SCJS Officers and Board Members


President pro tem and Editor of La Granada
Debbie Wohl Isard
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Debbie Wohl Isard earned her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New College, Hofstra University, and a Master of Social Work from Hunter College, New York. In addition to working as a 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. Debbie has contributed articles to HaLapid and serves as editor of the SCJS electronic news connection, La Granada. She has also written articles about family health, pregnancy, ADHD, and education for a variety of other publications. A student of Jewish pioneers of the Southwest, and the history of Christopher Columbus, Debbie has been connected to SCJS since 2008. Raised with Ashkenazic traditions, Debbie now seeks Sephardic connections through genealogical research and international outreach. She is the mother of two adult children and resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

Immediate Past President
Leonard Stein is a Connaught International Doctoral Scholar at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Comparative Literature and Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. His research focuses on crypto-Jewish identity in literature by and about crypto-Jews from the early modern period to today.

First Vice President – Open

Claudia Hagus Long
Claudia  is the descendant of the Jewish diaspora and through a very circuitous route grew up in Mexico. Her mother was Sephardic on her maternal side, as part of a small group of Sephardim in Poland. The Portuguese and Spanish Jews were welcomed in the late 1400s by the Polish king, who allowed fleeing Jews to own land if they converted to Christianity, and were permitted to stay as artisans if they did not. After World War II, her mother immigrated to America, and with her husband, moved to Mexico where they raised their three children. 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, always knowing that Catholicism was only on the outside. When Claudia moved to the US, she attended Harvard, and was unerringly attracted to the literature of Spain and Mexico, and the horrors and consequences of the Inquisition. As an adult, she embraced her Judaism, becoming bat mitzvah at age 53. Her first book, "Josefina's Sin," only touched on the secret Jews in Mexico in the late 1600s, but her second book, "The Duel for Consuelo," dove deep into the mysteries of living a secret life under penalty of death. When she encountered the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, she felt as if she'd come home.

Vice President of Communications and Editor of HaLapid
Corinne Joy Brown
Corinne is the author of six 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 Western State College’s humanities program. She is a Fellow of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Co-Vice President of Membership: East Coast
Natalie Trujillo Gonzalez
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.

“In 2009, I worked for the SBA/ELCDC 504 program as an executive assistant and for seven years my main job was to work with the director and 15 board members to set up this non-profit’s annual meeting/conference. I’ve always loved doing this kind of work and I’m honored to serve SCJS in any way!

Co-Vice President of Membership West Coast
Maria Apodaca
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. A member of Congregation Nahalat Shalom, she served on the va’ad (board) for three years. Her activities include: event coordinator for Festival Djudeo-Espanyol; board member of SCJS; steering committee member of Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico; member of New Mexico Jewish Historical Society; and steering committee member of New Mexico Federation’s Spanish Citizenship Committee. She shares her personal story and the Sephardic saga as a member of Road Scholar Pro and Over The Road Tours which she joined in 2016.

Treasurer: Position Available

Member-at-Large and Social Media Coordinator
Schelly Talalay Dardashti 
A genealogist, journalist, international speaker and instructor, Schelly has traced her Sephardic, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi family across Spain, Iran and Eastern Europe for more than 25 years. She is the U.S. genealogy advisor for and president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico. A pioneer award-winning Jewish genealogy blogger since 2006, she also runs “Tracing the Tribe – Jewish Genealogy on Facebook,”  with nearly 11,000 members, and is administrator/co-administrator of several DNA projects at, including the Iberian Ashkenazi DNA Project. The former genealogy columnist for the Jerusalem Post (1999-2006), she has been published in many news outlets, such as JTA, The Forward, Family Tree Magazine and more.

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, Florida
The President of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society, Rabbi Shapiro studied Electrical Engineering at Cornell University and New Jersey Institute of Technology; then Jewish Studies and Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Ohio State University.  He served as a Graduate Research Assistant at Melton Research Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He 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 and a frequent Road Scholar and currently an OLLI  Educator at the University of North Florida. Shapiro served congregations in Columbus, Ohio, Orlando, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. He  is the immediate Past National President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  He and his wife Robyn live in Palm Coast, Florida and have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Parliamentarian and Counsel
Harry Ezratty
An attorney, historian, writer, lecturer and Sephardic Jew who, for more than 30 years, has researched the history of the Sephardim in the Caribbean. He is the author of 500 Years in the Jewish Caribbean: The Spanish & Portuguese Jews in The West Indies; Jews of the New World; and They Led the Way: the Creators of Jewish America. He is currently preparing Vol.III, The Builders: Jews Who Shaped Modern America.

Member-at-Large and Editor in Chief of the 
Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto-Jews
Abraham (Abe) Lavender, Ph.D.
Abe received his doctorate in 1972 from the University of Maryland with a dissertation on generational changes in Jewish identity. He is professor of sociology at Florida International University in Miami. One area of his specialization is world Jewish communities, with an emphasis on Sephardim. He has been an active member of the Society since 1996 and was president from 2003 to 2007. He is the author/editor of seven academic books, several articles in HaLapid, some 50 other academic articles, and over 80 encyclopedia articles or academic book reviews, many on Judaica. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto-Jews.

Seth Ward, Ph.D.
An associate academic professor and lecturer in Islam and Judaism, Seth 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.

Member-at-Large and Society Historian
Art Benveniste
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.

Grants Administrator and Arts Chair

Corinne Brown

see above

Advisor to the Board
Seth Kunin, Ph.D.
Professor Seth Kunin studied at Columbia and Cambridge Universities. He worked in universities in the U.K. and Australia, and is currently deputy vice chancellor at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. His academic work ranges widely, applying anthropological theory and methodology to biblical and rabbinic texts, crypto-Judaism, and currently liminal religious traditions in Japan. Crypto-Judaism however, has been the primary focus of his academic work for much of the last two decades. He is author of many books and articles on crypto-Judaism. His book, Juggling Identities, is a comprehensive analysis of the ethnography of crypto-Judaism in New Mexico.

Senior Advisor to the Board
Stanley Hordes, Ph.D.
A founding member, Stan received his doctorate in Colonial Mexican History from Tulane University with his doctoral dissertation on the crypto-Jewish community of Mexico in the 17th century. He is the author of To the End of the Earth:  A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico.

Senior Advisor to the Board
Dolores (Dolly) Sloan
Author, The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the 15th and 16th Centuries Editor, Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews.

Advisory Council

Stanley Hordes, Ph.D.
Seth Kunin, Ph.D.
Abe Lavender, Ph.D.
Matthew Warshawsky, Ph.D.