for the exiled Muslim community.