Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Jews Left to Wait on Spanish Citizenship

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Jews Left to Wait on Spanish Citizenship

Article excerpt

Spain announced that it had significantly eased the naturalization process for Sephardic Jews, but government has yet to put the rules into practice.

Six months after announcing a significant easing of the Spanish naturalization process for Sephardic Jews, the government in Madrid has yet to put the rules into practice, leaving many citizenship applicants frustrated.

The change, announced on Nov. 21 by the foreign and justice ministers, was presented at the time as a conciliatory gesture toward Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors were expelled in 1492, one of the darkest chapters in Spanish history. Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the time had come "to recover Spain's silenced memory."

But the naturalization process is unchanged, with no specific date set for the promised overhaul to go into effect. A spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said the government hoped to approve the reform "soon" as part of a broader overhaul of Spain's civil code.

Since November, the Justice Ministry has granted citizenship to 20 Sephardic Jews, under the existing naturalization rules, with 2,900 Sephardic citizenship requests under review, mostly filed before the announcement.

The changes called for Spain to offer citizenship to any Jew whose Sephardic origins could be certified by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain. The overhaul removed some onerous requirements, including the need for applicants to renounce their current citizenship.

The Federation of Jewish Communities said it had received about 1,000 certification requests since November but had been unable to process any of them until the new rules became official. In the meantime, the federation is creating a data bank of the claimants.

Casa Sefarad-Israel, a state-financed agency created by Spain to revive Sephardic culture, said it remained confident that the change would take effect but that it could not predict or discuss a time frame. …

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