The Portuguese government on Thursday approved modifications to a law that regulates nationality rights to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian nation five centuries ago, local media reported.
"I would not say that it is a historical reparation, because I believe that in this regard there is no possibility of repairing what has been done. I would say that it is the granting of a right," Portuguese RPT news quoted Justice Minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz as saying at the conclusion of a cabinet meeting.
Portugal’s law on naturalizing descendants of Sephardic Jews was passed by parliament in 2013.
“We expect the law to be effective by mid-February or the beginning of March 2015,” said the president of Lisbon’s Jewish community Oulman Carp.
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.