Daily Israel Report

Spain Eases Naturalization Process for Sephardic Jews

Spain announced Thursday that it would grant automatic citizenship to Jews of Sephardic descent as a further gesture of reconciliation.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 11/23/2012, 9:22 AM

Bar mitzvah celebration
Bar mitzvah celebration
Flash 90

Spain announced Thursday that it would grant automatic citizenship to Jews of Sephardic descent as a further gesture of reconciliation after their ancestors were expelled from the country more than five centuries ago or forced to convert to Christianity.

While Sephardic Jews have been able to seek Spanish naturalization for decades, the change means that they will have to present only a certificate confirming their ancestry to obtain a Spanish passport.

The government did not say how many Jews it expected would apply for citizenship, but it noted that a large number of Sephardic Jews around the world would benefit, particularly those living in Turkey and Latin America.

While estimates differ, approximately 25,000 to 45,000 Jews-- in a population of 47 million — currently live in Spain, according to The New York Times.

The figure only amounts to a fraction of the number who lived in the country prior to 1492, when Jews were killed or forced to convert to Christianity.

It is estimated that more than 235,000 Jews lived in Spain before the Inquisition.