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Citizenship Granted to Descendants of Portuguese Jews

Portuguese parliament

Jews who can trace their roots to Portugal can now apply for citizenship in the country, a move that follows similar legislation in Spain. The legislation comes as the government has made several gestures to apologize for the burning, torture and murder of tens of thousands of Jews during the Inquisition 500 years ago, as well as massive forced conversions, as reported by the Guardian.

The legislation passed the Portuguese Parliament by unanimous vote, and citizenship will be extended to those who can demonstrate a “traditional connection” through “family names, family language and direct or collateral ancestry.” The application process will take four months, and is simpler than legislation in Spain, which requires a test of the applicant’s knowledge of Spanish history.

The Jewish population in Portugal, which has dwindled to 1, 000, is welcoming the arrival of new Jewish Portuguese citizens. James Harlow was descended from advisers to the Portuguese royal family. They refused to convert and left Portugal in 1496. Harlow lives in San Jose and is applying for Portuguese citizenship at the age of 52 to help his Silicon Valley business expand into Portugal, “Citizenship makes travel, talent and operations easier, ” Harlow told the AP.

The Portuguese Inquisition was established in 1536 and was a move by then King Manuel I to find favor with Spain’s royalty Ferdinand and Isabella. Jews had fled the Inquisition of Spain for Portugal, but King Manuel gave Jews 10 months to convert or leave, but then prevented them from departing and opted for forced conversions. Many Jews continued to observe Jewish rituals in private, and when they were discovered, many were tortured and killed.

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