Portuguese Citizenship Law Attracts 250 Jewish Applicants, Primarily From Turkey

New law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile the right to citizenship passes three months ago.

Three months after Portugal passed a law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to citizenship, 250 applicants – most from Turkey – have already received official certification that they qualify.
This certification establishes that the applicants have provided sufficient proof of their connection to the Sephardic Portuguese community that existed before the 16th century Inquisition. The Portuguese government has delegated the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto with responsibility for vetting certification requests.

According to Portuguese Jewish leaders, 200 certificates have thus far been issued by the Porto community and another 50 by Lisbon. The law took effect in March. Last week, Spain passed a similar law, which will take effect in October. Once candidates receive certification, they are requested to produce documents required of any other candidates applying for citizenship in Portugal. But Jews of Portuguese descent, unlike others applying for Portuguese citizenship, are not required to relocate to the country. Their citizenship applications also go through an expedited process, and rather than wait the usual six-seven years, they will be notified within six months to a year if they have been approved.
Michael Rothwell, a spokesman for the Jewish community of Porto, said 900 applications had been received by their offices in the past three months, and 200 certificates had already been issued, among them 150 to Jews from Turkey. Another 15 certificates had been issued to Israeli Jews, and an identical number to American Jews. The rest, he said, were split among applicants from 15 different countries.
“For many of them, it is a desire to formalize the emotional connection to Portugal they’ve kept in their families for many centuries,” said Rothwell, explaining why these Jews were applying for Portuguese citizenship. “Others, particularly those in Turkey, are thinking about coming to live in Portugal.”
Jose Carp, president of the Jewish community of Lisbon, told Haaretz that he has already received 500 inquiries by mail and by phone from prospective applicants. Of the total number of certificates authorized by the Jewish community of Lisbon, 24 were issued to Israelis, 12 to Brazilians, five to Moroccans, three to Americans, three to Turks, and one each to a Russian, British and South African descendant of Portuguese Jews.
He said that 10 percent of the applications for certification had not yet been approved because important documents were missing.
“The people who have made inquiries have absolutely not been thinking about relocating,” said Carp. “The reason they are doing it is that they would like to have a European Sephardic identity. They’re very proud of it, and this provides a piece of proof that they can transmit to their descendants.”
The Jewish community of Lisbon, he said, is providing certification not only to halakhic Jews but also to descendants of the Sephardic community forced to convert to Christianity (also known as conversos). The Jewish community of Porto, on the other hand, is only providing certification to those who meet the halakhic requirements.

The roots of the Habib family from Gallipoli in Portugal

The Habib family (sometimes called Ben Habib or Ibn Habib), are are descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, and left Portugal due to religious persecution.

The Habib Family’s Roots in Portugal

The Habibs are descendants of Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib and Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib

The Habib family was, and continues to be, a prominent and respectful family in Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey. According to historical sources and family information and transferred from one generation to another, the Habibs are descendants of Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib and Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib, who lived in Lisbon, Portugal in the late 15th century.

1. The Habibs in Spain

  • My ancestor Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib (c. 1460 – 1516) was a Rabbi and Talmudist born at Zamora, Spain. He was the head of the Yeshiva of Salamanca. Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib wrote the “Ein Yaakov” and was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of his time.
  • The 1492 decree of expulsion issued by the Spanish Monarchs marked the end of Spanish Jewry in Spain. Ibn Habib and his family were expelled from Spain.

2. The Habibs in Portugal

  • Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib migrated from Spain to Portugal. He settled with his family in the city of Lisbon. In Portugal, unlike Spain, there appeared to be no forced conversions or uprisings against the Jews.
  • In Portugal, Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib’s son, Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib (c. 1480 – c. 1545), was a student of Rabbi Isaac Aboab (who died in Porto).
  • Under King Manuel of Portugal, Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib was caught in the throes of Monarch’s decree and had to confront forced conversions in Portugal. His son, Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib, when about seventeen, was forcibly baptized in 1497.
  • Due to the religious persecution, Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib and Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib (and other members of the family) fled Portugal, seeking a place where they could follow the dictates of their conscience in safety.

3. The Habibs in Ottoman Empire (Salonica and Galipoli)

  • After the expulsion of Jews from Portugal, Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib and Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib landed in Salonica, which at that time was a part of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The Habibs eventually arrived in the area Gallipoli, Turkey. The Ben Habib family of Portugal is said to have furnished Gallipoli with eighteen chief rabbis, the most prominent of them being Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib. During the 17th century, Shimon Ibn Habib and Rafael Ibn Habib were rabbis of the city. Another rabbi of the community was Jacob Ibn Habib (died 1863). Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Habib family played a very important role in the life of Gallipoli’s Jewish community.



Gallipoli Jewry Heritage Site

Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib – Wikipedia

Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib – Wikipedia

Habib, Levi Ben Jacob Ibn – Jewish Encyclopedia

יוסף הקר, “לדמותה של ההנהגה היהודית בשאלוניקי בראשית המאה הט”ז”, דברי הקונגרס העולמי השישי למדעי היהדות, כרך ב’ ירושלים תשל”ו.

גיורא פוזיילוב, חכמיהן של ארבע ערי הקודש כרך ב – חכמי ירושלים, מינהל החינוך הדתי.