Spain’s government approved a bill on Friday that makes it possible for Sephardic Jews to receive Spanish citizenship and retain their existing citizenship. The bill was proposed by the ruling Popular Party. The bill has yet to be voted upon by lawmakers in Spain’s Congress of Deputies.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said the measure smooths the bureaucracy involved in obtaining Spanish citizenship. Applicants must be vetted by the government and Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities, or FCJE.
Gallardon announced his intention to introduce new legislation in November 2012. His party, the Popular Party, introduced the bill in December 2013, after Portugal passed its own law of Jewish return in July.
The bill has been “the talk of the country” in Israel since it passed, and almost all news sites have published an allegedly official list of 5,220 surnames that qualify their bearers for Spanish citizenship.
The preamble to the list states that it was compiled from several sources, including a Sephardic genealogy website, SephardicGen.com. An alert Israeli blogger named Ben Suisa contacted SephardicGen.com's Jeff Malka, who wrote back to say:
“There is no official list of names issued by the Spanish government. The list that is circulated on the Internet was indiscriminately compiled by 'someone' from names he found on my and other websites. As far as I know the Spanish government has no connection with it and neither do I. The circulation of the list is therefore causing a great deal of confusion.
“Those who are interested in acquiring Spanish citizenship based on prior Jewish ancestors who had lived in Spain need to contact the consulates and embassies of Spain for accurate details on how to proceed. I've been told that the government of Spain requires a certificate from a Jewish community in Spain stating that the applicant is eligible but the Jewish community is not set up to do this and are reluctant to get involved. However I'm not sure of this.
“I hope this helps.”
Many Sephardic Israelis appear to be interested in obtaining Spanish citizenship because it would confer various privileges on its owner, by virtue of Spain's membership in the EU.
On March 30, 1492, Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela decreed that the entire Jewish community of Spain, numbering some 200,000 people, must leave the country in four months' time. The Jews' expulsion had been the pet project of the Spanish Inquisition, headed by Father Tomas de Torquemada, who believed that as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they would influence the tens of thousands of recent Jewish converts to Christianity to continue practicing Judaism.
The short time span forced the Jews to liquidate their homes and businesses at absurdly low prices. By July 30, the Jews were gone from Spain. After the expulsion, the Sephardim imposed an informal ban forbidding Jews from ever again living in Spain.