Shalom Life | November 09, 2014

Jewish Law of Return Established in Portugal

Lisbon's new legislation corrects 500-year-old 'immoral' law

By: Daniel Koren

Published: July 15th, 2013 in News » World

Jewish Law of Return Established in Portugal

In the early 16th century, Portugal expelled its Jewish community from the country.

Now, 500 years later, they're bringing them back.

A new law has been established in Lisbon's legislature, brought forth by right-wing Portuguese politician Jose Ribeiro e Castro. Ribeiro e Castro, who has never been considered an advocate for the country's Jewish community, was reportedly inspired after starting a Facebook account, through which he was contacted by several Sephardic Jews whose lineage dates back to the once promising Portuguese Jewish community.


(Jose Ribeiro e Castro)

The country's hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced into exile during the Portuguese Inquisition of 1536.

Now, Ribeiro e Castro has corrected an unjust and immoral law by developing a bill that allows Jewish descendants of exiled Jews to return to Portugal, making the country the only nation besides Israel with a Jewish law of return.

“The law is a commendable initiative,” said Lisborn native Nuno Wahnon Martins, the Director of European Affairs for B’nai B’rith International. “It has economic considerations as well, which do not subtract from parliament’s worthy decision.”

The decision from Portugal comes at a period where several European nations are investing millions to inaugurate Jewish heritage sites, in a bid to combat growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and continue to educate people the world over of Judaism's rich, fulfilling history.

In addition to the law, Portugal is set to open a $1.5 million learning center in a city that sports a growing Jewish popular - Trancoso.

“For me, this is purely a historical and emotional goal,” said Ribeiro e Castro. “These efforts got stuck in Spain had remained stuck also in Portugal for a long time, until we move them along.”

According to the new erected legislation, the Portuguese government "will give nationality to Sephardic Jews of Portuguese ancestry who belong to a tradition of a Portuguese-descended Sephardic community, based on objective prerequisites proving a connection to Portugal through names, language and ancestry.”

Ribeiro e Castro, a known Catholic, took a bit of a risk in proposing the new legislation, as it sheds light upon a dark and inhumane period in the history of the Portuguese Catholic Church.

“My father was an admirer of what he called ‘small history,’ minor developments with a huge impact,” he said. “Naturalizing the Sephardim could be that.”

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