Who is Sepharadi?

The Jewish community in Spain has experienced ups and downs throughout history. During the Golden Age, between the 9th and 13th centuries, Sephardic Jewry is considered one of the most influential religious, cultural and economic institutions in the world. The Jewish community in Spain has developed unique customs only for her, such as a Sephardic prayer book, a new tradition in Jewish law and more.

Following the expulsion in 1492, the Jews who chose not to convert to Christianity were forced to leave the country. Many moved to neighbor Portugal and were later expelled again. Others decided to move to various countries around the world. They established new Jewish communities that enjoyed great prosperity mainly throughout the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, Western Europe, and the Balkans. It is worth knowing that some of the deportees were also scattered to distant countries and some settled in South America and elsewhere.

Descendants of the Jews who expelled from Spain

When you ask who is a Sepharadi, you usually refer to the descendants of Jews who expelled from Spain. After the mass expulsion from Spain in 1492, many of the Jews of Spain moved to Portugal, after which they were expelled again and spread to the rest of the world. The deportees from Spain who came to Israel were called spaniels, and among the deportees were those who chose to add the initials SS, some who claim that the initials came to indicate who is pure Sephardic to distinguish them from the “Hanusim”.

It is worth knowing that after the expulsion in 1492, the Jews of Spain continued to maintain contact and solidarity to preserve the power of Sephardic Jewry, but a division was formed between Sephardi and Western Mizrahim. Eastern Sephardim settled mainly in North Africa and countries under the Ottoman Empire, and for years they continued to follow the tradition of Sephardic Jewry, many spoke in the dialect of Sephardic Jews, others continued to converse in Ladino, and in most places the communities of the deportees were prosperous and greatly influenced the rest of the Jews in the country.

Today, it is possible to find Jewish family names that indicate a direct connection to the deportees of Spain. Following the change in the Spanish Citizenship Law, the descendants of Spanish deportees can obtain Spanish citizenship, which provides many advantages, including a European passport for all intents and purposes. The Spanish government announced in February 2014 that it would submit a proposal to amend the Citizenship Law to rectify the injustice caused to the Spanish expellees. On June 11, 2015, the Spanish Parliament approved the amendment to the Citizenship Act, paving the way for hundreds of thousands of descendants of Spanish deportees to receive citizenship.

Spanish authorities have published a list of family names eligible for Spanish citizenship, but following the change in the Citizenship Law in Portugal, descendants of deportees can choose whether to exclude Spanish or Portuguese citizenship. The procedure for obtaining citizenship from Portugal is considered more comfortable and faster, so many choose this option. For eligibility, you should find your surname in the checklists of surnames which are eligible for Spanish or Portuguese citizenship. However, even if your surname is not on the list, you can prove contact with the deportees through genealogical research, document collection and document translation.