Spain Gives Sephardic Jews Extra Time for Citizenship Suits

Calle de Samuel Leví in Toledo, Spain. (José Luis Filpo Cabana)

Spain’s government said Thursday it will extend the deadline for descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country more than 500 years ago, who have launched the process of acquiring Spanish citizenship but couldn’t complete it due to the pandemic.

The extension of one year until Sept. 2021 only applies to those who had presented their preliminary request for citizenship before the Oct. 2019 deadline.

Spain’s Justice Ministry said the extension will allow applicants to sit for a mandatory test on their knowledge of Spain’s Constitution and culture that had been cancelled because of the pandemic, and give them more time to travel to Spain for a required appearance before a notary.

The ministry did not say how many applicants would need to use the extension.

In Oct. 2019, the ministry said that more than 132,000 people who claim Sephardic origins had requested Spanish citizenship since the law offering them the opportunity took effect in 2015.

The Spanish government issued the law to redress the “historical mistake” Spain committed when it forced its Jewish population to convert or go into exile in 1492.

The term “Sephardic” literally means “Spanish” in Hebrew. It is estimated that Sephardic Jews range between a fifth and a third of the world’s roughly 13 million Jews. For centuries Sephardic Jewish communities have maintained their customs and the Ladino language.

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