The Genealogical Research Unit

The process of returning to Judaism is different for every individual, with each case presenting its own challenges. The Genealogical Research Unit of the ISAS can help you navigate the vast territory of genealogical resources necessary to investigate your family history.

The presence of a surname in database of known Sefardi surnames does not prove Jewish ancestry (nor does its absence rule out the possibility of Jewish ancestry). In order to ascertain a link to Sefardi ancestors, a thorough genealogical study must be conducted. Once your genealogy has been charted, you must find documentation showing that your ancestors were connected to a Jewish community, demonstrated Jewish customs, or were persecuted by the Iberian Inquisitions.

Our research team will access the ISAS’s world-renowned library of books and documents, as well as online databases, libraries, archives, and church and civil repositories to evaluate your current genealogy and create a plan of action based on your goals.

We request a nominal fee to create a basic genealogical report that surveys all of the resources at our disposal. To request an application for the report, please click on the orange box below.

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Personal Stories

People from all over the world have reached out to the Institute for Sefardi and Anousim Studies to learn more about their history. Although we hear many different stories, they all tell the same tale of searching and renewal. We include here a few of these accounts. (If you have a personal story that you would like to share, contact us. Anonymity will be preserved if requested.)

Giyyur (Conversion to Judaism)

Those wishing to return to the Jewish faith but are unable to provide documented proof of a Jewish connection in their family must undergo conversion. This process can be complicated, and much depends on your ultimate goals. A halachic conversion (according to Jewish law as determined by the Orthodox stream) is intensive and can take over a year to complete. (Other streams of Judaism offer conversion, but may not be universally accepted.)

The following website has helpful information about conversion:

Certificates of “Return” to Judaism

In order to receive a certificate of “return” to Judaism, you must be able to trace your maternal lineage back to an acknowledged Jew in an unbroken chain of Converso antecedents, with documents to support each ancestor. While possible, this is extremely difficult to do. You can read about Genie Milgrom’s successful search in her book, How I Found My 15 Grandmothers.

How I Found my 15 Grandmothers

Aliyah (Immigration to Israel)

If you have decided to make Israel your home, you will need to apply to the Jewish Agency, which handles all requests to make Aliyah from outside of the State of Israel. According to the Law of Return, any person who has a Jewish parent or grandparent, or has converted, has the right to become a citizen of Israel.  The process is long and requires a lot of documentation. Please see the link below for more information on how to apply.

Spanish or Portuguese Citizenship

The governments of Spain and of Portugal both have passed laws granting citizenship to people of Sephardic background who can prove a link to Jewish ancestors who were exiled from there.

To learn about the eligibility requirements for Spanish citizenship, see the website of the Spanish consulate in Israel. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain includes much practical information about the process.

To learn about the eligibility requirements for Portuguese citizenship, contact the Comunidade israelita de Lisboa.

For more information, please contact:

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