Video Portuguese Citizenship

British Sephardic Jews request Portuguese nationality

About 400 Sephardic Jews are requesting Portuguese nationality. Almost all requests arrived after the Brexit results. Most want to keep a European passport and the freedom of movement.

The Brexit referendum planted the seeds of uncertainty among the British Sephardi Jews. “Up until the Brexit referendum we had only 5 requests, which is understandable because at that time the British had European Union passports, and didn’t need the Portuguese passport, except for emotional reasons”.
There is an emotional motivation, but in most cases, the Sephardi Jews that want the Portuguese passport only want to make sure that they will be able to move freely in the European Union after the Brexit. The Jewish community in Porto have about 400 requests for the certification needed to ask for Portuguese nationality.
“Nowadays, people in the United Kingdom, and in other countries of the European Union,
they see themselves as European first and don’t want to lose that part of their identity”.
The Sephardi Jews have to prove first that they are really Sephardi, and then that they have a connection to Portugal. “
Usually through their Rabi, through their communities, they can prove that they are Sephardi.
Then, the connection to Portugal is many times established through their family tree, their parents and grandparents, etc. Sometimes because they speak Ladino, which is a Spanish-Portuguese medieval Jewish language that is still spoken in some places in the world”.
The British Sephardi community is trying to take advantage of the 2015 law that allows. the descendants of the Jews that were thrown out of the country over 500 years ago to ask for Portuguese citizenship.

British Jews ask for Portuguese citizenship to gain freedom of movement across the EU

More than five hundred British Jews ask for Portuguese citizenship after the Brexit referendum, using a Portuguese law destined to make historic justice to get a free pass for the European Union.

They are descendent of the Sephardim, who were expelled from the country 500 years ago or had run away from the inquisition.

The Iberian origins are just one of the reasons that led Pippa Hyam to ask for Portuguese citizenship.
“We decided to apply following the vote in the UK to leave the European Union. We, the family, we were very upset about this, we very unhappy about that decision and so we realized that this was an opportunity for us to retain EU citizenship”.
She lives in London, where she was born, just like her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
It has been more than five hundred years since leaving Portugal. She’s a descendant of the Sephardic Jews expelled by King Manuel.
“A relative of mine has done a family tree for our family and were able to trace the family back to Iraq and Syria where a lot Sephardic Jews went after they left Portugal”.
Pippa’s request is just one of the many that arrived in the Jewish community of Porto and Lisbon.
The law that seeks to restore justice to Jews who fled religious persecution has been in existence for two years, but British requests only began to arrive after June last year.
The law seeks to restore justice. More than 500 Sephardim descendants asked for Portuguese citizenship after the referendum.
To Jews who fled religious persecution, the law has been in existence for two years, but British requests only began to arrive after June last year.
“The difference is dramatic and so prior to the referendum we only had 5 requests for certification from British Sephardim. After the referendum we had about 500. They didn’t do it before because before the referendum it had no practical benefits but now it will have”.
The Ministry of Justice has approved all cases submitted by the Jewish communities.
It takes about a year to deliberate.
For the British, more important than resolving injustices of the past, it is about preventing the future.
“Jews throughout history have always risked expulsion. In the 21st century. it is possible through a European passport to have several citizenships which gives access to live in many countries and this achieved, is a plan B for British Jews”.
Pippa wants to be Portuguese, but living in Portugal is not in her plans.
“Certainly, but no plans at the moment. I never say never”.
Pippa thanks the Portuguese government for the historic repair which can now mean free movement in the European Community.

Jose Ribeiro e Castro, Member of the Portuguese Parliament, on Portuguese Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

Jose Ribeiro e Castro presents Bill number 394/XII/2 (CDS-PP), fifth amendment to Law No. 37/81, of October 3, (Nationality Law) Portuguese nationality of members of communities of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal, discussed in conjunction with the Bill number 373/XII/2 (PS) fifth amendment to Law No. 37/81, of October 3 (Law of Nationality).

Now, to the speech of the deputy José Ribeiro e Castro presenting the bill number 394 of authorship of CDS-PP.

Deputy José Ribeiro e Castro:
Ms. President, deputies. I also salute the Jewish community following the debate, and I ask you to send our greetings to the Rabbi of the Synagogue, we know he was here but had to leave. And I also salute the Ambassador of Spain.
Today is a historic day for many compatriots. Therefore, it’s historic for us, in the National Assembly and for Portugal. It’s a day of historic repair, of memory reestablishment. The day that we reconnect after 520 years of compulsory separation, that we end a hiatus that should never have existed.
It’s like to bring back the agreement of Portuguese nationality, the hereditary agreement we have in common, that in the heart of those who left, was never interrupted. It’s the day when we welcome back those who should never have left, that should never have to leave Portugal. It is, therefore, a happy day.
I’ll quote a Jewish author who wrote chronicles about the Sephardic diaspora, so we have an idea of the importance it had to the New World:
“The dispersion of the people of Israel, mainly after the establishment of the Iberian Peninsula Inquisition, this case, in Portugal, watched brains escaping to the rest of the world, including Portuguese islands and colonies overseas. In the New World, one of the favorite places was Brazil, country where, after the second part of the 16th century many decided to move to, specially thanks to their education, covering all knowledge areas and their economic resources, both very vast. Jewish diaspora in America starts with the 1492 exodus in Spain and proceeds to the expulsion in Portugal from 1496 to 1498.
For over one century, Jewish cartographers, cosmographers and scientists were indispensable to set the foundations of the two Iberian empires in America. They’ll be the base to the European discoveries from Africa to Americas. With the Jewish Expulsion from the Iberian territory and with the atrocities of the Inquisition, the future main Iberian colonies not only lost intellectuals, indispensable for the national economic growth, but also, and most importantly, limited or even atrophied their contact with the rest of Europe, that was financially dependent on Jewish people. It applies specially to Portugal, with an empire above all continents.”
End of quote.
The analysis ends by saying that: “Even if there wasn’t many, the presence of Sephardic Jews, mainly with Portuguese roots, was very important to the economic development in America, from Canada to Brazil, going through the Anglo-American colonies, and the Caribbean.”
End of quote.
That’s why it’s not surprising that in a documentary produced by RTP a few years ago, named “Portugal sem fim”, that went after Lusitanian memories around the world, out of the 33 episodes signed by great Portuguese journalists, 4 were specifically about the Sephardic diaspora. There were episodes signed by Seruca Salgado, that by the way, would be important for RTP to reprise in the next days, and that tells the history of Sephardic descendant presence in Israel, Turkey, Belmonte, Faro, Jerusalem, in Curacao, the Netherlands and in the United States.
We also notice a strong presence of Sephardic descendants in Brazil and that’s where the relationship between CDS and this bill comes from. For us, this is a day of great satisfaction, happiness, honor and pride.
I’d like to say, in order to demonstrate the importance of social network in politics that this matter came to us through Facebook. It was with Facebook that we were alerted about this track we can’t erase from our memories and that we became interested in the subject. The Sephardic Jews from Brazil contacted us.
In 2010 we started an electronic petition rising over one thousand signatures in a short time. It’s still pendent. And at this point we made two questions to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Interior Relations in order to gather their sensibility to accept this matter. From the Ministers at this time we were answered that mere historic tradition wasn’t enough, that it would require a study. But we understood that the existing legislation could be enough for the administrative process, since the §6 from the 6th article of the current legislation which is the base and inspiration for the bill made by PS and ours too, permitted us to discretionarily recognize the Portuguese nationality or grant it for those who prove having Portuguese ancestors, which is the case. Therefore, we kept working, and recently we had approached the Central Registry Office and Ms. Minister of Justice to rise their sensibility about this subject so that administrative orientations were defined.
That’s when the Socialist Party had their initiative, that we welcomed, it is a very important step and that we joined and therefore presented a similar bill, which brings advantages for all of us according to our understanding, since we overcome unrestricted administration and the uncertainty that could exist with a framework law that now will be legislated and then regulated equipped with normative certainty, regulatory certainty and therefore, with indispensable legal certainty. Thus, it is a big step.
I must say that from the connection that I established with CDS I retain memories of a very touching and emotional dialogue. And it is, in fact, very touching, see that people who don’t have our nationality want it, and that despite the 500 years of mistakes – and we know that these were 500 years of much suffering –, they maintain their names, nicknames, language, traditions, they maintain and cultivate symbols and particular rites, and maintain the desire to be counted among us again. This is the biggest “Portugality” sign that may possibly exist for us, the biggest sign that they belong here. And that is why it’s very good that we can have them back with the same flag, in the same national community.
It will be very important that this chamber vote unanimously on the bills here presented today.
Thank you very much, deputies.

Maria de Belem Roseira, president of the Socialist Party – Portuguese nationality for Sephardic Jews

Maria de Belem Roseira, president of the Socialist Party, presented a bill that aims to attribute Portuguese nationality to the descendants of Sephardic Jews once forced to leave Portugal, which was then felt as a “second expulsion from Jerusalem.”

Ms. President, Messrs. and Mmes. Deputies,
The bill that the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party presents here today aims to allow the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by naturalization, to the decedents of Portuguese Sephardic Jews through the demonstration of the tradition and allegiance to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origins, based in the attestation of the objective requirements of Portuguese origins.
This solution follows the one that was adopted by our neighbor, Spain, in a democratic environment. I take this opportunity to salute Mr. Ambassador of Spain and the Jewish communities present here.
In the day that we celebrate 50 years of “Pacem in Terris”, I think it’s symbolically important for us to believe in peace and tolerance among peoples. But this bill is more than the definition of its objective. It is, actually, a reunion with the History of Portugal. And the statement of reasons, to which I refer, is the abundant justification of its righteousness and justice.
Although the Jewish diaspora in Iberian territories, according to Inácio Steinhardt, be hard to date accurately, the existing historic resources will make it possible for us to locate it before the birth of Jesus, being reinforced and extended with the facility of communication that the vastness of the Roman Empire allowed.
But what is very important to point out is the relevance of the roll that Jewish people played in the foundation of the Portuguese kingdom, right with D. Afonso Henriques and the Conquest of Santarém – Strategically indispensable for the conquest of Lisbon – and also during the Revolution of 1383, that allowed the consolidation of nationality, and later, in the Restoration War.
The centrality of the roll that the Jewish people plays in Portugal while owners of political and economic power, of the relationship with Europe, and also their knowledge in humanity and exact sciences was determining to the development of our history and expansion.
The recently created Rede Judiarias de Portugal (Jewish Neighborhoods Network of Portugal) introduces itself as having the special objective to allow the discovery of history of Jews in the history of Portugal. That’s a key work, since only by knowing our history we can know ourselves and project our collective future.
The establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, imposed by Christian kings as a trade currency to the marriage of D. Manuel I and D. Isabel, who wasn’t an heir apparent, in a time when Jews represented one-fifth of the Portuguese population and the “Edict of Expulsion of Heretics”, in 1496, were taken as a “Second expulsion of Jerusalem”, according to the poetry at the time.
Many authors point out the degree difference between the appliance of the Inquisition
in Portugal and Spain. But such considerations, if true, neither can erase the ignominy caused by the abominable crimes committed by this institution, nor can they erase the expulsion or the condemnation of great characters of the Portuguese society, figures that were spreading their legacy across Europe, and the world of their time, represented the decapitation of national resources, in many expressions, both immaterial and material.
To prove it, there is the great stamp printed by those who were expelled or escaped, in the countries where they ran to, in the mastery of thinking, knowing and entrepreneurship.
These ignominies express the ethical, intellectual, economic and social impoverishment that fanaticism, intolerance and the obscurantism, all together, always generate, by producing monstrosities that embarrass us and that compromise not only the age that they’re produced, but also the ones ahead.
It meant, by anticipation, the practical translation to the concept of “Banality of Evil”, developed in our contemporaneity, aiming for the Holocaust. Of all those who fought against the Inquisition, an important one was Father António Vieira. For that, he was constantly pursued and even arrested. Many and reporting were the speeches he wrote. The lobbying he practiced over D. João IV, “not asking a favor, but justice”, or affirming that “if the judge hates, no matter how justified is the innocence of the accused, the sentence will never be fair.”
Repeatedly quoted by Anita Novinsky, Vieira argues, considering “the New-Christians, martyrs of the Catholicism itself, and subjected to a criminal court.”, “This is a place where innocents perish and perpetrators triumph because these have the medicine in the mouth and poison in the heart.”
Many authors describe masterfully what the Inquisition represented, as well as the persecutions that targeted the Jews in Portugal, expressing the deep feeling of the Portuguese-population feel. I address, only as examples, Oliveira Martins, in his “História de Portugal”, or Camilo Castelo Branco in “The Jew”. Antero de Quental considered the expulsion of the Jews as one of the causes for the decline of peninsular peoples. Practiced in the name of God or the purity of blood, its actual objective was to keep Jews from acquiring power, as well as get appropriation of their goods. The fanaticism, the intolerance and the blindness that the Inquisition represented only came closer to an end with the powerful Marquis of Pombal.
I recall the fact described by Cecil Roth, that in the sequence of orders dictated by the king D. José, that every Portuguese who had Jewish blood should use a yellow hat, the Marquis went to the court with three hats under the arms. Questioned by the king about what he wanted to do with them, the Marquis answered that following the orders, one was for he himself, another for the inquisitor and the last one, for the majesty.
This diploma to be approved is a practical demonstration of “The Idea of Justice”, by Amertya Sen: We not only need just Institutions and Persons, but also just realizations.
What the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party truthfully intends, after the apologies given to the Jewish people, in name of the Portuguese State, by the ex-President Mário Soares, in 1989, and paying tribute to our patrimony of tolerance, universalism and miscegenation, is that, within the existing possibilities, the sole of the Jews feet with Portuguese roots, here find rest, if so they wish.

Paths – Portuguese Sephardi Jews

Documentary on the new Portuguese law which restores Portuguese nationality to descendents of Portuguese Sephardi Jews, expelled from Portugal in the end of the 15th century and 16th century.
Intervene, among others, deputies José Ribeiro e Castro and Maria de Belém; leaders of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, José Oulman Carp and Esther Mucznik and others, and Sephardi descendants, like Tatiana Salem Levy.
Production to RTP – Portugal Radio and Television.
RTP2: July 12th, 2015.

PATHS

500 years after the expulsions, forced conversions and the Inquisition, which led many Jews to flee Portugal, their descendants, if they wish, may acquire their Portuguese citizenship. The Portuguese government recognizes this right in the form of a decree law, effective in March. The Portuguese origins may be proven, among others, by the surname, language or family tree.
It aims to correct, in the first place, a historical error, which was the fact of the persecution and exclusion of the Jews in Portugal. Therefore, in a way, this law is the acknowledgment of this error, and the attempt to repair it, in a way, through the recognition of people who can, somehow, prove their ascendance. The reestablishment, actually, of a nationality of which they were violently taken away.
These descendants come from countries like Israel, Brazil, Turkey, Morocco and USA.
People whose ancestors left Portugal over 400, 500 years ago, but maintained their traditions through surname, language, Ladino or rites, a relationship with this country, and therefore, that proves to me that they are as Portuguese as myself, and this is a mere act of justice, to offer them the Portuguese citizenship.
I wonder if they had done this to us, we would be able to forgive and forget and want to resume relations with whom have wronged us? And I think the answer is yes, because people feel that the population was not responsible for what happened, for their government at the time.
The Inquisition forced thousands of Portuguese Jews to flee in the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century, and many others to be converted.
If this person succeeds to prove its Jewish-Portuguese ascendance, has the same rights as someone who got their Jewish religion back, as it was the case for many of the New Christians, who left here to Amsterdam or the Ottoman Empire, and in fact got their Jewish religion back. The fundamental question is not what they are today. What is fundamental is their ascendance. If whether or not they descend from late Jewish-Portuguese.
Since I was a child I have known that my family was of Sephardi Jews expelled from Portugal, went to Turkey, and many centuries later, to Brazil. The funny thing is I am Portuguese because I was born here, my parents were exiled in Lisbon during the Brazilian military dictatorship. That is why I am Portuguese, and my sister used to argue with my parents to why she was not Portuguese, why she was not born here as well. So as soon as the law was approved, I told her she could get her citizenship. Our relatives were also interested, so we put together a joint dossier, of course the final part is different, it is particular to each person, so that each one can talk about their relationship with Judaism, which is very important.
From my paternal grandfather’s side, my great-grandparents stayed in Smyrna, and two of my great-uncles also stayed. My grandfather Jacques Levy left Smyrna and went to France, and his brother, Sam Levy, also went to France, and in different moments, Jacques stayed in Brazil, because he worked with saw exports to Brazil, so he stayed there. And Sam, if I remember correctly, went to Spain, and then to Portugal, where he stayed and ended up becoming an important figure in the Jewish community in Lisbon.
What I know about my paternal family is that they left in the beginning of the Inquisition, in the beginning of the 16th century, as well as the maternal family, because both families maintained the Jewish surname, Salem and Levy, and the families who left a few generations after the Inquisition, ended up using Portuguese surnames, which was not our case, and left to Smyrna, Turkey, where they were established, and attended the Kahal Kadosh community, from Portugal. So they always maintained this relationship to Portugal.
The Levy family is from Castelo de Vide, the Salem family I am not sure. What I know about the Salem family is that they also went to Smyrna, went to the same synagogue from Portugal, and there was a Rabbi from the 18h century, Rabbi Shlomo Salem, which was a Chief Rabbi of the Portuguese community, he was from Adrianopolis, actually, in Turkey, and he went to Amsterdam, which was the greatest center of the Jewish-Portuguese community at the time, to publish a book, his book, which we could not find, even though we did researches in the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam, but it was impossible to find that book.
And also where he did a lithography of himself, which we later found out in a study about the Sephardi community, which was very particular to this community, to make engravings of their rabbis, as a sort of veneration. This Rabbi was my ancestor, and this engraving was passed through generations, from firstborn to firstborn, until it got to my mother’s father, Mauricio Salem.
It is the Jewish-Portuguese community’s duty to certify these people’s link to the traditional Jewish-Portuguese communities.
Historically, for communities around the world, it is an unusual situation, a responsibility with no precedents, in the communities’ history. We are talking about a citizenship requirement divided in three parts. The first part is identification, birth certificate, which is standard, then the criminal records, which investigates all the places that this person has lived in, which he has to demonstrate. And finally, the certificate which states that he belongs to a Jewish-Portuguese community.
At the present moment, the Jewish Community of Lisbon has already issued 71 certificates.
The communities gives us the guarantee that the process is going to be totally fair, strict, and the communities have a great concern in that sense, from what I have been told, be that the Jewish Community of Lisbon, or the Jewish Community of Porto, they want the process to go well, and they are very committed to use this opportunity in an exemplary way.
Whoever wants to submit the application for the certificate, has to enter our site, www.cilisboa.org, and they will find our procedures guide, with all the information they need, which they need to read carefully. They should gather all the documents that they judge to be important, and then the process can be opened. The documents need to be researched by the applicant. We do not make family trees nor research documents. The person has to come here already with the documents. There are many different documents, and the analysis will be done with all the documents that the applicant presents.
There are other elements as well. There is an affection element, which is also on the law, the language, for instance, people who maintained through the centuries, in their family traditions, the Ladino language, which is a mixture of ancient Portuguese and Spanish, and other countries’ languages, to which people fled.
My grandparents spoke Ladino, my father still remembers some things, mostly curse words, because when my grandfather argued, it was in Ladino. And when I met some of the relatives who stayed in Smyrna, I realized that my generation still spoke Ladino, but it was on the brink of being forgotten because it was not spoken to their kids. It was spoken to their parents and grandparents.
For a family tree to be accepted, it has to have names, dates of birth, places of birth, and in many cases, people bring family trees with only names. And often times that is not enough.
In Spain, in the 20th century, this law already existed, around 1925. It was intended for the Spanish people to go back to Spain, who were scattered through many countries, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and this same law, for a long time, several decades, along the 20th century, was archived and forgotten.
Portugal was inspired by the Spanish law, but created a less restrictive certificate and more comprehensive.
My brother António Caria Mendes, also played a role in this, and later, Dr. Maria de Belém takes this law to parliament, seconded by Dr. Ribeiro e Castro, by CDS, and this law was approved unanimously by the parliament, which was extraordinary for us, Jews.
Our interpretation of the citizenship law would already allow to resolve some cases. What I have considered is that our civilization’s editorial, our way of life was absolutely incompatible with the Inquisition in Portugal. It is time we had a legislation which recognized the Jews’ expulsion as something which is not acceptable and should be resolved specifically, and not by analogy.
I was, at the time, president of International Affairs, and was contacted by Facebook by a Sephardi Jew which addressed the matter. I had never thought about it, so I studied the matter, and came to the conclusion that a legislative amendment was not necessary. Our citizenship law nº 6 already allowed the government to recognize descendants from Portuguese communities, which was the case, therefore it should be addressed, and I posed a series of questions and challenges to the government. The law is in force, the first cases are in analysis, and that will allow us, once we are all set, to clarify some issues in the regulation, and maybe even in the law, to include minors and spouses, because of some interpretation issues, which did not come up in the law’s conception.
This law does not require knowledge of the Portuguese language, nor does it require residence in Portugal. That is also proof that the law does not perceive financial gains, by not requiring residence. Financial elements are not this law’s intent. If so, it would be necessary to live in Portugal.
I partake in Antero de Quental’s thesis, that the peninsular impoverishment has to do with the Jews’ expulsion. We had in the Jews the most expressive elements of society, in the areas of science, of philosophy, culture and finances.
We received an applicant’s form whose surname was Beja, from Salónica. We know that many of the New Christians, which fled Portugal to the Ottoman Empire, were established in Salónica, or Smyrna, or even Istambul. And we know that particularly in the Ottoman Empire, many of these Jews, these New Christians, who came back to Judaism, created communities with the names of their lands of origin. Therefore, there were communities of Beja, Évora, Lisbon.
The siblings Celícia Caria Mendes and António Aguiló Fuster are Jewish-Portuguese, but their origins are in the Xueta community of Majorca. Present in the island since the Múrias times, the Xuetas are the equivalent of the Portuguese Marranos, Jews that, apparently were converted, secretly kept their Jewish identity.
At this moment, it is thought to exist around 20.000 Xuetas, but not all identify as or want to be identified as such. In fact, very few accept their condition of Xuetas, because many of them still fear persecution.
The Xuetas were a Jewish community harshly persecuted since 1391.
In 1435 there were no Jews. Everyone said they were Christians. The fear was such that there were no Jews. And from there until the 1600s, there were no Jews.
Until the 1920s, these discreet Jews could not join the military, nor have public education, nor religious schools.
We are an example of this. We lived in clandestinity.
Each and every Xueta from Majorca knew that they were Jewish. In our family, it was openly talked about since we were kids. But nevertheless, every Xueta from Majorca knows that they are Jewish.
The Xueta community of Majorca have been of great interest to Jerusalem’s rabbis. They were, in fact, invited to go back to Orthodox Judaism after centuries of being distant from religious and cultural practices. The two siblings, in order to go back to Judaism, put together a complete dossier about their origins, which was presented to obtain the Spanish citizenship, through a law similar to the Portuguese law. With many ascendants in the Inquisition’s victims lists, Cecília contacted a renowned genealogist in Majorca, and quickly got results.
Three days later I got an email which said “I have found your family, here is your family tree, and I want to tell you that your great-great-grandparents, Gabriel Pinya and Magdalena Fortesa, who were very well known in Majorca, documented in any book on the Inquisition, and the Xueta victims in Majorca, are also my great-great-grandparents.” And I think it was this brutality which gave me and my brother strength to assume Judaism with so much passion, love, and that is why we are here: to pay respect to our family.
There is always an emotional element, in practically anything. But especially in the acquisition of a citizenship, because it is an identity’s acquisition, and any identity corresponds to an emotional element, which is family, country of origin, journeys, environment, music, food, leisure, it is all part of an emotional element, particular to each one.
We have textual evidence, because the family’s history was told in books, so that was all used as evidence, because these books were written long before the Portuguese law, so it would not be forged.
Written by historians.
Exactly, Boris Fausto, historian, my mother, who was a journalist, so she had these two books. And then books on Sephardi communities, about engravings and the traditions, and we also found the Rabbi’s engraving in Jerusalem’s University’s library. We found it in an american’s book as well.
With a Spanish mother and grandmother, it would have been pretty easy for them to obtain the Spanish citizenship in another way.
We want to go through this way, because it relates to us, it is the right way and it is fair. We decided to go this way. We want to get back what was taken from us.
Sam Levy, in the 80s, fought for this return to Portuguese citizenship. Sam was very important. He did not live to see what Portugal is doing today, but he fought a lot for it. When he got his Portuguese citizenship, he said he did not simply want the citizenship, he wanted a repatriation. He felt like he was Portuguese. In fact, his mother called him “my little Portugal”. So the affective relationship to Portugal was never broken.
Here in Portugal, these matters are a bit more difficult than in Spain. The Marquis of Pombal, in an honorable manner, wanted to end the segregation between New Christians and Old Christians. Therefore, he ordered to burn all the evidence that could link the New Christians to Judaism. So this destroyed all the footprints. Nevertheless, the Torre do Tombo has a very competent service with friendly personnel, who support every person that goes there to ask for information on these matters.
No community will award a certificate without being sure that all the evidence is truly real. Therefore, one has to have all the documentation needed, and if it is not very well documented, it is not worth it.
Evidently you cannot award it to the dead. But at least it is an apology, when they recognize the descendants of Jewish people who were forced to fled, which were many.
I arrived from Israel about a week ago. I was approached in Israel by Israelis who wanted to know who had the right or not, how did we get there. I was surprised by the knowledge that the people in Israel have nowadays, relative to this new law in Portugal, and now in Spain. I was very moved by everyone’s interest, and I was grateful for it.
All eight people from my family who applied already got the certificate from the Jewish Community of Lisbon, and what is left now is bureaucratic paperwork before the Conservatory of Lisbon, until we get the citizenship. We are already arranging family reunions, once everyone gets their citizenship, and then we will visit Castelo de Vide, Marvão.
I wanted to recall the family which kept the keys to their house for over 500 years. I think that is a statement that our home is where our house is, and that we need to go back to it.
The house keys’, which was brought with the expulsion of the Jewish people, when they went to Turkey, and was then passed from generations, and I heard that this key was passed until my grandfather’s generation, Sam Levy.
“The pain of expulsion also persecuted us, and the recognition of nationality of the Sephardi Jews, for me, is more than just a document. It represents the joy of coming back, and feeling of a great injustice being repaired”. Moroccan applicant.
“I believe that this is a way of diminishing the damages caused by the Inquisition’s brutality”. Brazilian applicant.
“To finally get back in touch with our land of origin”. Brazilian applicant.
“A way of keeping alive the memory of those who were forced to leave their land”. American applicant.
“To continue passing on to my children this rich family and historical memory of which I take so much pride in”. Israeli applicant.
“The purpose of strengthening my family’s Portuguese roots and reconnect to Sephardi culture, to which they feel so connected to”. Turkish applicant.

Israel