Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies Officers & Board Members
Current SCJS Officers
Rosa Marina Seigal SCJS President and Archivist
Born and raised in El Salvador from parents who are descendants of colonial Crypto –Jewish families of Western Honduras, Rosa Marina Siegel is a biologist who worked as a consultant for the Green-COM USAID Environmental Education and Communication Project. In 1995 she created texts for the Spanish Ecology children booklets “Colección Retonitos”, and published similar publications with Environmental NGO. She also worked in El Salvador as consultant for various projects including Environmental Impact Evaluations, Hazardous Waste Management, and Environmental Legislature. She implemented activities with schools, colleges, NGO and rural communities to address a range of environmental issues like Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism. In 1999, she worked with Pesticide Action Network to help create a database of Spanish educational materials for Californian farm workers, about the risk from pesticide poisonings, how to get medical health and workers’ rights. She has been a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education, Audubon Society of El Salvador and “Unidad Ecologica Salvadoreña”. Rosa attended NOVA Southeastern University for the Coastal Ecology Program, and currently works and lives in Florida with her husband. They have four daughters and one son. She is currently an avid researcher of converso Jewish ancestry in Central America, through family narratives, DNA, Colonial and Inquisition records, and is an SCJS member, past contributor to HaLapid and a past SCJS conference presenter. She is an active member of the Sephardic congregation of South Florida and a guest member of the Sephardic congregation of Honduras and El Salvador.
Cynthia Seton-Rogers Immediate Past SCJS President and Editor of La Granada
Cindy Seton-Rogers is a doctoral student at The University of Texas at Dallas, where she also received her BA and MA in historical studies. Her declared fields of research for her PhD are early modern European history, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust literature. The focus of her dissertation will be the Sephardic Diaspora in general and crypto-Jews in particular. She currently serves as the academic and outreach events manager for the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Wohl Isard Past Present
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Debbie Wohl Isard has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New College, Hofstra University, and a Master of Social Work from Hunter College, New York. A former social worker, program director, event planner, litigation paralegal, and business owner, she has served as a management consultant for funeral homes and an assistant elementary education teacher specializing in working with gifted/learning disabled students. She has also written articles about family health, pregnancy, ADHD, and education for a variety of other publications.
Maria’s family has been in New Mexico since arriving in 1598 with the Juan Onate expedition. She was born and raised in Albuquerque and raised a Catholic before finding out, at age 14, her family’s true heritage. She made her return to Judaism in 1999 and is active in many Jewish organizations. Her affiliations include: founding member and event coordinator, Centro Sefarad NM; vice president, Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico; and member, New Mexico Jewish Historical Society. She shares her personal story and the Sephardic saga as a speaker (since 2016) for the Road Scholars program.
Corinne Joy Brown Vice President of Communications and Editor of HaLapid
Corinne is the award-winning author of nine books and a freelance writer for several magazines. A member of the Colorado Authors’ League, she is past president of the Denver Woman’s Press Club, and a charter member of Women Writing the West. She was also board chair of the Mizel Museum of Judaica in Denver from 1990-2000. Corinne created Writing the West, an accredited literary conference, now a part of Colorado University Gunnison’s humanities program. She is a Fellow of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Website: corinnejoybrown.com
Beth Chernoff Recording Secretary/ Community Event Tracker
Beth is a relative newcomer to SCJS, having been motivated by the 2017 conference held at Mikveh Israel synagogue in Philadelphia. A decade earlier, Beth served in the Education Dept. at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which shared space with Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel, and served as its repository. There, she wrote curriculum materials, and educated visitors about the role of Sephardim and Crypto-Jews in American life. Beth has also served as a librarian in New Jersey state government, and in academic and corporate settings.
From Denver, Colorado, Donna’s Jewish ancestors came up the Santa Fe trail in the 1800’s and settled in Trinidad before moving to Denver. Rabbis confirmed her parents’ belief that they were descended from those who fled the Spanish Inquisition, prompting a lifetime of heritage research. With a B.A. in Music Education from Metro University/Denver plus graduate work at Denver University, the University of Colorado, and Mozarteum University of Salzburg, Austria , Donna has served as both District and State representative for the Colorado Music Educators Association. She has played in theatre and festival orchestras and is a board member of the Colorado Hebrew Chorale, on the planning committee of Temple Aaron in Trinidad, Colorado, and a supporter of Hadassah, the Israeli American Council, and the Jewish National Conference.
Schelly Talalay Dardashti Member-at-Large and Social Media Coordinator
A journalist, editor, and in-demand conference speaker, Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com. For 35 years, she has tracked her Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi families around the world She founded Tracing the Tribe – Jewish Genealogy on Facebook; currently, TTT has some 40,000 members in 101 countries. She speaks at most major international and US genealogy conferences annually and was the former Jerusalem Post genealogy columnist (print/online). She is a New Mexican by choice and a native New Yorker.
Art Benveniste Member-at-Large and Society Historian
Art has been an SCJS member since 1993, traveling with society members to Belmonte, Portugal when the SCJS conference was held there in 1994. He has served as president, HaLapid editor, membership chair, website administrator and treasurer. He is a retired teacher of history, government and economics. His interest in crypto-Judaism has led him to travel to Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the American Southwest. He is active as a speaker on crypto-Jews and Sephardic history and culture in California.h
Natalie Trujillo Gonzalez Acting Treasurer & Co-Vice President of Membership: East Coast
Natalie Trujillo Gonzalez, born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, studied at the University of New Mexico and The National Institute of Flamenco. She now lives in Maryland with her husband Rudy Gonzalez. A mother of five children and grandmother of four, she works at The Art of Natalie Trujillo studio as a fine artist and is passionate about art, history and flamenco. Her family has a long and meaningful history in New Mexico with crypto-Jewish roots.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro
The President of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society, Rabbi Shapiro studied Engineering at Cornell University and New Jersey Institute of Technology; Jewish Studies and Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Ohio State University. He was a Graduate Research Assistant at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has also been a Yad Vashem Scholar at Israel’s Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. He was an instructor of Jewish History at the University of Central Florida. He and his wife Robyn live in Palm Coast, Florida and have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Dr. Kirschen is a sociolinguist specializing in the Spanish language. He has published on Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) and the use of Spanish in the United States.
Genie Milgrom of Florida has traced her Sephardic lineage to pre-Inquisition Jews, as well as authored several award-winning books including “My 15 Grandmothers”, the story of the search for her roots in Spain and Portugal. She is a sought-after speaker and researcher on the topic and has received many important accolades for her work around the world. Website: geniemilgrom.info
Seth Ward, Ph.D. Member-at-Large
A senior professor and lecturer in Islam and Judaism, Dr. Ward teaches at the department of religious studies at the University of Wyoming. He has done extensive studies of crypto-Jews, has presented papers at SCJS conferences, and contributed to HaLapid.
Matthew Warshawsky, Ph.D.
Advisory Board Member
Dr. Warshawsky joined the University of Portland faculty in 2002, teaching all levels of Spanish language, composition, conversation, and culture. His upper-division classes focus on the literature and culture of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras in Spain, as well as on Jewish Latin America. His focus on relations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian world includes, among other works, “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. He has taught in UP’s study abroad programs in Spain and Latin America, and since 2015 has served as chair of the Department of International Languages and Cultures.His research and publications address the hidden and emergent Jewish identity of New Christian converts and their descendants in the history, literature, and culture of Spain, Portugal, and the Sephardic diaspora. He is the author of “The Perils of Living the Good and True Law: Iberian Crypto-Jews in the Shadow of the Inquisition of Colonial Hispanic America”(Juan de la Cuesta-Hispanic Monographs, 2016) and co-edited, with James A. Parr, “Don Quixote: Interdisciplinary Connections.” (Juan de la Cuesta-Hispanic Monographs, 2013).
Dr .Warshawsky holds a Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, Master of Arts, Ohio State University, and Bachelor of Arts, Swarthmore College
With all due respect and regrets we acknowledge the retirement Claudia Hagadus Long as SCJS Board Member.
Claudia Hagadus Long (Former) Member-at-Large
Claudia Hagadus Long grew up in Mexico. Her mother was Sephardic on her maternal side, part of a small group of Sephardim in Poland. After World War II, her mother immigrated to America, and with her husband, moved to Mexico to raise their family. Scarred by the Holocaust, Claudia’s mother preferred that her children keep their origins secret, so Claudia grew up going to Catholic church with her Mexican friends, knowing Catholicism was a facade. Moving to the US and attending Harvard, she was attracted to the literature of Spain and Mexico, and the horrors and consequences of the Inquisition. She is the author of a number of outstanding fiction books on Colonial/Inquisition Mexico, and more.
Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
Fostering research, networking of people and ideas, and the exchange of information involving crypto-Jews of Iberian origins and other hidden Jewish communities around the world.
Mailing Address: 333 Washington Blvd. #336 Marina del Rey, CA 90292