The Failure of Spain’s Offer of Citizenship to Sephardi Jews

Aug. 21 2019

In 1492, the newly united kingdom of Castile and Aragon gave its Jews a choice between expulsion and conversion to Christianity. Some 175,000 left; others or their descendants would later return to Judaism in Italy, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. In 2015, Spain passed a law, intended “to right a historic wrong,” offering citizenship to Sephardi Jews who could demonstrate Spanish ancestry. Soeren Kern explains how expensive layers of red tape have prevented even those Jews who want to from becoming Spanish citizens:

The legislation’s main barriers to Spanish citizenship have been obligatory exams on Spanish language and sociocultural history, the need to travel to Spain, and exorbitant fees and costs. Although prospective applicants do not need to be practicing Jews, they must prove their Sephardi background through a combination of factors, including ancestry, surnames, and spoken language (either Ladino, a Jewish language that evolved from medieval Spanish, or Haketia, a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish, and Moroccan Judeo-Arabic).

According to the law, even if applicants speak Ladino or Haketia—languages that are spoken mostly by the elderly in some parts of Latin America, Morocco, and Turkey—they are still required to pass a Spanish-language proficiency exam .. . .

In addition to the language exams, the law requires applicants to travel to Spain to have their documentation verified by a government-approved notary public before the completed application is submitted to Spain’s Ministry of Justice. . . . As of the end of 2018, only 3,843 Sephardi Jews had obtained Spanish citizenship under the law. . . . Another 5,682 applications were pending approval—with a success rate [expected] to be around 50 percent. . . . In other words, about 5,000 Sephardi Jews will have received Spanish citizenship under the 2015 law—1 percent of the 500,000 that the Spanish government said would benefit from the law, and 0.15 percent of the estimated 3.5 million Sephardi Jews in the world today.

Spain today has one of the smallest Jewish communities in the European Union. Fewer than 50,000 Jews currently live in Spain.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Sephardim, Spain, Spanish Expulsion

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism