Spain Bestows Citizenship on Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi

Rabbi Shlomo Amar's office says he did not request the citizenship and that it was conferred as an honor in recognition of his work with Sephardi Jewry.

Emil Salman

The government of Spain has decided to grant Spanish citizenship to Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned.

The decision to grant Moroccan-born Rabbi Amar Spanish citizenship came Friday, as part of a decision to grant citizenship to 200 Jews around the world. The move follows the granting of Spanish citizenship to an initial group of 4,300 Jews at the beginning of the year.

Rabbi Amar's office told Haaretz that the Spanish government conferred honorary citizenship on him in recognition of his work on behalf of the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, adding that he had not requested Spanish citizenship. Between 2003 and 2013, Rabbi Amar was the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel.

Amar was born in Casablanca in 1948 and moved to Israel in 1962. In 2002, he served as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, a year before becoming Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi.  He has been Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem since 2014.

His office stated that since immigrating to Israel, Rabbi Amar has only held Israeli citizenship and that the Spanish citizenship that he is being offered would require his consent.

Spain passed a law last fall permitting Jews of Sephardi heritage to apply for Spanish citizenship. Hundreds of Israelis are waiting for consideration of applications that they have filed for Spanish citizenship over the past year through regular channels. The procedure requires that they pass a test of their knowledge of Spanish and of general knowledge about Spain in addition to submitting proof of Spanish family lineage.