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Stone Lecture: Convert, Leave, or Die: Can the Jews of Spain Go Home Again?

Dr. Suzanne Walker-Pacheco

Biological anthropologist Dr. Suzanne Walker-Pacheco will deliver this year's Stone Lecture in Judaism on the history of Sephardic Judaism and her quest to become a Spanish citizen.

The lecture begins at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 in Centennial Hall on campus. The lecture is entitled "Convert, Leave, or Die: Can the Jews of Spain Go Home Again?"

The Alhambra Decree of 1492 ordered all Jews to leave Spain and not return under penalty of death. The modern Spanish government pursued a policy of reconciliation with the descendants of its expelled Jews. From 2015-2019, descendants could apply for citizenship without renouncing their current citizenship and without residency in Spain.

Dr. Walker-Pacheco teaches about biological determinism and its effects on marginalized peoples, past and present. In 2018, she and her son, Julian, a 2021 Augustana graduate, embarked on a personal as well as an academic journey, traveling to Spain to apply for dual citizenship. They are still awaiting the result of their applications.

"This assumed one could prove Sephardic ancestry and manage the expensive, arduous, and bureaucratic process that included a 1-3 year wait after signing the 'Acta' with a notary in Spain," Dr. Walker-Pacheco said.

"Thousands applied, and most were accepted, until 2021. While thousands await the results, their efforts may have been for nothing as the door quietly closes again."

Dr. Walker-Pacheco is a professor at Missouri State University in Springfield. She spent years studying primates in their natural habitat, primarily in the neotropics, but has more recently focused on medical anthropology and Latino health issues. She also assists law enforcement officials with the identification of skeletal remains.

The Stone Lectureship in Judaism was established in 1983 by family and friends of Dr. and Mrs. Alex B. Stone. The purpose of the endowment is to provide a yearly lecture and an expanded program in Judaic studies at Augustana College.


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