Spain drops test for elderly Sephardim to become citizens – The Times of Israel

Posted By on March 2, 2017

Spanish authorities have reportedly dropped the requirement for Sephardi Jews aged 70 and over to take language and culture tests to qualify for Spanish citizenship.

Five hundred years after Jews were burned at the stake, forced to convert to Christianity or thrown out of the country, Spain passed legislation in October to allow the descendants of those who were expelled in 1492 to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Similar legislation exists for those whose ancestors were booted out of Portugal.

The decision to exempt elderly applicants, reported Monday by the El Pais newspaper, was made after it emerged that the tests were deterring hundreds of elderly Turkish Jews from exercising their right to a Spanish passport.

Until now, tests on Spanish language and heritage have been compulsory for all applicants, 4,919 of whom have been naturalized as Spaniards, the report said.

A tourist walking down the historic Jewish quarter of the town of Ribadavia in Spain, September 26, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

Karen Gerson Sharon, coordinator of the Sephardic Center of Istanbul, in Turkey, said she was very happy the requirement had been waived for older applicants, although she said she would have preferred the age for test exemption to have been 65 rather than 70.

We are not a very young community, she told El Pais, adding that it was hard for elderly applicants with sight and hearing problems to cope with tests.

Gerson said the children of a friend of hers had applied for Portuguese citizenship granted under a similar law because that country does not demand exams. An 84-year-old Turkish woman had given up on the process because she was too old to travel and complete the paperwork in Spain, she said.

A register of blasphemers, heretics and Jews by the Holy Office of Toledo, Spain, 1632; Ink on paper. (Courtesy/ New Mexico History Museum)

Sephardi applications for Spanish citizenship have come from more than 100 countries, most of them Spanish-speaking, along with Morocco, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and the US, El Pais reported.

Jews of Sephardi origin often still speak Ladino, a 15th century version of the language that bears little resemblance to modern Spanish.

The Spanish justice ministry expects an uptick in the number of Sephardi citizens given that more than 8,000 applicants have taken the language and heritage tests, the report said.

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Spain drops test for elderly Sephardim to become citizens - The Times of Israel

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