Yoram Zara is an attorney with offices in Israel and Portugal. Yoram has an LLM in International law and specializes in Portugal Sephardi Citizenship. Yoram’s family immigrated to Israel from Turkey. He is decedent to the Baruch, Sasson and Habib families. Yoram has extensive knowledge of Sephardi history and culture. Yoram is well acquainted with the procedure and people of the Jewish communities in Portugal.
A Brazilian family living in the interior of the state of Ceará has discovered its Portuguese Sephardic roots and has already started the process of obtaining nationality in Portugal, the Brazilian press reported today.
Translation from the original here
According to the G1 news portal, it took years of research, hundreds of documents, 300-year marriage certificates and a lot of study to find the link between the Arruda family and the Jews expelled from Europe five centuries ago.
The journey of the family from Ceará began in 2015, when Portugal announced that it would give citizenship to foreigners who proved to have a Sephardic background, a way of apologizing to the people banished from the Iberian Peninsula in the late fifteenth century.
Nertan Arruda was the first Brazilian to prove the bond with Sephardic Jews and to obtain the Portuguese citizenship.
“We did research, in the cities of Sobral and Massapê, and we discovered historical documents about the first descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Europe and came to the Brazilian Northeast. In Lisbon, they verified the veracity of the documents in April last year and obtained citizenship”, Nertan told the G1.
From the Nertan certificate, his cousin Henrique Sérgio Arruda furthered the investigations of the Sephardic genealogy in Ceará to obtain the same certificate for himself and 29 other relatives.
For this, Henrique Sérgio Arruda needs proof of the ascendancy of each of the 15 generations that separate him from Branca Dias, a Jewish woman who died in Pernambuco in 1558.
Entrepreneur Henrique Sérgio Arruda has already obtained documents attesting to his consanguineous familiarity with Branca Dias in Brazil and from the Jewish Community of Lisbon. The documents, however, still need to be reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Justice.
Sephardic Branca Dias, expelled from Portugal in the 16th century, is identified by some historians as the first woman to teach in Brazil, maintaining schools in the mills (sugar cane farms) that she and her husband maintained in Olinda, in the old captaincy of Pernambuco.
Branca Dias lived in the Portuguese colony as a “new Christian”, as were identified the Jews that converted – sometimes forced – to Christianity.
However, in secret, practiced the Jewish religion, which was discovered and led to conviction by the Inquisition. The judgment and relevance of Branca Dias left extensive documentation of her and six generations of her descendants.
Henrique Sérgio Arruda told the G1 that Portuguese citizenship can bring practical benefits to himself and the family, but the discovery of his family origins is what motivates him the most to carry out the genealogical research.
Genealogist Assis Arruda also told the news portal that other families in Ceará may have ties to Portuguese Sephardic Jews.
The Portuguese Government approved the decree-law that regulated the granting of Portuguese nationality, by naturalization, to descendants of Sephardic Jews in January 2015.
The decree-law was promulgated by the then President Aníbal Cavaco Silva and published in the Official Gazette of Portugal at the end of February 2015, coming into force on March 1st of the same year.
The Portuguese legislation foresees that candidates for nationality must submit a list of documents, including proof of Jewish ancestry, including a certificate to be issued by the Jewish Community of Porto (ICP) or the Jewish Community of Lisbon (ICL), which have already received thousands of certificate requests.
More than 5,500 Sephardic Jews have applied for Portuguese nationality, and 431 have obtained it since the entry into force of the legislation, according to official data from Portugal made available in February.
Summary translation from the original in Portuguese found here
Changes in the Nationality Law were approved by a Council of Ministers on Thursday 20 April 2017. The acquisition of Portuguese nationality will be facilitated to minors descending from Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The decree will enter in force in the first month after the date of the publication and will fill in a gap that existed since 2015, when this alterations were approved for the first time by the Government lead by Pedro Passos Coelho. The State Secretary, Jose Luiz Carneiro, stated: “This is a measure that has long been requested”. According to Jose Luis Carneiro, the law now approved “will end of the inequality between minors and adults in the granting of nationality by naturalization to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews.” The decree approved cancels the requirement of demonstrating a special link to Portugal that was previously required from minors.
Jewish communities applaud
In a joint public notice on Thursday, the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto welcomed “the amendment to the Regulation of the Nationality Law” which, they emphasized, “puts an end to the need for minors to prove an ‘effective link’ to Portugal which they could not demonstrate because their ancestors were forced to abandon Portugal. “
Translation form the original in French found here.
The Jewish community is leaving Turkey slowly, but surely. This religious minority is worried by the increase of violence and by the hardening of the regime. One third of its members have already begun the process of becoming Israeli citizens, but also Portuguese and Spanish. These are two countries who have banished them five centuries ago, but who agree to give them citizenship today.
The nationalist and Islamist pressure of the AKP, president Erdogan’s party, worries the small Turkish Jewish community, mainly gathered in Istanbul. After the increase of violence and anti-Semitism, an important number of 15,000 members of this community are considering leaving their country. The community has already lost 9,000 members over twenty years.
After the coup d’état attempted in July 2016, the repression against the followers of Fethullah Gülen (accused of being behind the putsch) has expanded to the whole Turkish society. 140,000 people have been excluded from the administration: judges, teachers, journalists, academics, police officers, military men, elected members… The Jewish community, discreet and legitimist, is yet not spared by this climate of violence.
Most of all the community fears a new wave of anti-Semitism, which could be instrumentalized by the government or by the Islamic groups. Back in 2003, hundreds of Jews have left the country after the attacks committed in front of two synagogues in Istanbul. The attack, claimed by a Turkish group related to Al-Qaeda, resulted in 43 deaths.
After the victory of Yes in the constitutional referendum, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has full power more than ever. The state of emergency proclamation has already allowed him to silence the opposition and to shut down hundreds of associations, such as the ones known for defending human rights. 47,000 magistrates, military men and police officers have been imprisoned.
This is the harmful political climate from which the Jewish-Turkish community tries to find a way out. 4,000 of its members have begun the process of becoming Portuguese or Spanish citizens. The Portuguese and Spanish parliaments have decided (in 2014) to grant citizenships to the descendants of the Sephardic Jews who have been evicted during the Inquisition. Historians estimate that at least 200,000 Jews were living in the Iberian Peninsula when Isabella the Catholic ordered them to convert or to leave, after years of persecution. The Jews from Spain, who had been living in the country with the Muslims and Christians for centuries, were forced to leave in a couple of weeks and they received an interdiction of coming back. The ones who refused were burned in the public square.
Return to Lisbon
The decisions aim to fix a «historical error» and to also attract a dynamic and resourceful population. The laws of «nationality reintegration» have been voted in 2013 and 2014, during the serious economic crisis which affected the Iberian Peninsula. According to Michael Rothwel, the representative of the Jewish community in Porto, «from the 3,000 nationality demands in Portugal, 500 Jews from Turkey have already received their new Portuguese passports», whereas the other demands are in progress. For the Jewish community of Istanbul, the return to the Portuguese or Spanish nationality is seen as an insurance against the increase of violence. This will also give them access to a precious European passport in these troubled times.
For the Jewish minority in Turkey, political repression which affects large sections of the population is added to the prevailing anti-Semitism. President Erdogan and the Turkish press regularly accuse a sibylline «lobby of interest taxes» for being detrimental to Turkey. The population understands they are targeting the Jewish community…
Less than two months after the referendum on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, there are already 400 British descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who have applied for Portuguese nationality. This is a significant increase, since before referring only five approved a law of the nationality of 2015
The UK has voted to exit the European Union. There are now hundreds of British people that search their ancestry to obtain a European passport. In less than two months there are four hundred British descendants of Sephardic Jews that requested Portuguese nationality. This is a considerable increase since before the referendum only five took advantage of the Nationality law. “We were expecting that after the Brexit vote on the 23rd of June, there would be, from the British people a desire to keep their nationality, and a wish to remain in the EU”. Michael Rothwell is a member on the board of Porto’s Jewish community and he says he was expecting these requests to begin. “In respect to Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descendants there is an opportunity, created by the Nationality law of 2015 that allows descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews that are part of a Sephardic community to request Portuguese nationality”. The certificates that authenticate the origin are issued by the Jewish communities in Portugal. According to the law, the certificates are given by the two Jewish communities, of Porto and Lisbon Only the Jewish community can determine whether a person is a Sephardic Jew or a descendant of Sephardic Jews. Sephardic Jews are Jews of Portuguese or Spanish origin, that were exiled from Portugal in the fifteenth century and that can now return. You can not fix History, but the future can be written differently. Michael ensures that these 400 requests do not mean that they want to return to Portugal but requesting nationality is a strong proof of an affective bond to Portugal.