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.

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