You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.
by Jennifer Arin
The current Spanish government has called the exile of its Jews, from 1492 onward, a “historic mistake,” and has invited the descendants of expulsed Jews to apply for citizenship. Numerous articles like the one below have ensued:
The Associated Press, Oct. 2, 2015
MADRID — Spain on Friday granted citizenship to 4,302 people whose Jewish ancestors fled after being told in 1492 to convert to Catholicism or go into exile ahead of the Spanish Inquisition that saw many Jews burned at the stake … applicants must be tested in basic Spanish and pass a current events and culture test about Spain. They also must establish a modern-day link to Spain, which can be as simple as donating to a Spanish charity or as expensive as buying property.
For readers who may be interested in a return to the Iberian homeland, here is the official sample citizenship test -– I was able to obtain a copy -– to help you on your journey. -J.A.
Practice Citizenship Test for Sephardic Jew Applicants
To Our Sephardic Friends:
Welcome back! Sorry for the misunderstanding and the 500-year delay. We’re glad you’ve decided to apply for Spanish citizenship. All that expulsion and extinction stuff -– no hard feelings, right? Good! We were a bit tough on your Old Testament, so we’ll go easy on your new test. We want you to feel at home in Spain now.
The practice exam below is in three parts: a Trinity (so to speak). Let’s begin.
- The Spanish first-person singular pronoun is:
- No first-person pronoun: Your mother should always come first.
- The sentence below which best expresses the idea “I am a mother” is:
- Yo mama.
- Yo, mamacita!
- Yo soy La Madonna.
- Yo soy madre.
By the way, when’s the last time you called your mother?
- Translate the sentences below into Spanish (you all speak Spanish and Yiddish, right?)
- Oy, this heat!
- You want I should drop already?
- Waiter, I want to exchange this dish.
- This whitefish you call better?
- A saeta is:
- A siesta taken in a painfully straight-backed chair.
- Paella blessed by a rabbi anointed with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Supposed to be pronounced peseta –- ever since the switch to euros, no one gets the name of our former currency right.
- A song form that originated during the Middle Ages, and that people still sing during Holy Week processions, to publicly lament Christ’s death. Some lyrics refer to Jews as dogs, pigs, and thieves –- but it’s just once a year, so no worries.
CURRENT EVENTS AND CULTURE
- Spain today has how many Jews?
- About 12 thousand.
- Who’s counting?
- A lot fewer than in 1491.
- A guy named Moisés.
- What holiday is celebrated in Spain on January 6?
- The King of Spain’s birthday.
- The ratification of the Spanish Constitution.
- The Epiphany.
- The Epiphany, unless this time you’re not planning to convert (we’re just saying…).
- Which of the following is true about synagogues in Spain?
- They all had to be smaller than the smallest cathedral.
- They didn’t fare too well in 1492.
- They didn’t fare too well before or after 1492.
- All of the above (the whole shmeer).
- During the Procesión del Corpus Cristi and other festivals commemorating the life of Christ, you’re likely to hear all the following phrases EXCEPT:
- Son of God.
- The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
- Have faith, my son.
- My son, the doctor.
ESTABLISHING A MODERN-DAY LINK TO SPAIN
- You’re inclined to spend money on all the following EXCEPT:
- tickets to see tennis star Rafael Nadal and soccer team Real Madrid.
- tickets to top-tier flamenco shows.
- beachfront property on the Costa del Sol.
- shares of a start-up in Marrakesh.
- If you plan to contribute to a charity rather than buy property (hint: not our first choice), please indicate which charities you might choose:
- Legionarios de Cristo __
- Fundación Santiago de la Compostela __
- Fundación Iglesia Católica __
- Fundación Julio Iglesias __
- Renovación de las Sinagogas __
Any remnants of those synagogues we razed centuries ago are tourist attractions now, so we’re renovating them. Pretty funny in retrospect! Ha ha!
- We’re changing the nearly 500-year-old name of one of our towns, Matajudíos (“Kill Jews”) to La Mota de Judíos (“Hill of Jews”). Can we count on your contribution for the new signs?
- Should I argue?
- Looking forward to settling there!
- Let me get my checkbook.
- Do you take cash?
Please note: Some people have been saying that we want you all back because we need money and new business investment. Ignore their kvetching. We look forward to your becoming Spanish citizens. If you don’t pass the citizenship test the first time, take it as often as you wish. You’ve been waiting since the Inquisition -– what’s a few more weeks?
Jennifer Arin is the author of the poetry book Ways We Hold (Dos Madres Press), as well as two earlier verse chapbooks, and is at work on a book of creative nonfiction based on her sojourns in Europe. Her poems and essays have been published in the U.S. and Europe, including in The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle, Gastronomica, ZYZZYVA, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among many others. She also has done poetry segments for the television programs Henry’s Garden and KRON 4 Weekend Morning News (KRON-TV, San Francisco), and did the French-to-English translations of documents about Hergé (the Belgian artist who created the comic-strip character Tintin) for the official web site that accompanied the release of the Hollywood film The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Arin’s awards include grants from the NEH, Poets & Writers, PEN, and the Spanish Ministry of Culture for collaborative editing of, and research for, a book about Spain’s Civil War, and she received, from San Francisco State University, a 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. More information can be found on her website.