King Felipe thanks Sephardic Jews for their loyalty to Spain 523 years after expulsion

Spain's King Felipe VI on Monday thanked Jews of Spanish origin whose ancestors were expelled from the country in the wake of the March 1492 edict issued by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. "Dear Sephardim, thank you for your loyalty," the king told representatives of Sephardic Jews from different countries, during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid.

King Felipe (c) with Sephardic Jewish leaders in MadridA law, which came into force last month, allows dual citizenship for descendants of Sephardim Jews. Spain’s Justice Minister Rafael Catala said his administration had already received close to 600 demands for Spanish nationality.

The law aims to correct what the Spanish government has called the "historic mistake". In the 1492 Alhambra Decree, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, joint monarchs of Spain, ordered all 200,000 Jews on Spanish territory to either convert to Catholicism or to leave the country within the space of just three months, under pain of death.

Christopher Columbus noted in his diary: "In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies."

Tens of thousands of refugees died while trying to reach safety. In some instances, Spanish ship captains charged Jewish passengers exorbitant sums, then dumped them overboard in the middle of the ocean. In the last days before the expulsion, rumors spread throughout Spain that the fleeing refugees had swallowed gold and diamonds, and many Jews were knifed to death by brigands hoping to find treasures in their stomachs.

The Jews' expulsion from Spain followed a demand by the Catholic Inquisition. The expulsion edict was formally revoked in 1968, following the Second Vatican Council, which revised the Catholic Church's relationship with the Jews.

The Spanish Jews who ended up in Turkey, North Africa, Italy, and elsewhere throughout Europe and the Arab world, were known as Sephardim, Sefarad being the Hebrew name for Spain.

"Thank you for having kept like a precious treasure your language and your customs that are ours too. Thank you too for making love prevail over rancour and for teaching your children to love this country,’’ King Felipe told the guests at the ceremony in Madrid.

Today, there are an estimated 3.5 million Jews with Spanish ancestry around the world. The Spanish Jewish community todays number around 20,000.

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Kevin Alan Brook

Thu, 03 Dec 2015

I'm going to echo Francisco Cabrera's comment. Thousands upon thousands of descendants of Sephardic Conversos live today in Latin American countries. In Mexico, they are particularly prevalent in the state of Nuevo Leon and also found in other states like Jalisco and Chihuahua. The connection between Latinos and Sephardim has been demonstrated by three kinds of genetic testing - Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA - which are used both for genealogical research and the study of genetic disorders. My article "Sephardic Jews in Galitzian Poland and Environs" in Shem Tov, Newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto (September 2015), pages 13-15, has several paragraphs summarizing some of these connections that have been made through DNA. We also know that some Sephardic Converso descendants live in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and northeastern Brazil.

And within Europe, some descendants of Sephardim even reached as far northeast as Lithuania, Belarus, and Latvia where they intermarried with the local Ashkenazim. This is again demonstrated by DNA evidence as well as surname evidence.


Thu, 03 Dec 2015

Many Sefardim moved north to Amsterdam and later Germany and the Baltic, and they took on Ashkenazi customs. There are probably more than 3.5 million Jews with Sefardi origins.

PS - Stephen Rosen, on so many levels your comment is absurd.

Francisco Cabrera

Tue, 01 Dec 2015

I always see in every article that sephardim went only to Europe, North Africa, Arab world and that gets me angry everytime I read it. They also went to Mexico, central America( El salvador, Honduras, Panama, etc.), South America. My parents are from El Salvador with family living there for generations. I found out 5 of my family last names are sephardic ( Medina, Alvarez, Pineda, Aleman,etc.). I'm sephardic decent with my roots going back to El Salvador to Spain from the explusion/ forced conversion to Catholicism. Their shoud be more acknowledgment that there are tons of shephardic descendants in those areas and try to do a outreach so then they can get back to their roots and know what happened to their ancestors.

Peter Kubicek

Tue, 01 Dec 2015

523 years later ! Well, better late than never.

Geoffrey L Rogg

Tue, 01 Dec 2015

This is both a sad and enthralling subject which often arouses passion in both Spanish and Sephardic circles. What is taught in Spanish schools and by the Catholic Church is often at odds with Sephardic scholarship but there has been for many years a modus vivendi between these two groups of the same homeland in order not to provoke resentments on either side. Let's just say that there is as much myth as there is truth in the reported history of the times which was heavily weighted in favour of the new Catholic Kingdom of Ferdinand & Isabella. I recommend research into numerous learned accounts from Sephardic sources for those who want to learn more about this most important period of European and Jewish history. You will be amazed to learn who was who and who did what and how it impacts on the reality of today's Spanish population.

Stephen Rosen

Tue, 01 Dec 2015

If Spain was truly repentant they would track down Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism whose descendants live today in Spain and arrange for them to be Jews again.
Stephen Rosen


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