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Brazilian family finds ties with Sephardic Jews and requests Portuguese nationality

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“We did research, in the cities of Sobral and Massapê, and we discovered historical documents about the first descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Europe and came to the Brazilian Northeast.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.


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