The term “Sephardic Jews” stands for the descendants of the ancient Jews and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula, Sefarad or Hispania, from Portugal and Spain.
The presence of these communities in these territories precedes the formation of the Iberian Christian kingdoms, namely Portugal.
Following the Alhambra Edict of 1492 and their persecution by the Spanish Inquisition, a very large number of Spanish Jews sought refuge in Portugal and joined the Portuguese Jewish communities. However, King Manuel I of Portugal, who had initially issued a royal-decree law guaranteeing their protection, ordered in 1496 the expulsion of all Jews that did not convert to Catholicism.
Thus, many Sephardic Jews were forced into exile and compelled to leave Portugal from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century.
Portuguese Jews and New-Christians who managed to escape, settled in several Mediterranean countries like Morocco, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, Northern Europe cities such as London, Nantes, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Glückstadt, Hamburg or Cologne and other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Antilles and the US, among others.
Despite the expulsion and the persecution of their ancestral territory, they have kept, along with their descendants, not only the Portuguese language, in some cases, but also the traditional rites of the ancient Jewish worship in Portugal, saving their surnames over generations, objects and documents proving their Portuguese origin, along with a strong memorial connection to Portugal. Consequently, they are often referred to as “Portuguese Jews” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation”.
Considering this historical heritage, the Portuguese Citizenship Act (Lei da Nacionalidade) was amended as to permit the acquisition of Portuguese citizenship by the descendants of Portugal's Sephardic Jews.
All the legal requirements regarding the application of descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin for Portuguese nationality (through naturalization) are clearly stated in the Portuguese Decree-Law 30-A/2015, of February 27th, 2015.
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