Sephardic Jews in Turkey ‘subject to hostility,’ Spanish minister says

Sephardic Jews in Turkey ‘subject to hostility,’ Spanish minister says

Sephardic Jews in Turkey ‘subject to hostility,’ Spanish minister says

Spanish Justice Minister Ruiz-Gallardon attends a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Feb. 21. REUTERS photo

Sephardic Jews are living under threat in Turkey and many will seek Spanish passports due to new legislation that grants returners dual citizenship, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has said.

Most of the demands for Spanish passports since the new law passed have come from Turkey and Venezuela, Gallardon told the New York Times on March 19.

Jews were expelled from the Spanish Peninsula by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1492, with tens of thousands seeking refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The new law seeks to repair was Gallardón described as “the biggest mistake in Spanish history.”

It is estimated that only 24,000 Sephardic Jews remain in Turkey, mostly concentrated in Istanbul. Historically, they have spoken the now-endangered Ladino language, a Judeo-Spanish dialect that is mostly a derivation of Castellan with a few Turkish intonations.  

Gallardón  said most of Sephardic Jews “have not detached themselves” from Spain.

“Instead of detaching from Spain and having hard feelings toward the country that expelled them, they have become more attached to their country, their language and their traditions,” he said.

The new legal measure will also allow to Sephardic Jews to claim heritage from their ancestry, with
Gallardón claiming that the state will help to ease the usually-complex process.

The law does not require that applicants renounce their existing nationality.