A descendant of Joseph Karo is one of the first to apply for citizenship under Portugal’s new law of return for Jews.

Portugal's Law of Jewish Return Becoming Effective in March

Portugal’s law on naturalizing descendants of Sephardic Jews could become effective before March 15, a leader of the country’s Jewish community said.

The law, passed by parliament in 2013, is expected to be approved by Portugal’s Council of Ministers on Thursday, the president of Lisbon’s Jewish community, Jose Oulman Carp, told JTA. The final wording is to be published by Feb. 6, he said.

“We expect the law to be effective by mid-February or the beginning of March 2015,” Oulman Carp added.

According to the legislation, “the government will give nationality … to Sephardic Jews of Portuguese ancestry who belong to a tradition of a Portuguese-descended Sephardic community, based on objective prerequisites proving a connection to Portugal through names, language and ancestry.”

Oulman Carp said it also will apply to non-Jewish descendants of Sephardim, Oulman Carp said.

Existing legislation on the naturalization of Sephardim has not been applied because it still does not contain regulations for bureaucrats, which may be published along with the final letter of the law.

The authors described the legislation as an act of atonement for the expulsion of Portuguese Jewry in 1536 during the Portuguese Inquisition. Similar legislation is underway in Spain, where it awaits a final vote in Congress. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Iberia from 1492 on because of Church-led persecution.

In both countries, legislators and government officials said Jewish communities would be consulted and perhaps made partially in charge of screening applicants. The Jewish community of Lisbon, where the vast majority of Portugal’s 800 Jews live, has rejected applications because the final letter of the law has not yet been published, Oulman Carp said. “Most of the applications will be channeled through the local Portuguese consulate of the applicant’s country of residence,” he said.

The significantly smaller Jewish community of Porto, however, announced last month in a statement that it was already receiving applications and that the first applicant was an American former model and descendant of Joseph Karo, a renowned rabbi who lived in the 15th century in the Iberian Peninsula. She was not named.


Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Portugal's Law of Jewish Return Becoming Effective in March

Thank you!

This article has been sent!