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Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews?

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Are European and American Jews entitled to Portuguese citizenship?

Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews? Even those who are aware that Portugal gives citizenship to descendants of expelled Jews, may be surprised to hear this is possible. After all, the descendants of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal all settled in the Middle East, right?

Not necessarily. The Jews were always a wandering peoples. Many Jews whose ancestors settled across Europe, Asia or even the United States have roots in Spain or Portugal. In this article, attorney Irena Vasilyeva will explain how the expelled Sephardic Jewish population migrated across the Mediterranean. More importantly, this article will explain how you can prove descent from the expelled populations and receive a Portuguese citizenship.

Which Jews were expelled from Spain?

Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews?The Kingdom of Spain, as we know it, was united at the end of the 15th and early 16th century. As part of the struggle against foreign influences and the preservation of the country’s Christian values, many Jewish and Muslim communities were expelled from Spain in 1492. The deportation was quickly extended to “foreign” communities in Portugal and the Kingdom of Navarra.

Many Jews and Muslims converted to Christianity or lived as “Marranos”, who only pretended to convert to Christianity. These crypto-Jews were unsurprisingly persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. Tens of thousands of Jews chose exile over forced conversion, and moved to more tolerant countries. Some of them migrated to far off lands we do not automatically associate with Sephardi Jewish communities.

The descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry settled across the Middle East, but also on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and even central Europe. Particularly known is the Jewish community of Portuguese origin in Amsterdam. This community was established by the expelled Jews who found asylum in the Netherlands.

Where did the expelled Jews from Spain go?

We tend to think of the world before the 20th century as relatively isolated. True – traveling on a global scale was not nearly the easy feat it is today. But the Mediterranean sea is quiet and relatively easy to navigate. Since the days of ancient Rome, wealthy people routinely crossed the sea with little concern. Politicians, soldiers and merchants would frequently sail between Italy and Egypt and between Spain and Greece. During the Renaissance, mercenaries from England fought in places we now know as Italy, Germany, and Poland. Scottish nobles traveled the length of Europe and served in the Russian army. Once the Jewish expelled populations boarded a ship off the coast of Spain, the known world was open to them

At the time, relations between Jews and Muslims were much better than those between Christians and Muslims. Therefore, many of Jews from Spain and Portugal moved to areas controlled by the Moors and the Ottoman Empire. The Moors ruled southern Spain (until the united forces of the Christian kingdoms defeated them in a series of campaigns) and North Africa. Ottoman rule spread over many countries. These include contemporary Turkey, Israel, Yemen, Egypt, but also Greece, the Balkans bordering on the Caucasian mountains, and even Central Europe.

So there are “Ashkenazim” Jews from Europe who are descended from the Sephardi communities?

Exactly. The Jews who fled from Spain or Portugal to the Ottoman Empire settled in many countries outside the Middle East. If your parents came to Israel from the Ukraine, Romania, the countries of Eastern or Central Europe, you may be descendants of those expelled from Spain despite having an “Ashkenazi” surname. As such you might be entitled to Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews.

How to prove that your ancestors were expelled from Iberia?

You do not have to trace your descent all the way to the 15th century, just to a Jewish-Sephardi ancestor. The main document, which usually determines the fate of any application for citizenship in Portugal for Ashkenazi Jews, is a letter from a recognized Jewish community. Just as the State of Israel has a list of recognized rabbis who are entitled to decide who is Jewish, so does the state of Portugal. The Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto will examine documents, opinions of genealogists, and testimonies that the applicant’s ancestors spoke and wrote in the Ladino language.

If the communities confirm that the applicant is a descendant of Iberian Jews, the application for Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews moves to the the second stage. At this point, being granted Portuguese citizenship is primarily a matter of navigating bureaucratic formalities. The primary obstacles is the submission of apostille stamped and notarized translation of documents such as birth certificates, passports, and criminal record.

Contact us for help – Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews

Our law firm in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem assists the descendants of Iberian Jews in acquiring Portuguese citizenship and passport. We have excellent working relations with the Lisbon and Porto communities. We also have a professional connection with immigration lawyers in Portugal. If you have evidence that your ancestors were expelled from Spain or Portugal, contact us and we will be happy to explain and help. Arrange a consultation meeting now regarding an EU member state passport – Portugal citizenship for Ashkenazi Jews.

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