Spain grants citizenship to 4,302 Sephardic Jews

Spanish passport

Spanish passport

Spain on Friday granted citizenship to 4,302 people whose Jewish ancestors fled after being told in 1492 to convert to Catholicism or go into exile ahead of the Spanish Inquisition that saw many Jews burned at the stake.

The naturalizations were approved a day after Spain adopted its new citizenship law for descendants of Sephardic Jews, said Justice Minister Rafael Catala.

It allows applicants to maintain their original citizenship so they can have dual nationality.

Those granted citizenship Friday applied under an older law requiring them to relinquish home country nationality but can now have dual nationality.

The new decree “has allowed us at one stroke to grant nationality to 4,302 people of Sephardic origin” whose applications under previous legislation were already pending, Catala told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.

“This is one more step in developing the law for granting nationality to the Sephardim,” he said. “It seemed fair, rather than making them go through the process of filing their applications again, to speed up the process.”

Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities praised the mass naturalizations, adding that most applicants were from Morocco, Turkey and Venezuela.

The new law gives Sephardic Jews and their descendants three years to seek a Spanish passport, with the right to work and live in the 28-nation European Union.

Like others seeking Spanish citizenship, applicants must be tested in basic Spanish and pass a current events and culture test about Spain.

They also must establish a modern-day link to Spain, which can be as simple as donating to a Spanish charity or as expensive as buying property.

The Spanish Jewish federation has received more than 5,000 requests for information about the Spanish law. No one knows how many people might be eligible, though some estimates run into the millions.

Portugal adopted a similar citizenship path for Sephardic Jews to make amends for its 1496 decision giving Jews 10 months to convert or leave.

The Portuguese citizenship application process does not require applicants to take language or culture tests or prove a modern-day link to the country.

The 204 applications received since the law went into effect in March are still under evaluation, Portugal’s Justice Ministry said.

Spain also allows dual nationality for people born in countries that used to be Spanish colonies.

The measure aims to correct what the Spanish government has called the “historic mistake” of the country’s Catholic monarchs sending Jews into exile in 1492.

Historians believe at least 200,000 Jews lived in Spain before the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand ordered them to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country on pain of death.

Up to 3.5 million people around the world are thought to have Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

This article originally appeared online here.

Fundamentally Freund: Rallying Hispanics for Israel

Bnei Anousim prayer in Brazil

Bnei Anousim prayer in Brazil

This summer’s bruising and ultimately failed effort to torpedo US President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has provided pro-Israel activists in the United States with an important and timely lesson.

Despite spending tens of millions of dollars, organizing advertising campaigns in the print and electronic media and lighting up switchboards on Capitol Hill, they did not succeed in preventing the White House from putting together the votes needed to stymie opposition to the atrocious atomic accord.

Clearly, Israel’s defenders in the US are in dire need of some reinforcements, and I believe that Hispanic Americans may just provide the key to ensuring long-term support for the Jewish state.

While organizations such as the Conference of Presidents and the American Jewish Committee have been reaching out to the Latino population in the US in recent years, far more must be done to court this crucial sector of American society and it behooves Israel to wake up and take notice.

We have all heard a lot about the growing political and social clout of US Hispanics, but it is the numbers which tell the full story.

According to a June 15, 2015, research report by the Pew Center, which is based on US Census Bureau data, the number of Hispanics in the United States reached a new high of 55.4 million people in 2014, representing 17.4 percent of the total US population. This means that more than one out of every six Americans is Hispanic, making them the largest minority group in the country.

And projections by the Census Bureau estimate that by 2050 the number of Hispanic Americans will more than double to 106 million.

These figures simply cannot be ignored. Latinos will continue to climb the economic and political ladders in the US, ascending to new heights of power and influence and reshaping the country. If Israel is not on their radar, it will inevitably affect the bilateral US-Israel relationship in the decades to come.

A number of Jewish groups are already utilizing some of the standard tools available in pro-Israel advocacy work, such as organizing leadership trips to the Jewish state and producing materials in Spanish that explain Israel’s cause.

But I believe there is a far more powerful instrument at our disposal, one that will touch the souls of many Hispanics and draw them closer to Israel and the Jewish people, and that is the Jewish ancestry that many of them share.

In recent decades, an awakening has been taking place as a growing number of people throughout the Spanishand Portuguese-speaking world are discovering their Jewish roots. These people, known as Bnei Anousim (Hebrew for “the progeny of those who were coerced”) or by the derogatory term “Marranos,” are descendants of Iberian Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries. Despite being hunted by the Inquisition, many continued to preserve Jewish practices and customs covertly down through the generations.

Nowadays, as more people discover their historical Jewish connection, either through genealogical research or DNA testing, this almost inevitably results in reshaping their attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people. As chairman of Shavei Israel, the largest organization in the world today working with Bnei Anousim, I have seen this burgeoning phenomenon first-hand.

Consider the following: over the past decade, a series of genetic tests carried out on Hispanic men living in New Mexico, southern Texas and northern Mexico found that as many as 15 percent had Sephardic Jewish ancestors.

The phenomenon was the subject of numerous articles in the mainstream press, including The New York Times, Newsweek magazine and

Similarly, in 2008, geneticists discovered a unique genetic mutation related to a form of breast cancer among Hispanic Catholics in Colorado that is identical to that found among Central European Jews, which clearly suggests that they have shared ancestry.

If indeed 15 percent of Hispanic Americans have Jewish ancestry, this means that as many as eight million US Latinos are descendants of Jews. This presents a unique opportunity for Israel and the Jewish people to reach out to them, and it is one that should not be missed.

Due to the passage of centuries since the forced conversions and expulsions of Iberian Jewry, many Hispanics are no longer fully aware of their historical connection to the Jewish people. We must work to remind them of this salient fact, and to utilize it as the basis for a coordinated outreach program to build bridges between Hispanics and Jews.

As the general Hispanic population learns of their community’s connection with Jews, it will build new bridges of understanding with the Jewish community and Israel, make them less likely to fall prey to anti-Semitic stereotypes and less inclined to support anti-Israel initiatives such as the BDS movement.

The benefits of such outreach could also extend to the demographic sphere. Inevitably, upon discovering or re-discovering their Jewish roots, a certain percentage of Hispanics will seek to rejoin the Jewish people.

Indeed, according to the 2014 Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Center, 4 percent of American Jews are Hispanic/ Latino. At least part of this number is attributable to the growing numbers of Hispanics who have returned to Judaism. Obviously, Judaism is not a missionary religion. But if even just 2 percent of US Hispanics were to join the Jewish people, it would result in an increase in the American Jewish population of more than 1.1 million.

Reawakening the Jewish consciousness of Hispanic Americans will naturally lead them to be more supportive of Israel in the political arena. This can serve as an important boost to Israel’s cause on Capitol Hill, resulting in a powerful alliance of pro-Israel forces ranging from Jewish organizations to Christian evangelicals to Hispanic-Americans.

Thankfully, a number of visionary Hispanic leaders have taken steps to strengthen their community’s relationship with Israel.

Earlier this year, US Pastor Mario Bramnick launched the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, an important new group that will seek to build greater support for the Jewish state among the tens of millions of Hispanic evangelicals worldwide.

“We want to build the Hispanic Evangelicals to be a firewall,” Bramnick said, “a protection against this rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric.”

Prominent Latino leaders such as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Pastor Guillermo Maldonado have been outspoken in their love for Israel, inspiring many to stand with the Jewish state and pray for her well-being.

It is time for Israel to return the favor, and grasp the hand of Hispanic friendship that is being extended our way. In a world that is increasingly hostile to all we hold dear, it would be comforting to know that we have a large cadre of amigos whose friendship we can count on in our hour of need.

This article appeared originally in The Jerusalem Post.

Shavei Israel debuts Spanish language Hebrew e-calendar

Shavei Israel e-calendar for October 2015

Shavei Israel e-calendar for October 2015

Sandra Luz Patarroyo is a Colombian artist with Bnei Anousim roots. Several months ago, she contacted Shavei Israel with a proposal: to create an online calendar for the Bnei Anousim community showing all the Jewish holidays, the weekly Torah portion of the week and both Hebrew and English dates. Patarroyo sent Shavei Israel an original illustration and Shavei Israel built the calendar itself.

Because the calendar is online, it can include links. These include a searchable list of worldwide Shabbat candle lighting times; a YouTube video with a song in Ladino; and a recipe for making a traditional Sephardic orange pound cake. The recipes will be updated regularly as will the cover art and the song.

“The main idea for the calendar was helping Bnei Anousim reconnect to their past tradition,” explains Tzivia Kusminsky, Shavei Israel’s coordinator for Bnei Anousim. “That is why the song is in Ladino and the recipe is a traditional Sephardi one.

You can find our new Spanish-language e-calendar on the Shavei Israel website.

Take that, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella! The return of Spain’s Bnei Anousim

Shavei Israel’s Jewish Roots book breaks records

Shavei Israel publishes new book: “Do You Have Jewish Roots?”

With Spanish Citizenship Now For Sephardic Jews, Israel Needs To Welcome Bnei Anousim

Journalists turn to Shavei Israel for background on Spanish law

El Salvador Shabbaton unites Bnei Anousim communities

El Salvador Jew: “I am proud to be a part of the people of Israel”

Retracing Old Footsteps: Genie Milgrom

In search of lost Jews: Iberian Peninsula gives up its secrets

Bnei Anousim women bring Seder Amenim to Colombia

El Salvador to hold weekend Shabbaton with special guests Michael Freund and Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum

First in line for Portuguese citizenship: Jewish dreamers and fortune seekers

Belmonte Portugal welcomes new Hebrew teacher

Under the Radar, Shavei Israel Has Brought Back Thousands

From Sicily to Naples, Italian Crypto-Jews are Returning

Costumes and Cookies: Shavei Israel celebrates Purim around the world

Shavei Israel emissary joins 400th anniversary commemorations of Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands

Shavei Israel communities celebrate Tu B’Shvat 2015 around the world

Portugal offers dual citizenship to Bnei Anousim; time for Israel to make similar overtures

Shavei Israel marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Italy

Bnei Anousim mark Global Judaism Day in Portugal

Shavei Israel’s Hanukah round up 2014

Update from Sicily and southern Italy: 40 Bnei Anousim participate in Shabbaton

Celebrating comings and goings in El Salvador

Happy Sukkot from Shavei Israel: is the biggest etrog in El Salvador?

Shavei Israel publishes Shabbat guide in Italian

Shavei Israel opens its first Internet radio station – in Portuguese

Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund wins “Lion of Zion” award

A chocolate Seder? Pesach activities for Bnei Anousim and “Hidden Jews” of Poland

El Salvador hosts star-studded “congress” for Bnei Anousim

Shavei Israel publishes new Purim booklet in Spanish

A new Torah for Cartagena, Colombia

From expulsion to expediency: Spain, the Jews and Israel

Modern day Exodus: the remarkable story of El Salvador’s Bnei Anousim community

Pictures from candle-lighting in Palermo’s infamous Steri prison

Historic Hanukkah Ceremony at Inquisition Prison

Shavei Israel Hanukah activities in Europe, South America and India

New Shavei Israel emissaries to Poland and South America

Shavei Israel publishes new Hanukah guide in Spanish and Russian

Majorca’s master chef returns to the Jewish people

Shavei Israel to light Hanukah candles in infamous Inquisition prison

Seminar for Chuetas takes place in Palma de Mallorca

Seminar for Italian Jews and Bnei Anousim in Israel

When in Rome, do as Jews do

Dozens attend panel on Chuetas in Palma de Mallorca

Grazia’s Mediterranean Lasagna

VIDEO: Gila and Ariel Arditi get married

Shavei Israel appoints new Latin American emissaries

Portuguese town gets first Torah in 500 years

A visit to the Belmonte Jewish community in Portugal

Bnei Anousim couple return to Judiasm, re-marry in Jewish ceremony

Yeshiva for Bnei Anousim in Colombia launched

Shavei Israel helps organize Shabbaton for more than 100 Colombian Bnei Anousim in Bogota

100 issues of “Roots”

All-Italy Jewish seminar invites Bnei Anousim for first time

Shavei Israel and WebYeshiva launch new online interactive classes

Update: First Passover Seder on Portuguese island of Madeira

Shavei Israel sponsors first public Passover Seder in centuries on Portuguese island of Madeira

Shavei Israel visits Bnei Anousim in Chile

Shavei Israel sponsors weekend seminar in southern Italy; appoints new rabbi to work with Bnei Anousim

Shavei Israel launches interactive virtual course in Spanish

First Jewish cultural center in Portugal in more than 500 years to open; Shavei Israel to administer programming

[Washington Post] From Colombian evangelicals to Jews in region with a hidden Jewish past

Justice at last: the “Portuguese Dreyfus” is posthumously reinstated

Justice at Last for “Portugese Dreyfus”, Artur de Barros Basto

Ancient “kina” for Tisha B’Av discovered

Tiny Portuguese village inaugurates state-of-the-art new Jewish Center and synagogue

Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

Shavei Israel publishes new prayer book in Portuguese

Michael Freund interview on the Aaron Klein show on WABC

Shavei Israel launches new Spanish-language website for Bnei Anousim

Special Chueta recipe: Mallorcan Passover almond torte

Shavei Israel holds seminar for remote Brazilian community of Bnei Anousim

Closing the circle in Mallorca

Michael Freund returns to the 92Y for a conversation with Chueta Regina Forteza

Jews of Majorca reconnect with their roots

Michael Freund to speak at Hong Kong JCC

Shavei Israel visits Portugal – report and pictures

Connecting with “Lost Jews” Throughout the World

The Everlasting Light: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin visits Belmonte, Portugal

Shavei Israel sending books to Palma de Mallorca for six Chuetas hoping to formally return to Judaism soon

Clinging to Judaism

Time to rehabilitate Portugal’s Dreyfus

A special seminar in Palma de Mallorca for Spain’s Bnei Anousim and Chuetas

Fundamentally Freund – Jewish life in Sicily reborn

First of its kind seminar for Marranos in Siciliy

Chuetas from Spanish Island of Majorca Recognized as Jewish

‘Lost tribe’ of Mallorca Jews welcomed back to the faith 600 years later

Six centuries after their forcible conversion, a leading Israeli rabbi rules that the Chuetas of Mallorca are Jews

Chuetas of Majorca recognized as Jewish

Majorcan Descendants of Spanish Jews Who Converted Are Recognized as Jews

Fundamentally Freund:The death of an Italian marrano

This Shavuot, you can help three brave women rejoin the Jewish people

An historic condemnation of the Inquisition in Palma de Mallorca

Apologizing for the Inquisition

For first time, Spain’s Balearic Islands officially condemn persecution and forced conversion of Chuetas

In Majorca, Atoning for the Sins of 1691

The Renaissance of the B’nai Anousim (Crypto-Jews)

A special Yom Kippur Mahzor has been released

New emissary to the ‘crypto-Jew’s in Portugal

Rabbi Elisha Salas to be Emissary to Portugal’s Crypto-Jews

New emissary to crypto-Jews of Portugal named

First ex-Marrano Israeli rabbi returns to Spain as emissary

One Nation, Many Faces

בן לקהילת האנוסים חוזר לספרד לשמש כרב הקהילה

A 500-year journey back to Judaism

Just call him Chaim Columbus

Secret no more

‘Lost’ Jews in Spain find Israel advocacy

Israel enlisting Marranos in PR effort

Iberian anusim make first kosher cheese

Uncovering Portugal’s Hidden Jewish Past

Brazil: Jews to celebrate Rosh Hashana with new prayer book

A delegation of 16 בני אנוסים, commonly referred to as Marranos by historians, visited Israel this week

Descendants of Marranos arrive in Israel

Exhibit on Crypto-Jews Tours Brazil

A Latin Love for Israel

In Toledo on Seder night, Antonio Lopez will mark Pessah alone, just as his ancestors did for centuries

Marranos come home

Bnai Anousim Visit Israel on Solidarity Mission

Iberian Jews Return to their Roots

Young Brazilian Anousim Visit Israel on Birthright

Exhibition on Crypto-Jews Opens in Tiberias

Spanish & Portuguese Crypto-Jews Gather for Barcelona Seminar

First Outreach Center for Brazilian Anousim Opens

After Five Centuries, Bnai Anousim Visit Israel

Jewish community emerges from hiding in Portugal after 500 years

Hidden Heritage

Reaching Out to Portugal’s Crypto-Jews

Brazil’s Anousim Get a Rabbi

Spain’s Crypto-Jews Seeking to Return

Build A Monument to the Inquisition

The First Kohen in 500 Years

Majorca’s Lost Jews Search for their Roots

The 500-Year Round Trip

A Synopsis of the History of the Jews in Portugal

Portugal´s President: ´I am proud of my Jewish ancestry´