Monday, June 15, 2015

Spain Welcomes Back Sephardic Jews After 500 Years

The Spanish parliament formally approved on Thursday June 11 2015. a law aiming to correct a “tragic and historic” error by offering citizenship to Jews whose ancestors were expelled from the country in 1492. Yes, 523 years later, it seems, Madrid wants to do the right thing.

The Spanish Inquisition beginning in 1478 under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand brought about widespread expulsions, executions and forced conversions of thousands of Jews as a method of asserting the dominance of Catholics.

The Alhambra Decree in 1492 said that Jewish people faced death without trial if they did not leave Spain or convert to Christianity.

In 1924, a law gave the government discretionary powers to award Sephardic Jews nationality, but candidates had to give up their previous citizenship and they had to be residents of Spain.

The legislation, which passed with a wide majority and with support from all the largest parties, is a rare gesture out of Europe, where anti-Semitism and other ethnic tensions have been on the rise in recent years.  It was first proposed as the Sephardic Ancestry Bill in 2012, igniting self reflection and dragging up painful memories among the global community of Sephardic Jews.

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