By M. Foran


The Spanish government is preparing to grant automatic dual citizenship to descendants of the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. In presenting the draft legislation Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said that this measure rectifies “one of the greatest errors” in the history of Spain.

The Tránsito Synagogue in Toledo, Spain

The Hekhál, inner sanctuary  containing the Holy of Holies, of the Tránsito Synagogue in Toledo, Spain,built between 1357 and 1363

Sephardic Jews were a Jewish ethnic division of Middle Eastern Israelites who migrated to the Iberian Peninsula at the turn of the first millennium and evolved a distinctive diasporic identy, speaking Ladino which is a Romance language based on Old Spanish mixed with elements of other Romance languages of the Iberian Peninisula, Hebrew and Armaic.

The Sephardim’s open and organized community began to crumble on the issuance by Catholic Monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of the Alhambra Decree toward the end of the 15th century resulting in a combination of internal and external dispersals, mass conversions to Chrisianity, and executions.

The Hebrew word Sefarad means Spain. Strictly speaking, therefore, the Sephardim are the Jews who came from the Iberian peninsula.

Observing theHavdal ritual in 14th century Spain.

A Sephardi observing the Havdalah ritual in 14th century Spain

At present, the Sephardim can acquire Spanish nationality through naturalization for which they can apply after residing in Spain for two years. This requirement, though much shorter than the usual ten-year residency for foreigners, is the same for nationals of Latin America, Portugal and the Philippines. The Sephardic roots can be proven by presenting a certificate from the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities or from the leader of the Jewish community in the applicant’s home country. A Cervantes Institute test must also be passed to evaluate a person’s command of the Spanish language and culture, the Justice Minister added.

The Spanish Parliament, where the conservative Popular Party has the majority, must still pass the new bill.




Featured image: Expulsion of the Jews by Emili Sala i Francés as scanned from the brochure of the “Pintores de Alcoy. De Antonio Gisbert a Rigoberto Soler” Exhibition.  Source: Prado Museum. User: .

Hekhál of the Transito Synagogue by Olivier Levy. CC-BY 2.5

Havdalah ritual. User: