Sephardic Jews Eager for Spain Citizenship

Article excerpt

Spain approved legislation last month that would grant dual citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled more than 500 years ago.

The Spanish government has been flooded with thousands of inquiries about legislation it approved last month that would grant dual citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain more than 500 years ago, the country's justice minister has said.

The minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, who considers the legislation his most important achievement, said in an interview on Wednesday at The New York Times that he anticipated that more than 150,000 people, scattered in the Sephardic Jewish diaspora, would seek Spanish citizenship under the measure, aimed at righting what the government has called a grievous error. The bill is expected to receive unanimous parliamentary approval.

"This law is a real historic reparation of, I dare say, the biggest mistake in Spanish history," Mr. Gallardon said. He was visiting New York at the invitation of Jewish groups to explain the legislation, which has generated intense interest.

Spain's roughly 200,000 Jews were ordered expelled in 1492 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who gave them four months to leave. Many were forced to sell their homes and businesses for nearly nothing, with many eventually resettling in other areas of Europe and North Africa bordering the Mediterranean, but also migrating elsewhere.

While there is no commonly accepted figure for the world's Sephardic Jewish population -- Sephardic is derived from the Hebrew word for Spain -- by some reckonings as many as one-third of the world's 13 million Jews may have Sephardic roots. Many live in Israel. But large Sephardic communities exist in countries including France, Mexico, Turkey and the United States.

Mr. Gallardon, a former mayor of Madrid and grandson of a Spanish ambassador to Romania who helped save Sephardic Jews from the Nazis, said he had been working on the legislation for years. …