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'Jews want apology, not Spanish citizenship'

Alex Dunham · 17 Feb 2014, 17:00

Published: 17 Feb 2014 17:00 GMT+01:00

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Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, has voiced his mixed feelings regarding Spain’s decision to grant citizenship to Sephardi Jews in an op-ed piece published in Israeli site Ynetnews.

Although the Swiss-born Goldschmidt describes Spain's Justice Ministry's ruling as "commendable", his overall view is that the country governed by Mariano Rajoy still owes a long-overdue apology to its former Jewish population.

"King Juan Carlos (missed) a great opportunity to do so during a visit to a Madrid synagogue in 1992," he argues.

"Even the Portuguese government apologized formally a few years ago (in the 1980s)."

Jewish associations have estimated 3.5 million Sephardic Jews will apply for Spanish citizenship, but Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, thinks the figure is much lower.

"I find it hard to believe that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are seriously considering changing their country of residence from Israel to Spain.

"Many of them will be tempted to acquire a second (EU) passport to simplify their entry to countries that still curtail or limit entry of Israelis through visa requirements.

"As my grandfather used to say, a Jew should have at least three passports."

Goldschmidt even suggested that the Spanish government set up a genealogical institute to help Spaniards trace their Jewish heritage.

He also called for them to introduce Judaic studies into Spain's school curriculum.

In 1492, Spain's monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand gave the country's Jews and Muslims three choices: convert to Roman Catholicism, leave the country, or face execution without trial.

Jews made rich contributions to science, music and literature before they were driven out of the country and the old Jewish quarters in medieval Spanish cities like Toledo and Seville where they lived among Christians and Muslims have become popular tourist draws.

Story continues below…

But not everybody is convinced by Spain's offer of citizenship to the Sephardi Jews.

Religious leader Rabbi Aviner has forbidden Israelis from applying Spanish passports on the grounds that it would be seen by Spain as a way of “making up” for the expulsions.

Israel allows its citizen to hold dual or multiple citizenship. 

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Alex Dunham (alex.dunham@thelocal.com)

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