On February 18, 2023, the opinion article by Ricardo Gaio Alves, president of Associação República e Laicidade, entitled The “law of the Sephardim”: an error historic. With false assumptions about a group that it does not represent, it tries to define the motivation of more than 140,000 Sephardic Jews and their descendants who have applied for Portuguese citizenship since 2015. It demands the end of this law and ignores that it was designed for the persecuted ethnic group, and not for the religious.
The new regulation of the law requires inheritance in Portugal or several trips throughout life. But how can there be inheritance if the goods were taken over 500 years ago and the Inquisition lasted until the 19th century? The trips and cultural ties with present-day Portugal would come with time. Eight years is not enough time for that.
The new regulation reinforces the prejudice that all applicants are corrupt and opportunistic. And it does not remedy the real issues: the lack of transparency in the analysis for applicants and Portuguese society; the lack of well-defined control rules for document analysis, which would clearly and publicly make abuses extremely difficult; the lack of digital infrastructure and labor for this type of analysis, which are too expensive for communities; and the legal uncertainty of applicants and their children.
One solution would be an institution directly linked to the Instituto de Registos e Notariado, with a digitized and integrated process, with the participation of the Sephardic communities of Portugal and State servants, to take care of genealogy and the like, with transparency and scrutiny, in order to increase trust in the process.
We also support Deputy Rui Tavares’ bill to rationalize regulation in a transparent and fair way – we owe it to the Sephardic diaspora, as well as ourselves.
By bringing back Jews of Portuguese origin who fled to other countries, and also by making reparation for descendants of New Christians, forced to flee to colonies and lose their Jewish culture because of persecution, the nationality law promoted an explosion of historical investigation on both sides, who were unaware of each other’s history. The impact on knowledge and teaching of history is enormous both in Brazil and in the Sephardic communities, and we hope that in Portugal as well.
However, the drop in the number of Jews in Portugal reinforces the need to restore the confidence of the Sephardim, broken by the new regulation. An ecosystem suitable for Jewish life is also needed, such as restaurants and markets. kosher, in addition to educational institutions and the like. Its absence keeps many Jews away from Portugal.
It is intolerable that our loyalty to our country should be questioned beyond that of any other citizen. We are Portuguese – period. And not second-class citizens of a nation we love enough to cast our future and common destinies there. It is intolerable to demand that a segment of society continually and publicly demonstrate its loyalty to the State because of its ethnic or religious identity or because its citizenship has appalling precedents going back to the darkest periods of Europe’s past. And the Jews are not alone in this. This tactic is often employed around the world to segregate new citizens from majorities.
Ian Pomerantz comes from the Balkan refugee community of Iberian origin who emigrated to the United States. He has been studying Portuguese for many years, before the law was passed, as well as Portuguese liturgy to help the wider Portuguese Jewish community. Leandro da Mota is a direct descendant of Branca Dias, the Jew most persecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazil. He is creating the Levar association, to promote exchange between the Portuguese and Sephardic communities, defend the rights of Portuguese Jews and promote the Jewish ecosystem in Portugal. We seek the reconnection with the ancestry and the union of the two cultures. We are culturally, socially and politically active in Portugal, as well as in international communities.
We are not poor Turkish or Brazilian migrants who seek to exploit European social services, as Mr. Alves. Nor are we Israeli “oligarchs” or “opportunists”. We are people of clear Jewish Iberian origin. We seek to restore our community and participate in Portuguese civic life, to reciprocate the law willingly bestowed upon us by the Portuguese people. where mr. Alves sees a benefit for a religion, we see the rescue of a historic, unique and vibrant Portuguese culture, but today on the verge of ethnic and cultural extinction.