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Is Spain’s Sephardic nationality law being abused?

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The Spanish police are now investigating possible fraud in the scheme offering citizenship to people of Sephardic Jewish origin. This is no surprise to those Sephardic genealogists whose complaints over recent years have been drowned out by the ringing of cash registers at some synagogues and law firms.

The legal situation is currently unclear. The Spanish Ministry of Justice has recently rejected several thousand applicants, where previously almost everyone was approved. Coincidentally this happened a few weeks after the Sephardic Genealogical Society published a proposed Code of Conduct for those working with Spanish and Portuguese nationality applications. I was the principal author of this Code, written in the hope that the problems could be discreetly corrected.

Apparently at the instigation of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM), a predominantly Ashkenazi group that champions the claims of the American “crypto-Judaism” movement, the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) got involved. The ASF is the world’s largest active Sephardic umbrella group. They may not have been fully briefed. Their condemnation of Spain’s ruling socialist party seems ill-considered and unhelpful. Others made unevidenced accusations of antisemitism.

Following an article in The New York Times on 24 July 2021, the ASF hosted an online meeting on 5 August 2021 to discuss developments. The meeting, entitled Broken Promises: The Dismantling of the Spanish Law of Return, included no discussion of the genealogical validity of claims. It was chaired by a JFNM staffer subsequently mentioned in the El Pais article of 20 August 2021 that broke the story of alleged fraud. Not one of the nine speakers was Sephardic. I felt that the event was the “crypto-Judaism” movement rallying under a Sephardic flag to which they have no claim.

Who are the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and what is their relevance? New Mexico has a relatively small Jewish community, overwhelmingly Ashkenazi. It is also home to a unique Spanish-speaking community, some of whom believe they are of Jewish origin. Is it true? Probably most Spanish- and Portuguese-origin communities around the world contain people with distant Jewish ancestry. With respect to the community now in New Mexico, the claim is that families remained secretly Jewish in Spain after the Expulsion of 1492. They later migrated undetected to Mexico, apparently circumventing the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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