The truth is that while the Spanish Law 12/2015 that granted nationality for Sephardim was in force, we did not take much of a glance to the Portuguese normative, very similar in spirit to the Spanish one but much better in form. Now, once that the former has expired, the latter has become the only remaining option to access to European Union citizenship for the Sephardim or their direct descendants.
Although Sepharad is usually identified with the territories that form part of Spain at present, the truth is that the Hebrew term referred to the geographical territories under the flag of Aragon, Castile, Navarre as well as the kingdom of Portugal, that is: the ancient territories that made up Roman Hispania, (which is actually what Sepharad means). It is little known the fact, that Portugal denounced (during the reign of Manuel I), the appropriation of the term Hispania by the crown of Castile, claiming that among the ancient Roman provinces included under such name, were also the territories of Portugal, an independent nation since 1143.
Thus, starting from this premise, while the Spanish Law referred in its title only to the "Sephardim with origins in Spain", the Portuguese Decree Law No. 30-A / 2015 of February 27th, defines Sephardim as the Jews descending from the ancient and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula. We must recall the great melange of Spanish and Portuguese Jews that took place upon the promulgation of the decrees in Aragon and Castile ordering their expulsion, when the majority of the Sephardic communities sought refuge behind the Portuguese borders where the king had promised protection. These were vague illusions. The large number of new Jews, (120,000 approximately), added to the 75,000 autochthonous Sephardim, threatened the religious cohesion of a kingdom that barely reached one million inhabitants. Aware of such risk, King Manuel I began a campaign of forced conversions that led to large pogroms, until 1496 when he ordered the final expulsion from Portugal of the remaining Jews, thus beginning a diaspora that would take them all over Europe, Morocco, the Middle East and the new territories of America, where the rigours of the Inquisition had not yet arrived.
The fact that Spanish law is no longer in force is not bad news. As we have already said, Law 12/2015 was a law that was badly drafted in origin. It was so confusing that the Instruction from the General Directorate of Registries and Notaries issued on September 29th, 2015 to clarify certain aspects related to the same law was more than twice as long as the law itself. The norm of limited enforcement has been a missed opportunity to repair the historical stumble committed to the Hispanic Semites. The absurd requirements imposed on applicants to master the language, and to have both social knowledge and links with modern-day Spain, (what Portuguese regulations do not require), have been impossible to meet for people whose families have been away from the country for more than 500 years. Simple statistics on the submitted applications show that most applicants are not Sephardim, but Christians that are remote descendants of those. People whose Jewish origin dates back 15 or more generations.
Portugal, the eternal silent neighbour of Spain, has understood better that genuine historical justice cannot have a date of expiry, and that the reparation of the damage caused by religious intolerance to the hundreds of thousands of Spanish and Portuguese Jews does not admit deadlines. We believe that the Portuguese law, better formulated than the Spanish law, enables to accept the claims of the Jews in the Diaspora who want to return to Sepharad, at least, as Mois Benarroch writes, " only to see you and to leave, to finally leave by my own hands".
For all those interested in obtaining European nationality through the Portuguese procedure, we also invite you to visit our department specialized in said procedure: Portuguese nationality for Sephardic Jews
Larrauri & Martí Abogados