The Sephardic 'Law of Return' like our heritage should be perpetual

The Sephardic 'Law of Return' like our heritage should be perpetual

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John Hurtado started this petition to Rey de España SM el Rey Don Felipe VI and

As Descendants of those Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492 by the Spanish Crown, we write to demand that the law be made perpetual since, according to King Felipe VI, Spain is our “home forever.”

The Edict of Expulsion was issued on March 31, 1492, by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon). Also known as the Alhambra Decree, the edict ordered Jews to leave the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon by July 31 of that same year.

Spain’s passage of the Law of Return in 2015 was a remarkable gesture. In 2015, King Felipe VI gave a speech where he welcomed Sephardic Jews and their descendants back to Spain, “Dear Sephardim, thank you for your loyalty …” he said. “Thank you for having kept like a precious treasure your language and your customs. They are ours too. Thank you too for making love prevail over rancor and for teaching your children to love this country.” He continued saying, “How we’ve missed you … I want to tell you today that you have come back home – your own home forever.”

However, although official data on the number of Sephardic Jews who will have obtained Spanish citizenship under the 2015 law will not be available until all applications are processed — which may be several years after the deadline for applications expires — initial indications show that the law has failed to "right a wrong." For example, as of the end of 2018, only 3,843 Sephardic Jews had obtained Spanish citizenship under the law, according to data published by El País. Roughly 70% (2,590) of those were from Latin America (Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico). Another 5,682 applications were pending approval — at a success rate estimated to be around 50%. El País noted that although 8,365 applicants received Spanish citizenship since 2015, most of them did so through subsequent decrees issued in October 2015 (4,302) and August 2016 (220) (here and here) that eliminated some bureaucratic hurdles for Jews who submitted their applications before the current law entered into force.

In other words, no more than 5,000 Sephardic Jews will have received Spanish citizenship under the 2015 law — one percent of the 500,000 that the Spanish government said would benefit from the law, and 0.15% of the estimated 3.5 million Sephardic Jews in the world today.

The Law of Return has Failed to Right a Wrong

The Law of Return has failed because of the numerous changes that have caused rejections, including:

  1. Overriding the Notarios’ lawful power to verify Sephardic ancestry;
  2. Denying certificates of Sephardic origins issued by Jewish organizations authorized by Spain for the task;
  3. Changing the requirements of the genealogical documents that have already been submitted; and
  4. Retroactively requiring the ‘special connection,’ which included donations made to Spanish charities, must have occurred before the law was enacted in 2015.

Tens of thousands of Descendants across the world have spent time and thousands of euros fulfilling the rigorous requirements of the application process, only to have the rules and requirements changed years after all their documents had been verified and submitted. Thus, most Applicants have been rejected or have not received a response. It is most disconcerting that these new requirements were implemented after most applicants signed with Notarios.

Therefore, we ask that the Sephardic 'Law of Return,' like our heritage, be forever.

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