UK Jews look to 'antonement' laws for secondary citizenship following Brexit

In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a nationwide referendum, leaving questions concerning travel, immigration and the UK economy unanswered.

January 13, 2017 15:04
2 minute read.
Spanish passport

The cover of a passport from Spain. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)


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British Jews are rushing to obtain secondary passports in the aftermath of the so-called Brexit decision, passed in the summer of last year, according to Sky News Friday.

Uncertain over the consequences of the UK 'Leave' vote, an increased number of Britons have inquired about their family genealogies, seeking to take advantage of "atonement" laws that would allow Sephardic Jews to reclaim citizenship in Portugal or Spain.

Both governments have laws on the books that would make Jews of Sephardic descent eligible for passports as an "act of atonement," according to Sky News, after thousands of Jews were expelled in the 15th century.

In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a nationwide referendum, leaving questions concerning travel, immigration and the UK economy unanswered.

"I didn't vote for Brexit. I feel European and it's a gesture for Europe. I feel the emotional connection, that's one thing. I have ancestors who were burnt at the stake. I feel I want to make a gesture of solidarity with Europe," said Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore in an interview with the British broadcaster.

"I am British, I was born here, I've always lived here. But I'm very grateful to Portuguese people for providing me with this opportunity.

"We don't know what the arrangements of Brexit will be and going to Europe will be easier if you have a European passport," she added.

The north London Sephardic community reportedly keeps genealogy records dating back to the 17th century. They claim, since the Brexit vote, that they're receiving more phone calls in one week than they had in one year.

"If they can show that their parents and grandparents were married here under our auspices it's quite straightforward and we can follow them back," said Archivist Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira.

"But we can't rush. People will have to wait. We're not going to certify anything that we can't find chapter and verse for," continued Rodrigues-Pereira, adding "we're much busier than we were because of Brexit."

Rabbi Israel Elia of the Lauderdale Road Synagogue said that the Jewish British community was wise to keep their options open, given the history of the Jewish people.

"We are a community which welcomes that kind of security because of our experience unfortunately - our expulsions from everywhere," the rabbi told Sky News.

"Wherever we had a place we wanted to call home it wasn't long-lasting. In our psyche it was very much part of our plan to be able to go elsewhere."

"We like to have that extra safety net, to have that security because of our experience," he added.

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