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Portugal’s Jewish Law of Return

 

Sephardic Judaism and the Portuguese Law of Return

Sephardic Jews are the descendants of ancient, traditional Jewish communities from the Iberian Peninsula. These Jewish communities predated the formation of Portugal and the other Iberian Christian kingdoms. Se farad, in Hebrew, means Spain. Thus, Sephardic means Spanish and Sephardi refers to the Jews who lived throughout the Iberian Peninsula until 1492 and  their descendants.

Oppression and Exile

From the late fifteenth century, after the Alhambra Edict of 1492, these Sephardic communities became the target of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition. Many of these Jews took refuge in Portugal. However King Manuel, who had initially guaranteed their protection, later ordered the expulsion of all the Jews who would not submit to Roman Catholic baptism. Thus, the Sephardic Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula altogether.

Diaspora

The surviving Sephardi reestablished their communities in small pockets throughout the world; in countries like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Turkey, as well as North Africa and, later, the Americas. Despite their persecution and expulsion from their ancestral territory, many Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin retained their native language and their ancient rites of worship. Moreover, many of these Sephardic communities preserved their original surnames, artifacts and texts that confirm their identification as Sephardic Jews of Portuguese ancestry or Jews of the Portuguese Nation. For this reason, under the Law of Jewish Return, Sephardic Jews can reclaim their Portuguese citizenship.

Can I Apply for Citizenship if I'm Not Jewish?

Yes, you can. The Law of Return is open to Jewish and non-Jewish people who can prove their Sephardic ancestry. The religion of the applicants does not matter; what matters is their Sephardic ancestry.

How Can I Prove my Sephardic Origin?

An applicant's first step towards Portuguese citizenship will be the acquisition from a Sephardic Jewish community, of a certificate of origin. This certificate attests to ties with a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin. Once obtained, the applicant should send the document to the Jewish community in either Porto or Lisbon.

 

Requirement  for Obtaining  Certificate of origin:

A. Evidence of the applicant's family history and connections to a Portuguese Sephardic community, such as surnames, genealogical histories, or other significant indications of this ancient Portuguese connection; and

B. Use of Ladino in the applicant’s home or as part a related kinship tradition demonstrated, for instance, in home movies, photographs of family graves (with Ladinoinscriptions), or ancestral documents written in Ladino; and

C. Official documentation that verifies the applicant possesses Sephardic ancestry, such as birth data, genetic testing, Brit Milah records, municipal census data or passenger lists.