(JTA) — At least a quarter of those who have applied for Spanish nationality under the country’s law of return for descendants of Sephardic Jews are not Jewish, according to the local media.
Of the 153,767 applicants, 52,823 are from four Latin American countries — Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Ecuador — the La Razon newspaper reported Sunday. Their combined Jewish population is smaller than 10,000, according to the World Jewish Congress.
That means that nearly 43,000 applicants, or 27 percent of the total who applied before the closing of the deadline for applications in October, are not Jewish based on the relatively liberal definition of who is a Jew applied by the World Jewish Congress.
Only 4,313 applicants, or 2.8 percent, are Israelis and more than one-fifth, or 33,653, come from Mexico, which has the highest number of applicants. Colombia was next at 28,314. The United States had 5,461 applicants and Turkey had 1,994.
Only 31,222 applications had been approved by Oct. 1 and the rest are still pending. September had the most applicants, no fewer than 71,789, since the opening of the window in January 2018.
Spain passed its law of return for descendants of Sephardic Jews in 2015 shortly after Portugal.
Thousands of applicants have asked to be naturalized in Portugal, where the law is open ended.
In both countries, the government described the law as an act of atonement for the persecution and mass expulsion of Jews during the Inquisition that began in the 15th century. Many Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity.