Spain has decided to offer automatic citizenship to anyone who can successfully
prove their Sephardi origins, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón announced
during a ceremony last week at Madrid’s Casa Sefarad-Israel.
over the ceremony was Casa Sefarad-Israel director Florentino Portero, and
attendees included Gallardón, Foreign and Cooperation Minister José Manuel
García-Margallo, and Isaac Querub, president of the Federation of Jewish
Communities and Casa Sefarad’s director, the Spanish daily El Pais
In his speech, Querub referred to the “nostalgia” and “longing”
of the Sephardim for Spain, and the 500 years that had passed from the 1492
Expulsion Decree until King Juan Carlos’s 1992 visit to Madrid’s Beit Jacob
synagogue, where the king emphasized that “the Hispanic Jews are at
Querub said the king’s words had come true in the updated version
of the Carta de Naturaleza (“conditions for citizenship”).
charter’s previous incarnation, the naturalization stipulations – for those who
could prove they were Jews originating from Sefarad (Spain) – included a
two-year residence period in the country. The upgrade has abolished that
condition and allows for granting immediate citizenship to those able to come up
with a mixture of family anecdotes, genealogical trees, ancestors buried in
Jewish graves, language and customs, whether they live in Spain or abroad, said
He called the move a mechanism for putting the Sephardim back
into Spain – “a procedure aimed at reuniting those who have been unjustly
deprived of their nationality and have recreated in their hearts a Spain that
they never resigned themselves to losing and that from now on is as much theirs
as it is ours, under the law.”
Gallardón remembered his great-grandfather
José Rojas Moreno – the Spanish ambassador to Romania from 1941-43, who saved
several Jews from the Nazis – and recalled his own long connection with the
Sephardi community, dating back to his days as deputy for the North African
Spanish city of Melilla.
According to data he presented, some 250,000
people speak Judeoespañol, also known as Ladino.
García-Margallo, who is
also president of Casa Sefarad-Israel, said this measure was meant to speed up
the naturalization process.
“Our relations [with the Sephardim] have
never been interrupted, they have never been forgotten, and they have become
stronger as Spain has become increasingly democratic and tolerant,” he
Another reason for this move, he continued, was to “recover Spain’s
silenced memory,” bringing the descendants of those original Sephardim back to
their land and to freedom.
Upon recognition of their Sephardi status from
the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Jews will be able to register as
Spanish citizens after promising loyalty to the constitution and to the king of
Spain. This will also entitle them to protection by Spanish consular
There are Sephardim in Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Holland, Bosnia,
Serbia, Bulgaria and Italy, among others.
A spokesman for Casa Sefarad
told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the initiative for easing the
citizenship requirements for Sephardim had come from the the Spanish
“While we wait to learn more about the process, Casa Sefarad
looks forward to seeing the longings of many Sephardim fulfilled. We are also
very pleased with the sensitivity shown toward the Sephardi world by Spanish
politicians, as the loyalty of the Sephardim to Spain is exemplary,” he
Founded in 2006, Casa Sefarad is a diplomatic project of the
Exterior and Cooperation Ministry, the Greater Madrid Community and the Madrid
Municipality, developed under former foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Its aim is to study the Sephardi cultural legacy as an integral and living part
of Spanish culture, to foster a greater knowledge of Jewish culture, and to
encourage the development of friendship and cooperation ties between Spanish and