(JTA) — Spain said it will ease the naturalization of Sephardic Jews whose ancestors were expelled 500 years ago.
Sephardic Jews already benefit from a preferential naturalization procedure that requires them to live in Spain for only two years before claiming citizenship. But the change, which was announced Thursday, means that Jews will have to present only a certificate confirming their ancestry to claim a Spanish passport.
The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE), an umbrella body, congratulated the government for “recognition of a right which does not depend on any government decree.” In its statement, the organization added that the announcement needs to “culminate in a legal text that will specify the conditions to be met to assume nationality.”
The government did not say how many Jews it expected to apply for citizenship, but it noted that a large number of Sephardic Jews lived in Turkey and across Latin America.
While estimates differ, the number of Jews living in Spain — 25,000 to 45,000 people out of a total population of 47 million — is only a fraction of the number who lived in the country before 1492, when Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or go into exile.