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Portugal moves to end Sephardic Jewish citizenship law

MADRID (JTA) — Portugal’s parliament has advanced a bill that would end the country’s citizenship law for descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition.

The bill, which could take effect on Jan. 1, passed a first reading on Friday with backing from the ruling Socialist Party after heated debate. It will next be reviewed and potentially amended by parliament’s Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms, and Guarantees Committee.

Speaking to parliament on Monday, Justice Minister Catarina Sarmento e Castro said the citizenship law has been a “fair recognition” and a “duty of historical reparation.” But she argued that it has served its purpose, saying it was a “symbolic gesture intended to mark a recognition that has been fulfilled through a generous time window.”

Discussions in parliament over the next several weeks could push the end date for applications to Dec. 31, 2024.

According to the latest figures, approximately 262,000 individuals had applied for naturalization under the law by the end of 2022, and around 75,000 were granted citizenship. Even since the introduction of stricter regulations in September 2022, over 74,000 applied in the past year. Notably, nearly 21,000 applicants were Israeli citizens, as highlighted by statistics from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service.

Some members of parliament expressed reservations about the move to close the citizenship pathway. Representative Patrícia Gilvaz of the Liberal Initiative party argued against shutting down the law so soon, suggesting a postponement until 2025. Pedro Delgado Alves from the Socialist Party acknowledged the need for a review, suggesting a three-year residence requirement in Portugal for applicants rather than the standard five years.

But the Communist Party’s Alma Rivera questioned the law’s continued relevance. In contrast, Paula Cardoso from the Social Democratic Party suggested addressing abuses of the application system without repealing it altogether.

Portugal introduced this route to citizenship in 2015, rooted in 2013 legislation, and Spain soon followed suit with a “Law of Return.” Unlike Spain’s version, Portugal’s law was less stringent, demanding only a clear criminal record and verifiable Sephardic lineage certificate, typically vouched for by major Jewish communities in Lisbon or Porto.

That application process faced skepticism last year following allegations of fraud and corruption. One high-profile case involved Roman Abramovich, a Russian-Jewish billionaire whose Portuguese naturalization drew criticism amid geopolitical events, particularly Russia’s Ukraine invasion, as it emerged that his European citizenship could potentially help him avoid European sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

In light of the controversies, the vetting process tightened. Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva noted that Sephardic Jewish applicants had to establish a “genuine connection” with Portugal. The stricter regulations also spurred divisions within the country’s Jewish communities, leading to legal investigations into Porto’s application review process and the detention of the Porto Jewish community’s Rabbi, Daniel Litvak.

Spain stopped accepting applications for its Sephardic citizenship law in 2021.

The post Portugal moves to end Sephardic Jewish citizenship law appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Treasure Trove recalls a time when the Kingdom of Jordan’s pavilion at the World’s Fair generated controversy, protests and a court battle

In this pamphlet, the country of Jordan is billed as the “The Holy Land”. This material introduced visitors to the Kingdom of Jordan pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Ironically, the motto of the fair was “Peace Through Understanding”.  It describes a pavilion that includes a “photographic survey of the Holy […]

The post Treasure Trove recalls a time when the Kingdom of Jordan’s pavilion at the World’s Fair generated controversy, protests and a court battle appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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A shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School involving two suspects is being investigated by Toronto Police

Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School, located near the Finch and Dufferin intersection in Toronto, had shots fired in its direction Saturday at 4:52 a.m. The incident was captured on a security video. The suspects can be seen getting out of a dark-coloured vehicle and opening fire on the school, which serves the Hasidic community with […]

The post A shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School involving two suspects is being investigated by Toronto Police appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision

FILE PHOTO: Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof recalled how he had to decide within hours whether to go into exile or serve a prison sentence, saying it was still difficult to talk about it during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

Rasoulof was in the French Riviera town for the premiere of his new drama “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” almost two weeks after announcing he had fled Iran and entered into exile in the wake of his sentencing to eight years in jail and flogging.

After he learned that he had a week left before his sentence would be implemented, things moved quickly, he said, especially as authorities had caught wind of the existence of his new film.

“I had to say to myself, well, do I want to be in prison, or should I leave Iran, geographic Iran, and join the cultural Iran that exists beyond its borders?” recalled the director.

“It took me two hours to make the decision. I walked around, I paced around my house. I said goodbye to my plants that I love, and I have many, many plants in my house,” he added.

Then, Rasoulof left all his belongings and walked out of the house. “It’s not an easy decision to take. It still isn’t easy even to talk about it today with you,” he told journalists.

Iran‘s culture minister Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili told state media this month that Rasoulof’s film had been made illegally and there would be a crackdown on movies without permits.

“The Seed of the Sacred Fig” is about a court official who grows increasingly controlling of his family during the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested by the morality police for allegedly flouting dress codes.

The film drew the longest standing ovation at the festival after its premiere on Friday night and was well received by critics who called it “mesmerizingly gripping” and “shattering.”

The director, who has been arrested and detained several times for charges ranging from filming without a permit to “collusion against national security,” said that the idea for the film came from years of confrontation with secret services.

“All these characters were inspired by real people, all the scenes come from real situations,” he said, adding that experience has also made him adept at avoiding secret services.

“Our life is fairly similar to that of gangsters, except we are gangsters of the cinema,” he joked at the news conference.

The post At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision first appeared on

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