Portugal adopts return law for Jewish descendants


(JTA) — Portugal’s government adopted legislation that offers citizenship to some descendants of Sephardic Jews.

The letter of the legislation passed Thursday by the Council of Ministers is expected to be made public next month, according to the Jewish Community of Porto.

The legislation was passed in 2013 by the parliament, making Portugal the second country in the world after Israel to pass a law of return for Jews. Spain is poised to pass a similar law.

Portugal’s Jews were forced out of the country along with their Spanish correligionists in the 14th and 15th centuries because of the church-led persecution known as the Inquisition.

In both Iberian countries, the authors of the legislation described it as an act of atonement for the Inquisition period. Applicants need to demonstrate a cultural link to Portugal and an ancestral one approved by the Jewish Community of Lisbon or that of Porto, according to the president of the Lisbon community, Jose Oulman Carp.

“I would not say that it is a historical reparation because I believe that in this regard there is no possibility of repairing what has been done,” Justice Minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz was quoted as saying by Protuguese RPT News at the conclusion of Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. “I would say that it is the granting of a right.”

Michael Rothwell, a delegate of the Committee of the Jewish Community of Porto, said his organization regards the measure as “an act of justice.” He described it as “another important step toward reconciliation with the past.” His committee is one of the vetting organizations.

But for James Harlow, a Sephardic Jew from California who owns a Silicon Valley start-up, the issue is also financial.

“Portugal is a great starting point to expand my business in the European Union,” he told JTA.

On average, approved applicants can expect to receive a Portuguese nationality within a few months, the Porto community said.

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