(February 8, 2022, JNS Wire)
In seven years (March 2015 to Jan 2022), the Portuguese state has granted Portuguese citizenship to 56,685 descendants of Sephardic Jews, according to data provided by the Ministry of Justice to the LUSA news agency.
Portugal still has 80,102 pending applications, so a total of 137,087 applications for acquiring Portuguese nationality under the Nationality Law for Sephardic Jews have been received by the Registry Office since March 2015.
Portuguese nationality may be granted to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, who after leaving Portugal, due to religious persecution maintained ties with organized communities that were typically Portuguese or the Spanish and Portuguese synagogues; or whose families have been integrated into Portuguese and Spanish communities, commonly known as “Sephardim” and who used the language known as Ladino; and to all those descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who after leaving Portugal, due to religious persecution, traveled far and wide and who maintain an emotional connection to Portugal and Judaism.
Almost seven years have passed. The Portuguese Jewish community grew 1,000% and many Sephardic families are still preparing for their trip. There are filled synagogues, kosher hotels and restaurants, a new Jewish cemetery, the Portuguese Jewish school, the greatest Chabad center in Europe, new Jewish and Holocaust museums, Jewish newspapers and internationally awarded films on the history of Jews in Portugal.
Suzanne Cohen, a member of B’nai B’rith International Portugal, explains to PJN, “The law is aimed at over 1 million people, just counting the traditional families of the Sephardic communities of North Africa and the former Ottoman Empire. About 10% have so far applied for citizenship, about 5% have obtained citizenship, and just over 7000 of them already live in Portugal. For anti-Semites, this is an invasion of Jews, i.e., the law was a ‘law of convenience,’ a kind of memorial to Jewish heritage, it was not supposed to give rise to Jewish life and Jewish culture.”
She adds, “Around 80% of the Portuguese population are staunch supporters of the law, including philo-Semites, many members of the Government and the President of the Portuguese Republic himself. Portugal is once again on the Jewish map. This Jewish community is still one of the smallest in Europe but has had Portuguese blood for over two millennia. This factor could make the difference. There is a new tomorrow, whatever it may be.”
The European Commission announced in early October 2021 that Jewish life will be fostered in a Europe that was home to 9.5 million Jews before the Second World War and whose remaining 1.5 million are abandoning the Old Continent.