European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor has written to Portugal’s President of the Assembly of the Republic Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, calling on him to ensure that a law passed in 2013 which provides Sephardi Jews with the possibility to apply for Portuguese citizenship is not harmed by recent attempts to pass amendments which would damage the applicability, intention and spirit of the original law.
“I urge you to amend the administrative flaws in the implementation of this historic law without losing sight of, or endangering, what is essential: the opening of a real, achievable path to citizenship of the Portuguese Republic to the descendants of persecuted Portuguese Sephardic Jews,” Dr. Kantor wrote. “This act of tolerance and reconciliation is as relevant, symbolic and inspiring to other nations as it was when it was approved five years ago.”
In recent years there has been a discernible increase in the number of applications by Sephardi Jews for Portuguese citizenship, and some parliament members have sought ways to stem the numbers, including proposing that applicants must reside in Portugal or have a “effective connection” to the Iberian nation.
“Many of the amendments to the law that have been proposed diminishes what was unique in its wisdom and generosity,” Dr. Kantor wrote. “It is wise because it demonstrates Portugal’s willingness to turn the lessons of history into a source of reconciliation. It is generous because it demonstrates that, in an age of nationalism, parochialism and intolerance, some countries are willing to share what is most precious – their national community – in order to make that reconciliation a living and lived reality.”
“Portugal is rightly praised all over the world, by Jews and non-Jews alike, for this legislation. As a Jewish leader, I often hear about it and how it stands in stark contrast to the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe and beyond.” Kantor added.
Dr. Kantor also expressed concerns about voices in Portugal who are using problematic allegations during the debate surrounding amendments to the law.
“We know that the vast majority of people join us in condemning attempts to arouse opposition to the law by making unworthy comments regarding the ‘commercialization’ of the law”, Dr. Kantor continued, “and I call upon the Portuguese people not to fall into the trap of antisemitic stereotypes and old prejudices.”
“The Portuguese and Jewish people have long and historic ties, and an ancestry and heritage shared by millions of people in Portugal. I know that with this law and the law to recognize a day of commemoration for the victims of The Inquisition a new and hopeful bridge has been created to reconnect our people after many centuries, and I hope relations will only be strengthened in the years to come.”