Portugal: Survey of Jewish Citizenship Like the “Holocaust”

JTA – The head of the Jewish community in Porto, Portugal, said the criminal investigation surrounding the organization’s role in screening Jews of Sephardic descent for Portuguese citizenship amounts to anti-Semitic persecution by officials.

Under the provisions of a 2015 law granting Portuguese citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews persecuted in Portugal and Spain during the 15th century Inquisition, applicants’ family trees are reviewed by experts from one of Portugal’s Jewish communities, in Lisbon or in Porto.

In a particularly harsh letter to lawmakers last week, Gabriel Senderovic said the investigation led to a continuation of “the Holocaust against families.”

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In a sign of the division among the country’s Jews, a former leader of the Jewish community in Lisbon dismissed Sendrovich’s allegations as “ridiculous” and “groundless”.

Senderovic’s letter to lawmakers is the latest development in a scandal that erupted in February over society’s vetting of citizenship applications from applicants who are considered descendants of Sephardic Jews.

In March, authorities briefly detained Porto community rabbi Daniel Litvak on suspicion of fraud in connection with the allegations.

The previous month, it was learned that Roman Abramovich, a Russian-Israeli billionaire who faces sanctions in several countries for his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had become a Portuguese citizen on the recommendation of the Porto community.

The examination of Abramovich, whose surname is apparently Ashkenazi and has many Ashkenazi ancestry, was widely considered suspect. Neither he nor the Porto Jewish community has published a family tree showing his Sephardic ancestry, although the Porto community has justified allowing his claim to be within the law.

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his dressing room, December 19, 2015 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

In 2016, the Portuguese government entrusted the Jewish community of Porto and the community of Lisbon – the official bodies representing the Jews of these cities – with the task of verifying applications for naturalization under a law passed by Parliament. in 2013. This law guarantees Portuguese citizenship to those who can prove that their ancestors were Sephardic Jews.

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The Portuguese state is now considering changing the law, possibly limiting its application to people who can demonstrate an “effective connection to Portugal”

On Wednesday, Senderovic wrote to the head of the Portuguese Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees, calling the investigation “the biggest attack on the Jewish community in Europe in the 21st century,” adding that it was “directed against the most powerful Jewish community in Europe today.”

Unidentified persons described by Senderović as “agents of the state” used journalists and influencers to “promote the discrediting of anti-Semitism”. Week after week, he added, “We witnessed a Holocaust against Jewish families, which was revealed in the newspapers. The community, in a statement, accused the entire “Portuguese state” of anti-Semitism.

Esther Mosnick, former vice president of the Jewish community in Lisbon, called Sendrovich’s allegations “absurd and baseless in reality. In fact, “the authorities are looking into alleged criminal acts and we will know what they will find when their investigation is completed.”

Jose Ullmann Karp, head of the Jewish community in Lisbon, declined to comment on the allegations of his Porto counterpart.

Before opening these investigations, the leaders of the Jewish community of Porto presented their city and country as a haven of peace against anti-Semitism.

A member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community of Porto, Michael Rothwell, was among many Jews who voted for the law, which the government said was to atone for the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition.

Last year, he called it an “act of justice” and encouraged Jews to move to his town, which he described as “an environment of tolerance, a bit of anti-Semitism, and an active and welcoming community.”

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More than 50,000 people have acquired Portuguese citizenship under the Portuguese Sephardic Law of Return.

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