Group slams changes to Spanish bill naturalizing Sephardic Jews


(JTA) — Revisions to legislation in Spain that would naturalize Sephardic Jews make the measure nothing more than symbolic, the head of an organization for Spanish-speaking Israelis charged.

The changes were introduced last month during deliberations at a congressional committee, Leon Amiras, chairman of the Association of Olim from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, told JTA on Sunday, two days before a vote by the Spanish Congress. Olim are immigrants to Israel under its law of naturalization for Jews and their relatives.

Under the revisions, applicants must be tested in Spain by a government-approved notary on their knowledge of Spanish and Sephardic culture. If they pass, applicants would need to return to Spain at a later date for another procedure.

Amiras said the changes “render the bill declarative but ultimately meaningless.”

He added that “the law would be an empty gesture. Ordinary would-be applicants are not going to jump through these hoops.”

Amiras said he has written to Spanish government officials to ask that they address the issue but said he has not received a reply.

The current draft bill stipulates that applicants must have cultural and linguistic ties to Spain, and lineages accepted by recognized rabbinical authorities as Sephardic and thus traceable to Jews who resided in Spain before the mass expulsions of the Inquisition starting in 1492.

Speaking in the Spanish Congress on Dec. 2, Spain’s newly appointed justice minister, Rafael Catala, said the law on the Sephardim would “correct a historical error.”

Recommended from JTA