8 Panamanians receive Spanish citizenship under law of return for Sephardi Jews


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Eight Panamanian Sephardic Jews received Spanish citizenship from Spain’s ambassador to Panama in a ceremony at the embassy in Panama City.

The group swore allegiance to the Spanish Constitution and the King, reported local news website Telemetro, thanks to a law passed two years ago that allows the conferring of Spanish citizenship on those who prove to be descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

The ceremony held on Friday “is an act of historical reparation” with the Sephardic Jews who suffered “the intolerance that was then not only in Spain,” said Spanish ambassador to Panama, Ramon Santos.

“Sepharad is the Hebrew word which designates Spain, and Sephardim are those Jews expelled from Spain 500 years ago who formed communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Portugal and many of which were distributed throughout America,” the diplomat recalled.

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Last year, another group of 23 Jews became Spanish citizens in Panama, including nationalized Venezuelan emigres who had escaped the economic crisis in their native country. Nearly 5,000 Sephardic Jews became citizens of Spain or Portugal in 2016 following the passing of laws on the naturalization of descendants of Sephardic Jews.

“Be you, dear compatriots, welcome to this little piece of Spanish territory is the embassy of Spain,” said the ambassador in Santos last year.

On June 24, 2015, Spain’s Congress approved the law granting Spanish nationality to those Sephardic Jews who request it, without requiring them to renounce another nationality and without the requirement to reside in Spain.

In 2016, President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama attended a ceremony to mark the 140th anniversary of the Central American country’s first synagogue, the Kol Shearith Israel congregation.

“The Jewish presence in Panama was born committed to the fate of this small nation, and that heritage has been enriched throughout the history of the country to the present day,” Varela said then.

According to the World Jewish Congress, Panama is home to some 15,000 Jews mostly concentrated in Panama City, including more than 1,000 Israelis. Some 85 percent of the Jews living in Panama are Sephardic, unlike other Latin American countries where the community is mostly Ashkenazi.

Panama is the only country besides Israel that has had two Jewish presidents, Max Delvalle Levy-Maduro in 1967, and his nephew Eric Arturo Delvalle from 1985 to1989.