500 Years Later, Spain Invites Jews Back

Spain looking to 'rediscover itself,' says justice minister

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 7, 2013 10:47 AM CST

(Newser) – More than 500 years after Spain expelled or forcibly converted its once thriving Jewish population, the country has announced plans to allow descendents of those Sephardic Jews a fast-track to Spanish passports and citizenship, reports the BBC. In the 15th century, there were around 300,000 Jews in Spain, but in 1492 they were ordered to convert to Christianity or leave. Many of those who left went to North Africa or the Ottoman Empire; indeed, even today 90% of the 100,000 Jews in Turkey are descendents of Sephardic Jews.

However, the conversos, those who converted to Christianity and stayed in Spain, were targeted heavily by the Inquisition. "In the long journey Spain has undertaken to rediscover a part of itself, few occasions are as moving as today," said Spain's justice minister when he made his announcement in November. In the first month alone, there were 6,000 inquiries about regaining citizenship. However, the details of the new policy are still being worked out, and some have complained that the policy of return only applies to still practicing Jews, not to secular Jews or Christian converts. And Muslim groups have pointed out they were kicked out of Spain at the same time, but no one is inviting them back.

Cordoba Synagogue is a historic edifice in the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, Spain built in 1315. It's been 500 years since Spain forced out nearly all the Jews who once lived there, but now it is inviting...   (Pietro Pecco)
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