Portugal to digitally process citizenship applications for Jewish descendants

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A new procedure by which Sephardic Jews of Portuguese descent can apply for Portuguese citizenship is expected to eliminate red tape by going digital.

Portugal has played an active role in promoting Jewish life since 2015, and part of that effort included passing a law granting Portuguese nationality to Jews from families of traditional Sephardic communities whose ancestors had been deported to the country. Fifteenth century. The move comes as Portugal seeks to atone for what has become the Inquisition.

Chelsea FC football team owner Roman Abramovich was recently granted Portuguese citizenship under the country’s law on the return of Jews of Sephardic descent. Despite being criticized in the press in the darkest terms, a representative of the Portuguese Jewish community told JNS that Abramovich’s Sephardic certification process, the full documentation of which has long been in the possession of the Central Register of Lisbon, has received certifications from the highest international Jewish institutions, in compliance with legal criteria.

He added that in its contacts with the Portuguese government and parliament, “the Jewish community of Porto has always been in favor of the requirement that Sephardic claimants have a current link with Portugal that is in the spirit of the law. In order to combat anti-Semitic arguments against the law.

Itay Mor, a lawyer who resides in Portugal, where he is president of the Rainbow Portugal Association, told JNS: “The government has been developing this digital platform since November 2019, when it met a large number of lawyers. and announced the end of the procedure on paper. The cumbersome and slow process, including the initial application, the collection of evidence or criminal records and the translations, resulted in delays and inconvenience for the registry, lawyers and applicants. From 2022, the citizenship application procedure involving the Civil Status Office and lawyers will move to the digital platform and the paper procedure will be phased out.

Mor explained that since 2015, one of the documents required in this procedure is a Sephardic certificate issued by one of the two Portuguese Jewish communities. The Jewish community of Porto certifies Jews from traditional families of Sephardic communities of Portuguese descent, and the Jewish community of Lisbon also accepts applications from people who may not be Jewish or Sephardic today, but whose genealogy shows Sephardic links with Portugal.

It is not known what the repercussions would be if non-Jews declared themselves of Jewish origin or relatedness, but it appears to be purely for the purposes of Portuguese citizenship. It remains to be seen whether these candidates would be accepted as full members of the Portuguese Jewish community.

Portugal’s Jewish community predates the country‘s official founding in 1143, as Jews lived in the kingdom for millennia, even before the Roman Empire.

Ashley Perry (Perez), president of Reconectar, an organization that seeks to reconnect descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with the Jewish world, told JNS: “This is a very welcome development and once again reiterates the commitment of the Portuguese government to grant citizenship to the Sefaradim. Our family and community have kept a strong connection to his Portuguese Sefaradi heritage and we are delighted that Portuguese leaders are strengthening him on their side. “

A few years ago, Portugal enacted legislation restoring the right of Sephardim to Portuguese nationality without them having to live in Portugal or speak Portuguese. Applicants need a Sephardic Certificate, which can be obtained from Portuguese Jewish communities or from applicants’ home communities abroad.

Portuguese law granting nationality to Sephardim entered into force in March 2015. It is estimated that to date around 30,000 Sephardim have obtained Portuguese nationality.

In April 2020, some members of the Portuguese parliament attempted to impose a two-year residence period in Portugal before any nationality application, fearing that there would be problematic applications. But it turned out to be unnecessary and in July parliament backed down on this initiative.

According to a member of the Porto Jewish community who declined to be named for this article, the community wants to see the Sephardic certification performed on a digital-electronic platform “to enable real-time collaboration between the Porto Rabbinate and the registrar, “he said.

“It is important that registrars understand exactly who is Jewish and how to read Jewish legal documents with halachic credibility, such as a marriage contract, and become familiar with the traditional Sephardic families of Jewish communities of Portuguese and Castilian descent,” he said. he declared. noted. “We believe that teamwork between the Porto rabbinate and the civil status office would enrich this institution, because the analysis of candidates’ documents implies knowledge of the Jewish world and of the Hebrew language.

Unlike the situation throughout Europe in general, where the growth of Jewish communities is in decline, the Portuguese Jewish community is experiencing exponential growth in cultural, religious, organizational and social aspects.

In apparent recognition, on October 5, the European Commission presented the European Union‘s strategy to promote Jewish life through 2030, highlighting that the area currently ruled by EU countries numbered 9 , 5 million Jews, whereas today there are only 1.5 million, who continue to emigrate. Member states are encouraged to develop national strategies by the end of 2022 and to appoint special envoys and coordinators to combat anti-Semitism and foster Jewish life.

Between July 2020 and today, the community of Porto, like that of Lisbon, has been a partner of the Portuguese government in the development of better regulation of the law, which will soon be presented to the public. There are still details and questions which are under consideration and which have not yet been decided.

Today there are a lot of rumors about what the Portuguese government will do with regard to the citizenship law and whether it will end it, or demand a house in Portugal, or make other difficult requests.

Despite these concerns, advocates remain satisfied with the new development of the digital citizenship application process.

“This is a historic process that reconnects the Jewish and Portuguese peoples who have such a long and illustrious mutual heritage,” said Perry.


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