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The Expulsion from Spain and Portuguese Citizenship Eligibility

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

What does the expulsion from Spain have to do with eligibility of the descendants of expelled Jews to Portuguese citizenship? Who were the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal, and why were they expelled? Where did their descendants settle, and could you be such a descendant? If your ancestors were indeed among the Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain how can you prove it and earn Portuguese citizenship?

Our law firm help the descendants of expelled Jews receive Portuguese citizenship. This article by Advocate Michael Decker, explains the historical background of the expulsion and dispersion of descendants of expelled Jews across Europe and the Middle East.

The Alhambra decree for the Expulsion of the Spanish Jewry

The Expulsion from Spain and Portuguese Citizenship Eligibility In 1492 the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, made an expulsion declaration ordering all 200,000 Jews of Spain to leave the country within 3 months. Roughly 70,000 of these expelled Jews found refuge in nearby Portugal. About 5 years later, in 1497, influenced by the Spanish Queen Isabella, the Portuguese King Manuel I made a similar verdict. He ordered to expel the 100,000 Jews in Portugal due to their religion.

Thousands of these Jews were sold into slavery. Their children were taken and baptized by the King’s order. Some were burned at the stake in the notorious auto de fe. These expulsions were the final and tragic outcome of the Spanish Inquisition and its impact also on the Kingdom of Portugal. The result forced the Jewish citizens of both kingdoms to choose between conversion to Christianity and expulsion.

The Inquisition’s role in the expulsion from Spain

Born in the 13th century in Southern France, the Inquisition soon reached neighboring Spain. Its purpose was to discover Christian converts who continued to observe their former religious ceremonies in hiding. They were then publicly denounced, tortured or expelled. From the beginning of the Inquisition’s operation until their final expulsion in 1492, over half the Sephardi Jews converted to Christianity. It is estimated that these days, every third Spanish citizen is of Jewish descent.

The Jewish Communities in Spain and Portugal

The Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal had a glorious history, prominent among the communities of Israel. These were ancient communities who settled in the Iberian Peninsula already in the Roman era. However, it was specifically in the place that dubbed them a “Golden Age” that they ceased to exists; where Jewish scholars, philosophers, poets, Torah interpreters, kabbalists, mathematicians, astronomers, politicians and polymaths lived for generations. Some of the greatest men of the Jewish community in Spain and Portugal were: Maimonides, Nachmanides, Judah Halevi, Samuel ibn Naghrillah, Hasdai Crescas, Abraham ibn Ezra, Abraham bar Hiyya, the rabbi family of Carvajal, the translator family of ibn Tibbon and many more.

The Expulsion from Spain – Names of Expelled Families

About 250,000 Jews were among the expelled families, forced to pay for their journey while the rest of their property, money and gold was confiscated and transferred to the Spanish treasury. Most expelled families found refuge in Northwest Africa and in the Ottoman Empire territories. They settled across  Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, as well as Turkey, Bulgaria, Syria, Romania, Iraq, Greece, Lebanon, Serbia and Macedonia. These expelled Jews also settled in countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the UK and even reached India, China and America. To conclude, we should stress once more that not only those we consider to be Sephardi or Mizrachi may be among the descendants of expelled Jews.

Sephardi-Origin Surnames 

We can find remnant of the expellees’ families in Jewish surnames of the Spanish expulsion era, such as: Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, Karako, Barzilay, Abulafia, Najara, Ben Zaken, Espinoza, Danon, Saban, Peretz, Weizmann, Gabai, Atlas, Benayun, Siboni, Shushan, Giat, Wolfson, Bruchiel, Pardo, Kakon, Alfasi, Weinberg, Hayun, Pinto, Malca, Dayan, Gavison, Mashiach, Navon, Shabat, Safra, Wolf, Yaish, Hacohen, Aflalo, Basan, Atias, Beniso, and more.

Who can earn a Spanish or Portuguese Citizenship?

Jews with Sephardi roots or a surname from the list of surnames in the candidates’ list. Candidates from Ladino-speaking families or those who are able to demonstrate ancient Sephardi customs that run in their family like clothing, prayers, phylacteries ties, etc.

If you have any questions please contact us – Portuguese citizenship law firm

Our Jerusalem and Tel Aviv based law firm specializes in facilitation of Portuguese citizenship grant to descendants of expelled Jews. If you have testimonies and a certificate signed by an Orthodox Rabbi, please contact us to schedule a meeting with an expert attorney.


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