/Sephardic Jews: Portugal is calling its “Israeli” community
Sephardic Jews in Portugal

Sephardic Jews: Portugal is calling its “Israeli” community

Sephardic Jews are a distinct Jewish community, of about two million people spread around the world. They are the descendants of the Jewish inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, from which they were expelled by the Inquisition, in the early XVI century. Up to this day, they conserve the use of a language of Spanish and Portuguese origin, called the “ladino”, and other cultural traits connecting them to the Peninsula. Portugal was the last country to expel them – both the Portuguese and the Spanish Jews that had already fled from Spain at the end of the XV century. 

Most Sephardic Jews live in Israel, but there are significant communities in France, the United States and other countries. In the XVI century, the Netherlands was one of the states to where they were fleeing; Baruch Spinoza, the philosopher, is one of the most famous Sephardic Jews.

Portugal is granting nationality to Sephardic Jews

In 2015, Portugal issued a law granting citizenship to people who can prove they have Sephardic descent. Out of a desire of historical reparation for the persecution of the XVI century, the law shows other goals: to attract a thriving community, highly educated and usually business-oriented, eventually eager to come to Portugal and to do business. 

According to Portuguese newspaper Expresso, about 90.000 people asked for Portuguese nationality in the first half of 2019. Of those, about 14.000 have done it based on their Sephardic descent. It is the case of the British alternative and folk singer, Ana Silvera, who gave in an interview to a Portuguese newspaper in April, regarding the matter.

Attracting people and business, based on political stability

There is no reason for Portugal not to open its arms to Sephardic Jews, just as is doing with every other nationality. Needless to say, no one in Portugal bats an eye regarding this issue, which gets few to none media interest. Sephardic Jews have been away from the country for five centuries, and their number is still too small to cause an impact. Anyway, the moment it does, it will be like the British in Algarve and elsewhere – they’ll be regarded positively. Safety and political stability is a great asset, for Sephardi Jews as for anyone else.