Thursday, March 27, 2014

NY Times on Spain's Officially Welcoming Back its Expelled Jewish Peoples

Spain has just officially welcomed back Jewish peoples previously expelled during the Inquisition-
was it delayed till now because of the declining political situation of the Spanish monarchy since April 2012?

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

The minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who considers the legislation his most important achievement, said in an interview 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. Gallardón 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. Gallardón, 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. It was first presented as a draft in November 2012.

A main goal, he said, was not only to repair an injustice to Jews, but also to repair Spain, where Jewish contributions to art, science and literature flourished before the expulsion. Many Sephardic Jews, he said, retain strong identifying connections to Spain.

“Instead of detaching from Spain and having hard feelings toward the country that expelled them, they became more attached to their country, their language and their traditions,” he said. During his travels, he said, he has found Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar who can trace their roots to Toledo. Some Sephardic Jews, he said, “even got as far as Crimea — they are scattered all over the world.”

The dual-citizenship measure will require that applicants establish their heritage through surnames or other proof of ancestry, or a certificate from a recognized Sephardic Jewish federation or rabbinical authority, but the criteria will not be overly strict, and applicants need not be religiously observant. “We will look at any evidence,” the minister said. “We want to ease the process.”

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