HaLapid-Spring Summer 2019





VOL. XLV / XLVI • SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 • ISSUES 25 & 26






SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780


New SCJS board members

and advisor

Page 3

Review: St. Augustine Conference

By Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

Page 30

Southwestern Conversos

By Mark Bennett

Page 4

Inspiring fused-glass art

Page 32

Alleles have no religion

By Seth Ward, PhD

Page 6

Poetry from Canada

By Shula Robin

Page 33

South Central Colorado

By Corinne Brown

Page 11

HIDDEN - The Jews of Spain

By Graciela Serrano Fenn

Page 34

Temple Aaron

Trinidad, Colorado

By Corinne Brown

Page 12

Native son has deep roots

By Diane Mock

Page 16

A lost book finds it way home

By Corinne Brown

Page 28

Welcome to


Children of the Inquisition debut

Page 35

Four Book Reviews

• On the Chocolate Trail

• By Light of Hidden Candles

• Me’ah Berachot - Life as a Spanish

& Portuguese Jew in 17th-Century


• The Weight of Ink

Page 36

The Fifth Seder

The Fifth Passover

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello

Page 39

Page 34

June 30-

July 2


Page 18

Register at www.cryptojews.com

Other upcoming conferences listed on Page 31

In Each Issue

President’s Letter.... Page 1

Editor’s Letter.......... Page 2

About the Cover....... Page 2

Among Ourselves..... Page 43

Carrying the Torch –

Our members

in the community

Page 41

New Members........ Page 44

Get Back Issues ...... Page 44

How to Join SCJS..... Page 45

Advertisers.............. Pages 5, 10


Fostering research of

the worldwide history

of the crypto-Judaic

experience and

the emergence of

hidden descendants from

the Iberian Peninsula.

HaLapid is the biannual publication of

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies,

a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.



Corinne Joy Brown • corinnejb@aol.com

Copy Editor

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

Poetry Editor

M. Miriam Herrera

Contributing Writers

Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Mark Bennett,

Corinne Joy Brown, Schelly Talalay Dardashti,

Graciela Serrano Fenn, Gail Gutierrez,

M.Miriam Herrera, Linda Katchen, Claudia Long,

Diane Mock, Shula Robin, Rabbi Merrill Shapiro,

Seth Ward, Debbie Wohl-Isard,

Contributing Photographers

Corinne Joy Brown, Chas. McNamara, Neal Paul

Graphic Designer

Jacqueline Hirsch • jrh@hirmon.com

HirMon & Associates, Inc. • Lakewood, Colorado


Update Printing • www.updateprinting.com

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Editorial Policy of HaLapid

Contributions from writers all over the world

are edited for grammar, spelling, typographical

errors, and length. Content embedded in family

memories may or may not be historically accurate;

we reserve the right to edit material and correct

obvious misstatements or historical errors. Opinions

expressed are not necessarily those of SCJS or

HaLapid. Articles from HaLapid may not be reprinted

without permission.

HaLapid is usually mailed in the Spring and Fall of

each year. Please send submissions to the editor-inchief

by March 1 and September 1.

With thanks to the generous support of the

Robin and Bennett

Greenspan Fund

at the

Houston Jewish

Community Foundation

Debbie Wohl-Isard

SCJS President

This time of year always fills me with anticipation.

With our annual meeting and conference around

the corner, I look forward to reconnecting with old

friends and the family reunion-like atmosphere of the

gathering. From the first minutes of each conference, the

family expands to embrace new friends whom we hope

we’ll see again at future conferences. The presentations

are so much more than panels and discussions — they

are a learning opportunity shared among researchers and

searchers, and those of us who feel ourselves pulled to the

crypto-Judaic mysteries that have survived for centuries.

This occasion allows me to talk about an ongoing dilemma that seems to challenge

our organization — the teetering balance between the academic who researches

the subject in which we all share an interest, and the individuals who live it, the

descendants themselves.

How can we hold in our hands the value of each? Clearly, if it were not for the

commitment of scholars to research the history, we would never know just how this

culture was persecuted and how it survived. Without the riveting stories of individuals

who have discovered their roots, reexamined their family’s customs and traced their

past through history, we would never feel the passion and pride they feel, having

learned what they now know. We could never understand the meaning of all this

research and what it feels like to stand in their shoes. Every newly-shared personal

story leads to further research and examination of history. And the circle continues.

In short, we cannot exist without them both, without all of us. Nowhere is this

confluence more stunning and more meaningful than at our annual conference.

Celebrate this diversity, essential and inherent in the study of the crypto-Judaic

phenomena. What happens at conference, doesn’t stay at conference! Every

connection grows another link in the crypto-Judaic narrative.

I hope to see you there.

Debbie Wohl-Isard


In case we run out of ways to describe SCJS, try this!

prosopography (pros-uh-PAH-gruh-fee)

MEANING: Noun: A study of people in a group, identifying patterns, connections, etc.:

a collective biography.

ETYMOLOGY: From German Prosopographie, from Latin prosopographia, from Greek

prosopon (face, mask), from pros- (facing) + ops (eye) + -graphy (writing). Earliest

documented use: 1577.

USAGE: “William Lubenow’s book examines the society’s first century via a

prosopography of its 255 members.”

Christopher Kent; Review; Canadian Journal of History (Toronto); Apr 2000.

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, an international academic and secular association, fosters research,

networking of people and ideas, and the dissemination of information regarding the historical and contemporary

developments involving crypto-Jews of Iberian origins and other hidden Jewish communities around the world.

Membership dues fund the programs and publications of this non-profit organization 501(c)(3), open to any

and all individuals interested in learning more about this cultural phenomenon.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 1


Finding focus through

random connections

Corinne J. Brown

Editor in Chief

This is surely a first. I write

to you in this issue wearing

two hats — editor and

conference chair. It’s like having

two bosses, both after two worthy

goals: to make sure I bring you

all the news that’s fit to print,

and inspire you to come to our


Without even trying, this issue of

HaLapid found its own focus — southern Colorado emerged

apparent and strong. In fact, I was intrigued as article after

article pointed to the San Luis Valley of Colorado and

northern New Mexico. I decided to run with it; fascinated

by the various submissions about the region’s history,

significance, landmarks, citizens, and its importance in

the world of crypto-Judaic research. All that, and one more

— the story of a lost book, lost no more. Coincidence or

accident, this account gives me the feeling that providence

guides our hand. Random connections aren’t random at

all. I’ll let you decide. See page 28.

This issue also brings you a reprint from HaLapid 2006.

Thanks to Seth Ward, PhD, it’s a powerful essay worth

reading on alleles, the essence of genetic research. I hope

you’ll delight in SCJS president Debbie Wohl-Isard’s

fanciful glass art and Rabbi Barbara’s thoughtful story

about Seder Hamishi, the Fifth Seder — not to be missed. As

usual, book reviews will not disappoint; discover the link

between hidden Jews and chocolate, then marvel at the

book of prayers for Spanish Jews, printed in Holland in

1642! Finally, meet our newest board members and

advisory committee member. Extend a hearty welcome.

Of course, read all about our upcoming conference starting

on page 18. While in Denver, plan a visit to the Museo de

Las Americas and the Mizel Museum as well — both great

resources. Be inspired, get excited, register — and join

us in Denver!

See you soon!

Corinne Brown



the cover

Donna Medina of Denver, a converso

descendant, is a new member of SCJS and

part of the far-reaching community that

believes in a future for Temple Aaron,

Colorado’s oldest synagogue in continuous

use, located in Trinidad.

In her own words...

My family traveled the

Santa Fe Trail when

Colorado was still under

Colonial Hispania. Spain

had left so many of us

to hide under Spanish

names, but we did find

Donna Medina

family gatherings and

migration to protect

our common religion, Judaism. My family

spent many years in the town of Trinidad,

Colorado where they worked on farms and

protected their sacred rituals within our

community. Although there was a small

pocket of Jewish residents, Temple Aaron

represents the visual evidence of their


To me, helping Temple Aaron be restored is

creating a touchstone for the generations

to come and to know our people left

something for us to remember — their

community. It is an expression of their bold

dedication to Judaism that at times, came

with the price of death.

It is a monument of free worship in


Respectfully submitted,

Donna Medina

Front cover image:

Temple Aaron,

Trinidad, Colorado

Photo by

Chas. McNamara


2 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780


Welcome new board members and advisor!

Cynthia Seton-Rogers

Cynthia Seton-Rogers

Cynthia Seton-Rogers, our new

board member, is currently a PhD

student at the University of Texas

at Dallas, where she also received her

BA and MA. Her academic focus shifted

during her master’s degree from Latin

American to Jewish studies when she

began working as a graduate research

assistant for the Ackerman Center for

Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas.

Sephardic studies seemed like the

perfect melding of her interests in Latin

American, European, and Jewish

history. Her PhD concentration, The

History of Ideas, is an interdisciplinary

program in the humanities that

interweaves history, literature and

philosophy. Her declared fields of

research are early modern European

history, anti-Semitism, and the

representation of the Holocaust in

literature, but the focus of her

dissertation is on the Sephardic

Diaspora. She is currently researching

the role that Sephardic Jewry played

during the Age of Exploration in both

the New and Old Worlds. Mrs. Seton-

Rogers now serves as the academic and

outreach events manager for the

Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies.


Rosa Marina Siegel

Rosa Marina Siegel

Board member Rosa Marina Siegel

was born and raised in El Salvador

by parents who are descendants of

the colonial crypto-Jewish families of

western Honduras. She is a biologist and

worked as a consultant for the Green-

COM USAID Environmental Education

and Communication Project. She created

the text for the Spanish ecology children

booklets “Colecci Reto,” and similar

publications with environmental NGOs.

She worked in El Salvador as consultant

for environmental impact evaluations,

hazardous waste management, and

environmental legislature. Rosa

implemented activities with schools,

colleges, NGO and rural communities to

address environmental issues like

biodiversity conservation and

ecotourism. She worked with Pesticide

Action Network helping create the

database for California farm workers to

educate them about the risk from

pesticide poisonings, how to get

medical help, and their rights. She is a

past member of the North American

Association for Environmental

Education, Audubon Society of El

Salvador, and Unidad Ecologica Salvadore.

She attended NOVA Southeastern

University for the coastal ecology

SCJS members are invited to nominate themselves (or someone else) so that the board of

directors may consider them prior to the conference in June. We seek additional Members-At-

Large so that we may grow our board from which titled executive positions may emerge after a

term or more of participation. Contact editor.lagranada@gmail.com

Bryan Kirschen

Bryan Kirschen, PhD


new member to the SCJS

Advisory Council, Dr. Bryan

Kirschen is professor of Hispanic

linguistics at the State University of

New York at Binghamton (Binghamton

University). His research focuses on

sociolinguistics and Judeo-Spanish,

particularly in the United States.

Bryan is director of the International

Delegation of Shadarim to Israel’s

National Authority of Ladino. He

received his PhD from UCLA, where

he was the Skirball Fellow in Modern

Jewish Culture and co-founded and

directed ucLADINO, which holds

weekly language workshops and

yearly symposia featuring renowned

scholars. In 2017, he was named as one

of The New York Jewish Week’s

“36 Under 36.”

program, and now works and lives in

Florida with her husband, four

daughters and a son. Now an avid

researcher of converso Jewish ancestry

in Central America through family

narratives, DNA, colonial and

Inquisition records. She is an SCJS

member, a past contributor to HaLapid

and spoke at the SCJS conference in

Philadelphia. She is an active member

of the Sephardic congregation of

South Florida and a guest member

of the Sephardic congregation of

El Salvador.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 3

Southwestern Conversos


The Spanish (Sephardic) Jews who were forced

during Inquisition times to convert to Catholicism

fled to the New World. These conversos founded

economies and communities with a quarter of Mexico City’s

Spaniards being Jewish in 1545. But the conversos were soon

overwhelmed by ever-increasing immigration from Spain

that brought the Inquisition. They fled north in 1579

and founded Nueva Leon which some believe also means

“New Lion of Judah.” Their leader, Luis de Carvajal, died in

1591 while in prison partly for the crime of Judaizing. But

Juan de Oñate, also of converso descent, pushed into New

Mexico, where Santa Fe was founded in 1607. It developed

into a trade hub with goods from Liverpool to Mexico City,

sometimes traveling through Santa Fe. Special mules were

bred to carry specific packs and unique pack adjustment

tools were designed. They rivaled the camel caravans of the

Old World and were later adopted by the US Army.

The city of Albuquerque, although surrounded by prior

settlements, was founded in 1706 by a relative of a

Turkish converso who named the city in honor of

him. Its first governor (mayor), Fernando Lopez

de Mendizabal, was convicted of Judaizing and

died following torture in an Inquisition prison.

Many converso communities built their homes widely spaced

in contrast to Spanish tradition. But with these settlements

so distant from major markets, long cattle drives were

required. Converso Sebastian de Mendoza is the first recorded

vaquero (cattle driver) to appear in official records. One could

assert that America’s first cowboy was a Spanish Jew.

Mark Bennett

Mark L. Bennett, MCRP, is a retired city

planner and college social sciences

instructor. He is now consumed with

Jewish history, American history and their


His article, “Limited New Mexico Area

Literature Survey,” appeared in a recent

issue of Halapid. He also writes a blog

primarily on local politics and the history

behind those issues in Amador County,

California, an area surrounded by the

cemeteries of the Gold Rush Jews.

Awareness of a Jewish heritage faded over time with great

variance of acknowledgment among families, but many

Jewish traditions remained, often as customs of unknown

origin. The dead in Colorado’s San Luis Valley for example,

are buried immediately. Floors are swept toward the middle

of the room to avoid the long-absent Jewish mezuzah

marking the entry doorpost. The common sweet pastry

in many southwestern Mexican restaurants is sopapillas,

descended from the Spanish-Jewish

Chanukah treat buñuelo.

Many settlers observed a syncretic

Judeo-Catholicism. Queen Esther from

the Jewish festival of Purim became

“Santa Esther,” reflecting the parallel

plights of conversos and ancient

Persian Jews. Following the American

annexation, some descendants became

biblical Christians such as Seventh

Day Adventists, and in contemporary

times, a few have returned to Judaism.

Many doubts have been removed by

modern DNA analysis with the seminal

publication of “The Secret of San Luis

4 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

Valley,” by Jeff Wheelwright, published in Smithsonian

magazine, October 2008. Today it’s considered that

15-20% (with some estimates much higher) of all Latin

Americans are of Spanish Jewish descent. Many of

converso heritage as disparate as Rita Moreno and Fidel

Castro have shared their ancestry.

While this awareness of genealogy is a personal matter

for most, it can become understandably problematic for

Hispanic political figures. Considered by some as the

first Hispanic to gain prominence was Daniel T. Valdes,

appointed in the 1940s to the Foreign Service, and to

help solve railway labor disputes. I was his student,

research assistant, and friend. He was an acknowledged

Catholic, but based on what he said both publicly and

privately, with frequent double entendres, he was very

aware of his Spanish-Jewish heritage. And also very

aware to never endanger his leadership position.

Voltaire said “History is the lie we all agree to believe.”

In 1590, Gaspar Castano de Sosa, another converso

from Nueva Leon in New Spain and a friend of Juan de

Oñate, fled following Carvajal’s arrest. He undertook

an unauthorized expedition across the Rio Grande, and

is probably who named that river, scouting for a future

New Mexico settlement. This resulted in his arrest and

the circumstances that led to his death in 1593 while in

exile. When I first read of de Sosa’s foray into Texas, it

was presented by New England Protestant historians as

“greedy Spanish Catholic conquistadors.” But in truth,

he and his party were


searching for freedom.

An old US Army map

actually labels their

ford location along

the Rio Grande as the

“Jews’ Crossing.”

• • •

Development & Support

Running a national organization requires support in many

ways as well as diverse expertise: technical, financial, and

professional. We welcome the efforts of Merrill Shapiro

who has generously offered to assist with development for SCJS,

seeking advertisers for HaLapid from coast-to-coast and

pursuing follow-up to our membership base.

We also welcome Willem Long, professional grant writer, who

will assist us in outreach, seeking available grants for

organizations like our own. It takes a village to maintain a

community, which is what we are.

Long range plans require everyone’s help.

Join us as a development partner.

Contact Merrill Shapiro • ygarsaduta@gmail.com

Author’s note -

A friend, politically

active in Sacramento,

had me write the above

essay for a Hispanic

state legislator who has

privately acknowledged

his Sephardic roots. My

friend had hoped that

this legislator would

distribute this to others

of similar background,

but that didn’t happen.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 5

Alleles *

have no religion

*Different versions

of the same gene

By seth ward, PhD

Population genetics can tell us a

lot about the overall heritage of

a given population. Many

excellent genetic studies of Jewish

populations have yielded data about

genetic diseases, frequency of various

genetic markers, correspondence with

Near Eastern populations despite long

periods of exile, Levites and Cohanim

having far more genetic coherence

than expected among each group—

but far less than would be expected in

terms of shared genetics.

When I wrote this article, the field

already had a number of books and

articles, and some very important

academic studies. The literature has

grown substantially since then, with

books by, for example, Jon Entine,

David Goldstein, and Harry Ostrer,

that summarize the results of Jewish

population genetics. We know

quite a good deal about the

genetic features that are

typical of Jews, and

can extrapolate all

sorts of things about

population movements, endogamy,

conversion and so forth.

There also are studies that stretch

population genetics far beyond the

limitations of the data, in my humble

opinion. A study I participated in

shortly before writing this article

showed a mutation related to

breast cancer that is typical of

Jewish populations found in the

San Luis Valley of Colorado. It

could indeed indicate a Sephardic

ancestor, or an Ashkenazi ancestor;

in an endogamous population, a

single “founder” can leave many

Author’s Note- February 2019—This article originally appeared in HaLapid,

Summer 2006. The explosion of genetic research and especially of broad-based,

commercial population testing, may have made this issue even more relevant

than it was at that time. Certainly, more and more people do genetic tests to, as

they often describe it, “find out who they really are,” or to “prove” their religious

and/or ethnic identity. Perhaps it is an anchor in a period in which many aspects

of our identity that people generally used to considered as unchanging, are considered

fluid in our times. This is certainly the case with gender identity today.

descendants. There’s no way that

the genetics could indicate that the

“founder” actually practiced Judaism

or identified as Jewish, or to rule out

an Ashkenazi source for the founder

effect. Nor, to my knowledge, did

the study show that the earliest

Spanish-speaking settlers in the

San Luis Valley had an extraordinary

percentage of descendants of Jews,

since a single


could have

had a wide

influence on a highly

endogamous society.

A few presentations at the Society for

Crypt-Judaic Studies conferences by

E. Hirschman and D. Panther-Yates

purported to use genetic markers to

indicate Jewish heritage in Scotland

and by extension, in areas of

Appalachia. Similarly, they assumed

that some persons of Spanish

heritage who had Jewish ancestry

made their way into this area,

presumably north from Florida or

west from the Atlantic seaboard.

Since the time this article appeared,

they’ve published their ideas in a

number of volumes. No real claim of

Jewish religion or identity was made,

just Jewish heritage, and the genetics

are not particularly convincing. The

statistics marshaled to support this

assertion were both impressive in

their amount, and in the degree to

which, at most, they did not support

the broad conclusions the authors of

the studies were making. At most,

they indicate that among the genetic

ancestors of this population, there

are genetic markers that Jews

also have, and along the way

they made a number of

claims that seem far

too broad, and




even easier

to dismiss.

With the

rapid growth

in the number

of markers


and the

number of

people whose


6 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

information is available, it is

increasingly likely that a test done

by a commercial genetic testing

organization may identify genetic

relatives of the client. It’s not clear

though that having a Jewish cousin

is any sort of proof that one’s own

parentage would be considered

unambiguously Jewish—plenty of

people who are Jews have non-Jewish

cousins today! One often hears that

genetic examination suggests a client

is not genetically related to the family

he or she thought she was part of—

which also may have ramifications

for Jewish identity. For some, Judaism

is largely a question of inherited

status; it seems to me that genetic

findings can easily paint a general

picture of Jewish population genetics,

and can cast doubt on Jewish status,

but usually cannot really establish

Jewish status in unclear situations.

We live in a rootless age (Steven

Weitzman uses this term in his

excellent book, “Origin of the Jews,”

which considers crypto-Judaism

and other phenomena along the

way to determine whether there

is a useful origin narrative for the

Jewish people). Genetics may appear

to offer a science-based rootedness

in our times. But ultimately, in

most of the cases in which genetics

purport to reveal Jewish identity, all

that they show is that an individual

shares genes with a group of

people, many of whom are Jews.

Traditionally, Jewish status is

conveyed either by birth or

conversion. But in our society,

surveys can talk of, for example,

“Jews of no religion.” There have

been massive advances in genetics

since this piece appeared, and

occasionally genetic analyses have

been used to establish Jewish

heritage, together with other

information. But the fact remains:

ultimately, alleles have no religion.

Occasionally they can tell us about

close relatives; usually they can

identify population groups that have a

high occurrence of the alleles.

They offer many a sense of roots —

but taken alone, they don’t

determine religion.

Below is the article as it was included in

HaLapid, with only very minor copyediting

and corrections of typographical

or printing errors. -Seth Ward

The science of genetics is

a recent one. It dates only

from 1900, when a paper by

Gregor Mendel was presented using

what we now call genetics to explain

heredity. Watson and Crick’s

discovery of DNA is only half-acentury

old, and advances in science

in only the past two decades have

allowed for substantial application of

genetics to explaining the history of

human demography. This is a science

very much still in its infancy. Genetic

inheritance has the potential to tell us

much about the ancestry of groups of

individuals, including how closely

related a particular population is,

possibly to track movements between

populations and so forth.

Complex issues of scientific

discipline, treatment of human

subjects, and medical and counseling

applications are raised by genetic

research having to do with inherited

traits, particularly when genetic

inheritance causes disease or

disability or leads to a heightened

susceptibility. These have been

much discussed by scientists, and

professional protocols govern how

they can proceed. So too, forensic

DNA analysis is now available to

identify perpetrators, rule out

suspects, free those improperly

convicted, and determine the identity

of corpses and skeletal remains where

there were no fingerprints available;

and professional standards must

necessarily ensure that such evidence

stands up to the demands of our

system of justice.

Seth Ward, PhD

Dr. Seth Ward is an associate

lecturer in religious

studies at the University

of Wyoming where he has been

teaching Islam and Middle East

studies since January 2003.

Previously, Ward directed the

University of Denver’s Institute for

Islamic-Judaic Studies for 10 years;

he came to Denver after teaching

in Israel at the University of Haifa

and the Technion. Ward also

taught at Colorado College and the

University of Colorado-Boulder

and -Denver. His academic

interests include the Jews of

Muslim lands, Jewish-Muslim

relations, crypto-Jews, Mormon-

Jewish relations, and Islamic

sacred and legal texts about

Jews and Israel. He is co-editor

of Covenant and Chosenness in

Judaism and Mormonism and is

widely published in many scholarly

journals. sward@uwyo.edu

Much less has been done on the

ethical and scientific issues raised

by the demographic analyses which

have only recently become possible.

Genetic research is already shedding

significant light on relevant issues

of historic demography, and it is an

important tool for those interested in

knowing whether various populations

or communities have a hereditary

link to the Jewish people. SCJS must

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 7

promote and disseminate it.

But we must also be part of the

discussion of the ethical and

interpretational boundaries of

this research.

Various genetic surveys indicate a

highly coherent Jewish genepool,

especially among Ashkenazi

Jews, and suggest the degree

to which Jews are similar

genetically to populations of

the Middle East and other

locations. Research

focusing on genetic


passed down only

through a single sex is

of particular interest. The

Y-chromosome, found only in

males and thus passed along

from biological father to son; or

mitochondrial DNA, inherited only from

the mother. Genetics have in some cases appeared to

confirm some traditional suppositions—for example, that

Jewish communities on the whole have a high degree of

endogamy over past centuries. Studies seem to confirm

that many Jews who self-identify as kohanim share a

common male ancestor possibly living during first or

second Temple times or even earlier. Other studies suggest

that there were a limited number of female ancestors in

many Jewish communities; they suggest a high degree of

female endogamy although the founding women may or

may not have had Jewish ancestry themselves. Such

genetic demography is hardly unique to Judaism; a recent

study of African Americans found that many had genetic

traits consistent with a high percentage of European

ancestors. Such studies provide a scientific platform to

address a number of a religious, historical, community,

and personal identity issues. Theories suggested by this

data are often thought provoking and useful, but they are

not always completely substantiated by research; indeed

the field is young, as are disciplinary standards for

determining the meaning of findings and discussing them

within the context of more traditional disciplines.

Genetic screening as a model for

1. demographic reconstruction

There are a number of protocols for genetic screening;

like many scientific procedures performed on human

populations, universities or hospitals have established

parameters that must be analyzed before ordering

a genetic test. Typical considerations include:

· Screening has real benefit in preventing or treating


· Cost is justifiable.

· Results are reliable.

· Adequate follow-up is provided: medical, psychological,

social, educational, and other support measures are

available for those people found to be carriers of the

tested gene.

Geneticists also debate the degree to which detailed

technical information is useful to the patient or the family,

including what types of information should be provided,

and how much information is useful. Clearly many

patients and their families cannot adequately respond to

specialized medical or scientific information in the same

way that researchers

or physicians with

years of specialized

training and

experience can, and in

some cases, the learning

curve to understand this

information is inconsistent with—and

less useful than—discussion of the ramifications of the


At first glance, this “illness” model for demographic

genetics would seem to be totally irrelevant to

demographic genetics. Yet many individuals evidence

strong reactions when they find that the ancestry

suggested by genetic testing is quite different from what

they had previously supposed, no less so then when

anthropologists or folklorists challenge their previous

assumptions. We rightly raise such issues in

anthropological research, insisting on professional

approaches so that researchers to conduct themselves in

ways respectful of the potential reactions of human

subjects to conclusions drawn about them; so too, a

professional attitude towards sharing medical and

scientific results with patients and families is an important

part of medical practice.

The “reliability of results” parameter often is rated in

terms of the percentages of “false positives” or “false

negatives,” and much testing seeks to balance reliability,

cost and relative ease. Thus urinalysis is routine for drug

testing, due to ease and low cost, and the reliability of the

negative result. But a positive result for poppy derivatives

is not reliable at all, as it can be triggered by poppy seed

bagels or even hamantaschen; one source estimated “that

70% of DOT opiates positives are due to poppy seeds.” The

meaning of this statistic is clear: the test is quite reliable

for poppy derivatives, but this source estimates that only

30% of those who test positive use heroin or other poppy-

8 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

ased drugs. Similarly, demographic genetic studies test

for shared ancestry and genetic similarity but this model

suggests that the degree to which a given ancestry

correlates with current religious, ethnic or racial identity

(absent decisions made on the basis of genetic results

alone) should be taken into account in assessing the

meaning of the data.

Public health vs.

2. demography

Research suggests that certain genetic traits linked to

diseases found in Ashkenazi populations are also present

in populations with Hispano backgrounds. In some of these

cases, genetic testing has shown highly specific genetic

variations. It is statistically unreasonable to assume

multiple “founders” — i.e., an original ancestor held in

common by all who posses a unique genetic pattern. But it

is usually impossible to determine whether the founder in

a given population was Ashkenazi, a Spanish-speaking

“crypto-Jew,” or indeed some person with no actual link to

either community who happened to passed on the gene.

Wide incidence in unrelated Southwestern US communities

with known Jewish heritage might be significant; presence

of the genetic variant in isolated communities may reflect

bottleneck/founder situations in which the variant

occurred among the first settlers, and disappeared in some

communities and was magnified in others; or that it was

introduced later only within specific communities. In any

case, the fact that the public health significance is clear

does not mean that the demographic significance is as well.

Genes and

3. Jewish Identity

As we have seen, unique

genetic markers may

determine that two

“essentialists” who

believe that Judaism is

entirely heredity, and those who believe it is entirely

commitment to God and Torah—ultimately, not a

hereditary entity at all. My friend Professor Daniel J. Lasker

is deservedly famous in some circles for comparing the two

attitudes as seeing Judaism as “software” vs. “hardware.”

Maimonides is associated with the “software” position;

Judah Halevi with the “hardware” position. Maimonides,

however, stresses the importance of community and of the

training one receives in one’s birth environment, and even

Halevi accepts that the descendants of converts who are

born to parents who were born as Jews are indistinguishable

from those who have four Jewish-born grandparents. After

the Nazi racial program, it seems to me that it is difficult to

support a position that emphasizes Judaism as a matter of

biological ancestry—even if it is proud of that ancestry

rather than committed to stamping it out.

When contemplating marriage or determining priestly or

Levitical status, Judaism is in fact usually a matter of

biology. The rule is that “offspring from a legitimate

marriage follow the father,” whereas “any [woman] who

does not have Jewish marriage (Hebrew: kiddushin) — not

with [her husband] and not with others—the offspring is

like her.” Since a non-Jewish woman never has the

possibility of kiddushin and a Jewish one generally always

does, in traditional Jewish law, the child of a non-Jewish

mother is not Jewish, and the child of a Jewish mother is.

On the other hand, the hereditary priestly and Levitical

status (Hebrew: Kohen and Levi) follow the father. So, too,

do “Sephardic” or “Ashkenazic” status, to the extent that

these have implications in Jewish law and ritual. This rule

seems to protect against the possibility that mothers of

persons asserting they were Jews were in fact not; no such

degree of “protection” seems to have been necessary

regarding fathers.

Jewish observance would not seem to play any role in this

at all, but traditionally, except for marriage and certain

aspects of Israeli law, observance and lifestyle rather than

lineage determine in practice whether someone is

considered Jewish, including such items as calling them to

the Torah or offering them charitable contributions

designated for Jews. Historically — up to the 1700s — this

almost always meant appearing to follow minimal

standards of Sabbath and dietary observances. In the past

two centuries this has been complicated somewhat due to a

fall-off in observance and Jewish training, a more mobile

society, greater intermarriage and conversion, both into

and out of Judaism.

The Reform movement endorsed

“patrilineal descent” meaning

that the child of a Jewish

father or a Jewish mother

is considered Jewish.

Yet here as well,

Jewish genes

alone do not make

someone Jewish. Reform

doctrine also requires an

explicit affirmation of Jewishness

in order to be considered Jewish,

a concept also embodied in

traditional formulations about the

rejection of idolatry or Sabbath

desecration. Madeleine Albright

is a famous case: most people do

not consider her Jewish at all,

although she now knows that she

had four Jewish grandparents.


HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 9

In most surveys and many research studies, Judaism is

self-determined. Persons who answer affirmatively to

the question “Are you Jewish?” or who select Judaism

as a response to a question about religious affiliation

are considered Jewish, without further determination

of parentage.

In the State of Israel and historically in many European

countries, Judaism is also a matter of public determination,

subject to political considerations. The frequent

vehemence of debates about “who is a Jew” with respect

to the Israeli population registry indicate that this is no

simple matter, and Israeli law has determined that a

person cannot claim to be Jewish by “nationality” (what

we would probably call ethnicity in the US), but not

by religion.

It is usually assumed that throughout history, Judaism has

been overwhelmingly a hereditary affair. Nevertheless,

conversion, adoption, exogamy, political considerations

and other factors led to a complicated situation that must

be considered when attempting genetic demographics.

Genetic testing can add much to our

knowledge of Jewish demography.

I am not arguing that it is unreliable.

On the contrary, it offers a tool of

enormous power to confirm or reject

various propositions about Jewish

migration patterns, community

coherence and endogamy, and

ancestry. Nevertheless, it must be used

carefully and with regard to its limitations,

both with respect to the kind of information it

offers, and to the vagaries of the demographics

of the Jewish community. And to return to

the considerations noted in the

discussion of genetic screening,

considerations about reliability

(and the meaning of reliability),

interpretation of the results, and

counseling based on the results of

demographic genealogy, merit far

more care when we remember that

individuals apply the results of

such research findings to their

own lives.

10 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

South Central Colorado

Las Animas County and the San Luis Valley

Another Chapter in the Spanish Colonial/Crypto-Judaic Story

For those who might not realize

the relevance of south-central

Colorado to the history of crypto-

Judaic studies, perhaps this summary

will suffice. The area is known as Las

Animas County, a sparsely populated

landscape of some 4,775 square miles

including the often-mentioned San

Luis Valley. The county takes its

Spanish name from the Purgatoire

river, originally called El Río de las

Ánimas Perdidas en el Purgatorio, or

“River of the Lost Souls in Purgatory.”

The county seat is the town of

Trinidad, in the Purgatoire river

valley, 13 miles north of the New

Mexico border. Its location is at the

foot of Raton Pass along the historic

Santa Fe Trail, always a favored route

for travelers, by foot, horseback, oxdrawn

wagon, or later, by railroad.

Today, Interstate 25 is the most highly

traveled route between Colorado and

New Mexico and bisects Trinidad

directly through its center.

To the east lie the fabled San Juan

mountains, and to the north and

south, the Sangre de Cristo (Blood

of Christ) range whose purple peaks

at sunrise glow a deep red, thus so

named by the Spanish explorers

who first saw them. These ranges in

Colorado were once thought to be the

home of the Seven Cities of Cibola,

the legendary site of riches and gold.

It is recorded that conquistador Luis

de Moscosco went as far as Alamosa in

the San Luis Valley in search of them

in 1542.

During the exploration period, the

Spanish expeditions went to Pueblo,

122 miles further north. And as

history has proven, wherever the

Spanish went in the 16th century,

conversos, or nuevo cristianos (Spanish

Jews, forcibly converted) were among


them, and slowly being revealed in

many ways.

Twenty miles from Trinidad lies Raton

Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico

border. It climbs up the eastern side

of the Sangres and winds its way

down into southern Colorado. Located

about 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe,

New Mexico, the pass is a historically

significant landmark on the Santa

Fe National Historic Trail, a major

19th-century settlement route that

connected Independence, Missouri

with Santa Fe, which was established

in 1610. It was part of the famed El

Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a trade

route that began in Mexico City. It

served as a vital commercial highway

until the railroad arrived in Santa Fe

in 1880.

Hispanic settlers began moving north

into Colorado during the 17th and 18th

centuries. Prior to the Mexican War

of Independence, the Spanish and

Mexican governments had reserved

the Valley for the Ute Indians, their

allies against the Comanche. The

region remained in the hands of the

Spanish until the liberation of Mexico

from Spain in 1821. The Mexican

Republic attempted to settle the San

Luis Valley by offering land grants to

various groups of people, promising to

settle them. The Tierra Amarilla Land

Grant, encompassing some 500,000

acres of present-day northern New

Mexico and southern Colorado, was

the second largest grant. The Conejos-

Guadalupe Land Grant was bestowed to

a group of families from northern New

Mexico in 1833.

Despite the grants, Indian opposition

to settlement slowed the Valley’s

colonization. Actual settlement of

these New Mexico families did not

take place until the 1850s, following

the end of the Spanish-American War

and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

which brought the San Luis Valley into

the United States. By 1880 and with

the signing of several treaties, the Ute

Indians of the Valley were removed

to the Ute Mountain, Southern Ute

and Hintah reservations of western

Colorado and Utah.

During the 19th century, Anglos

settled in Las Animas County and

engaged in mining, ranching, and

irrigated agriculture. European

immigrants came to work in the

mines and towns and were also in

commerce. The establishment of

agricultural communities by people

from New Mexico continued slowly.

The population of the Valley soared in

the late 1870s and early 1880s when

Mormon settlers from the southern

US and Utah established the towns

of Manassa, Sanford, and Richfield.

Today the Valley and its townships

have a diverse Anglo and Hispanic

population. The historic town of

Trinidad is currently experiencing a

renaissance of sorts based on new,

lucrative kinds of commerce and an

influx of new residents.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 11

text by CORINNE BROWn • photos by Neal Paul

Colorado mining towns abound with historic landmarks,

most from the mid-1800s to 1900 when wealth gleaned

from gold, silver and coal brought boomtown construction

to the Mountain West. Grand hotels, mercantile

establishments, churches and even opera houses have

survived the passage of time and gained iconic status across the state,

albeit with needed restoration. But one surprising and unsung treasure

might surpass them all - the elegant, fully extant, never modified

Temple Aaron, a synagogue built in 1889 and continuously operated

in one place for 130 years, in Trinidad, Colorado.

A Testament to Time and Devotion

Temple Aaron • Trinidad, Colorado

Trinidad might seem

the least likely

home for a Jewish

house of worship, but the

synagogue stands as a

testament to a time when

America depended on

immigrants to populate

a new country. Colorado,

named a state in 1876, had

been a territory brimming

with eager pioneers;

émigrés from across

America and the other

side of the ocean as well,

especially from Germany.

Between 1815 and 1865 in

fact, two million Germanspeaking


immigrated to America,

leaving behind a Europe

racked with economic

hardship and waves of

persecution. In 1840 alone,

some 10,000 German Jews

boarded ships, mostly

single men, with hopes

Temple Aaron, continuously operating

in one place for over 130 years

to bring families at a later

time. By 1875, another

million central-European

immigrants would

disembark, the promise of

a new utopia beckoning one

and all. German Jews were

predominant among all

the waves of immigration

to America up to 1880

due to restrictions on job

opportunities and the

infringement of personal

rights, as well as vicious

pogroms that forced them

to flee their homeland.

One can only imagine the

enormous difficulty of the

trans-Atlantic voyage,

and the resettlement

in a foreign country.

But these pioneers,

educated or unschooled,

were determined to

start a new life, either

in manufacturing in

12 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

urban centers, or more often, heading West to far-flung

communities where they could travel by foot or horseback

and sell whatever was needed — the Jewish peddler had

arrived and the independent retail store wasn’t far behind.

Difficult as it was, many would seek their fortune in the

rugged mountains of southern Colorado and landscapes of

northern New Mexico, but the word was out that Trinidad,

just 20 miles from the New Mexico state line, was a thriving

community, and hopes were high. Ambitious settlers had

begun to move there in 1860 when coal was discovered and

quickly built a bustling town of some 1200 citizens.

Historical record attests to the Jewish settlers’ fierce

determination. (For a detailed, closer look, read “Pioneer

Jewish Families of New Mexico,” Gaon Books.) Courageous

German Jews, a great many from Bavaria, came to the area

to homestead, open businesses, and succeed where others

might have failed.

master, Isaac Hamilton Rapp, who designed the building in

1889 in the Exotic Revival style, with its spectacular Reform

motifs, including 12 windows on each level representing

the 12 tribes of Israel, a theater-style plan to provide for

integrated seating for men and women, and an onion dome

and pyramidal roof towers.”

The sanctuary seated 200 people and was graced by elegant

Top, left - Temple Aaron column with onion dome.

Top, right - Roof tower with Oriental pyramid dome.

Center - Dedication block with original founders of congregation.

Bottom - The town of Trinidad, Colorado

In Trinidad they quickly set up shop as proprietors, saloon

keepers, and professionals, including doctors and lawyers.

In 1883, the first Jewish congregation was established,

Congregation Aaron. Some believe the name came from

one of the founders’ children. That congregation had 24

members. Henry Biernbaum who ran a general store on

Main Street, served as its first president. Over time, certain

names became legend — businessman Leopold Gottlieb,

and Samuel Jaffa who eventually became the first mayor of

Trinidad, for example. The town’s small but vibrant Jewish

community played a major role in the development of

Trinidad’s strategic role in southern Colorado and northern

New Mexico.

Within a few years, in 1889, the enterprising community

would build Temple Aaron, founded at the time with a mere

46 men and their families. And what a synagogue it was!

The 11,000-square-foot, red brick and stone building was

situated on a hill overlooking the center of town. According

to Kim Grant of Colorado Preservation Inc., a statewide,

non-profit historic preservation advocacy, educational

and technical services organization, “Temple Aaron is an

architecturally significant and intact work of a recognized

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 13

Above, left -

Ark and bima,

synagogue interior.

Above, right -

Sanctuary view

from upper pipe

organ gallery

Center - Stained

glass windows

and staircase

Below, left -

“New” boiler circa

mid-20th century

(in need of


Below, right -

Original boiler,

vintage mid-1800s

custom millwork throughout, colorful stained glass

windows, and a working pipe organ on the mezzanine.

The building was an affirmation of Jewish life in America

and a center for fellowship and observance of Jewish

traditions for anyone who found themselves along the

famed Santa Fe Trail. Not only home to a thriving Jewish

community in Trinidad whose numbers once approached

300, it also supported Jews in surrounding areas in every

direction. In 2017, Temple Aaron was placed on Colorado’s

Most Endangered Places Program in recognition of the

importance of saving this magnificent structure.

As unusual as the architectural design appears to be with

its Oriental details, it’s worth noting that Denver’s Temple

Emanuel constructed in 1898 on Pearl Street is the only

synagogue in Denver designed in a somewhat similar style.

The use of Eastern-Islamic design for synagogues was

brought to America by German Jews who had been impacted

by the Reform Movement in Judaism and the severe anti-

Semitism of 19th-century Europe. Use of the design reflects

the problem of retaining Jewish cultural identity while fitting

into Christian society. As a result, the style was acceptable

for a place of worship but did not immediately mark it as a

traditional synagogue, evoking instead an association with

Jewish origins in the Near East. When Temple Emanuel was

built, not surprisingly, the congregation was largely made up

of German and American Jews.

Rabbi Leopold Freudenthal from Heidelberg University,

educated at Hebrew Union College was the second rabbi to

officiate at Temple Aaron and the longest to serve —

27 years, until his death in 1916. No permanent rabbi was

ever hired after that. In 1943, his sons Samuel and Alfred,

set up the Alfred Freudenthal Memorial Trust Fund which

maintained the synagogue building, helped the needy in

Trinidad regardless of race or religion, and established the

Trinidad Health Center and various scholarships. Other

directors of the fund, sons of the original founders of

Temple Aaron, insured the congregation’s fiscal survival for

many years following.

14 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

In 1952, Beatrix Sanders, the widow of one of the founder’s

sons, took over presidency of Temple Aaron. Like her

late husband and brother-in-law, she was also the

congregation’s lay rabbi. By 1967, a mere 12 families still

belonged to the congregation: just 15 people, including

two families from New Mexico. The end of coal mining in

Trinidad and the drift to bigger cities had taken its toll.

By 1987, Kathryn Rubin of blessed memory took the

reins. Ms. Rubin (who passed in late 2018) was part of a

family of merchants from Raton, New Mexico who joined

the congregation in 1916. She had been caretaker of the

synagogue for many years. For decades, she, her husband

Leon and her sons Randy and Ron ensured that Temple

Aaron remained a synagogue, even importing circuit rabbis

for High Holiday services, all of which had been celebrated

every year since it was built. Since 1940, Temple Aaron

has also hosted an interfaith service open to the entire

community between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

In 2015, as funds dwindled and deferred maintenance

accumulated, the Rubin family made a fateful decision to

finally “close” the synagogue and put it up for sale. Services

would cease for the first time in 127 years. The building was

offered at a price of $395,000. But the end was not to be.

Word traveled quickly and concerned individuals like David

London of Boulder and Neal Paul of Denver became part of

a frantic fundraising campaign to help find enough money

to at least put a hold on the synagogue’s demise. Donors at

every level came forward including Dana Crawford, Larry

Mizel and Evan Makovsky of Denver, and countless others

who helped raise awareness of the need for continuity in

what has been deemed a true emergency. Donations poured

in and insured at least a limited future.

The rescue was successful but the real work has just begun.

Urgent needs include a new boiler, a new roof and toilet

facilities. Exterior preservation is a goal as well. The dream

is to raise a multi-million dollar endowment fund to insure

this historic landmark in perpetuity. In June 2019, on the

Above, left -

Rabbi Leopold


Above, right -

Temple Aaron’s

library door

Center, top -

Architect Isaac

Hamilton Rapp

conceptual drawing

Center, bottom -

Denver’s Temple



style architecture

Below, l to r -

Randy Rubin

(Colo. Springs), the

late Kathryn Rubin,

and Ron Rubin,

(Raton, New Mexico)

Temple Aaron turns 130

in June 2019

All are invited to her 130th

Anniversary Gala weekend

June 21-23, 2019.

Join us in Trinidad for this

very special celebration!

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 15

occasion of the synagogue’s 130th anniversary, a weekendlong

celebration and fundraising event will be held.

All interested are invited.

Randy Rubin, Temple Aaron board president, said in a

recent interview, “The significance to me, and I think to my

family and anybody else, is the continuous use since 1889.

Our congregation and the building have never moved. I find

that meaningful. And this may get a little dramatic, but to

me, they’re hallowed walls. It’s truly a sacred space.”

Perhaps there’s yet another reason for this dramatic

rescue, one that lies in the very hills and valleys of Las

Animas County where the town of Trinidad resides. Four

hundred years ago, when the Spanish established the

empire of New Spain in North America, they brought with

them Spanish and Portuguese Jews fleeing persecution

and the infamous Spanish Inquisition, a virtual genocide

against the Jewish people at that time. Converted by force

to Christianity as conversos, they were part of the Spanish

Colonial settlement. To survive, they hid their identity and

then slowly lost their faith over the centuries, yet many

clung to old ways and traditions that clearly hinted at

another heritage. They settled throughout Northern New

Mexico and lower Colorado all the way to Pueblo, bringing

their Iberian Jewish culture with them. Today, as science

and history have helped prove all across the West and

its borderlands, that heritage has become incontestable,

re-identifying a new generations of Jewish descendants,

greatly valued by many, waiting to come to life.

There’s an old saying in the preservation community,

“Architecture inhabits memory,” as if the walls of historic

places have absorbed all that has gone before, evoking a

clear continuum. In this case, that would be the history

of the Jewish people. More than an architectural relic or

memorial to those who came before, Temple Aaron might

yet become home to a new community of Jews in southern

Colorado and northern New Mexico. These descendants,

the “children of the forced ones,” may one day by choice,

gather in this hallowed space to remember and celebrate

their Jewish past.

Temple Aaron

407 South Maple Street

Trinidad, Colorado 81082

To contribute, visit


For information contact

Randy Rubin


Tim Rivera

As time passes in southern Colorado,

there are those who remember another reality.

Tim Rivera, a self-identified crypto-Jew, lives

just outside of the town of Alamosa, Colorado.

His log-style compound sits on acreage between

two well-known area landmarks, “Splash Land,” a

kiddie water park, and a farm that grows and sells

mushrooms to food brokers.

Rivera’s home is flanked by tall cottonwood trees. As

he hospitably leads the way inside his house, Rivera

speaks about how he renovated the property himself

using recycled materials that he “picked up at Bud’s”

in Denver. He’s made this place distinctively his own.

A corner table in the kitchen bears the initials TR.

“I used my late father’s branding iron to burn TR into

the broad pine table legs,” he said proudly. Now a

retiree “for years,” Rivera points to a vegetable garden

he tends. Some veggies like spinach, grow wild. In

addition to the garden, he looks after a hen house for

his daughter. In the courtyard, an fountain flows with

water from an artesian well. He’s unable to consume

the water for household use however, because tests

reported high arsenic content. In addition to Rivera’s

household hobbies, he also manages commercial

business interests in the area.

Rivera said he was drawn to the Spanish Thanksgiving

event held in San Luis last summer (2018) after reading

museum curator Joyce Gunn’s article about it in the

local paper, the Valley Courier (also see HaLapid, Fall/

Winter 2018). Until that event, Rivera had not set foot

in the San Luis History Museum. He said doing so left

him feeling “ashamed.” Even though the museum is

probably not more than five miles from his residence,

and despite the fact that he formerly taught history at

the Denver Auraria Campus, he assumed the SLV

History Museum had an “Anglo slant on history,” so

he stayed away. He was pleased yo learn it did not.

Rivera added that during his tenure at Auraria in

Denver, he attended synagogue services occasionally.

Even though he hasn’t had his DNA analyzed or done

extensive genealogy research, he’s always been drawn

to Judaism.

16 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

A San Luis Valley native son with deep roots


Tim Rivera

“Hispanics in my circle of influence,”

said Rivera, “don’t believe they could

be Jews. Even when I explain that

Jews were among the earliest Spanish

settlers who make up our ancestry,

they still deny the possibility of

Jewish heritage.”

During the museum event, Rivera

approached and encouraged curator

Joyce Gunn to pursue and present

more Hispanic history. He voiced a

special interest in the crypto-Jewish

presence in the SLV. He asked her if

she was familiar with crypto-Jewish

phenomena and described their plight

from the Spanish Inquisition to the

present time. Rivera’s knowledgebase

of Hispanic history, he explained,

came from the book, “Our Hispanic

Roots: What History Failed to Tell Us,”

by Carlos B. Vega. He said it provided

understanding about the untold

history of Hispanics in America.

According to Gunn, who defines

herself as a “Lutheran Jew,” (through

her German ancestors on her father’s

side) there has not been a local or

regional synagogue or designated

place in the Valley where Jews have

been able to gather or express their

faith. She added that she is aware of

some Jews in the community who

occasionally gather in town in

a private home. Until the

Anglo influx in the 1800s,

Catholicism was the only

religious influence Hispanics

had followed and continues to

be the choice of many.

Diane D. Mock

Diane D. Mock is a crypto-

Jew, whose maternal ancestry

hails from the San Luis

Valley. She’s a freelance

writer and retired educator

who resides in Denver,

Colorado with her husband

Freddy, and dog Dulce.

Left - Tim Rivera’s

wild spinach patch

Right - Custom-made

corner table with

Tim Rivera’s initial

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 17

2019 SCJS CONFERENcE • June 30-July 2 • denver

Welcome to

Denver 2 0 1 9

It’s no accident the conference is set here in Colorado

this year. We think Denver has everything to

offer to make your conference experience a minivacation.

Great museums, restaurants and transportation.

We hope you appreciate Denver’s convenient location,

our great weather and the city’s friendly atmosphere.

It’s the West, where anything can happen.

This year’s gathering brings together the best

speakers, the best talent, and abundant resources.

We want you to have the time of your life. We know

you’ll walk away enriched and wiser than before, with

new friends and hopefully, treasured memories.






Every aspect of this conference has been planned with

you in mind — your needs and your preferences. We

hope you enjoy the intimate hotel with all its amenities,

the great food, and the incredible programming that

lies ahead. The topics by our presenters are simply

stellar covering a wide range of crypto-Judaic studies.

We also invite you to visit our community partners,

the Mizel Museum and the Museo de las Americas.

The board members of SCJS

and I extend a friendly

hand in greeting and hope

to meet everyone of you

personally. It’s your time

to shine. Don’t be shy.

We look forward

to seeing you

all soon!

June 30 - July 2 • 2019

Doubletree by Hilton Denver Tech Center

7801 East Orchard Road

Greenwood Village, Colorado

Conference Committee

Corinne Joy Brown, Chairperson

Debbie Wohl-Isard, SCJS President

Harry Ezratty

Seth Kunin

Cindy Seton-Rogers

Dolly Sloan

Leonard Stein

Seth Ward

18 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

2019 SCJS CONFERENCE • June 30-July 2 • denver

Keynote Speaker

Jeff Wheelwright

Our celebrated keynote speaker, author/journalist Jeff

Wheelwright, takes us back to a pivotal time when

genetic research, especially here in Colorado, was

beginning to add to the rising awareness of the Iberian-Jewish

heritage of the greater Southwest.

A graduate of Yale (1969) and the Columbia Graduate School

of Journalism (1971), Wheelwright worked in public television

and as an editor for the monthly Life magazine. Over time,

the study of history and religion liberated him from science

writing, a previous focus.

His first two books, “Degrees of Disaster,” about the Exxon

Valdez oil spill (1994), and “The Irritable Heart,” about the

Persian Gulf War illnesses (2001), brought national acclaim. The latter was

supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Then he turned to

human genetics for his next topic because of interest sparked by the Human

Genome Project.

Jeff Wheelwright

His third book was about a breast-cancer mutation characteristic of Jews that

came to light in a population of Catholic Hispanos in New Mexico and the

San Luis Valley of Colorado. The mutation proves that its carriers have Jewish

ancestry, at least in part. In 2008 he published an article, “The Secret of San Luis

Valley,” in Smithsonian magazine, and in 2009 was awarded a J.S. Guggenheim

Fellowship to support the writing of the book, “The Wandering Gene and the

Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA,” published in 2012 by W.W. Norton.

Members of the family he wrote about in the San Luis Valley may be joining Jeff

as guests of SCJS on this special occasion.


conference Board

Meeting Memo


SCJS members are invited to nominate

themselves (or someone else) so that the

board of directors may consider them

prior to the conference in June. We seek

additional Members-At-Large so that we

may grow our board from which titled

executive positions may emerge after

a term or more of participation.

Contact editor.lagranada@gmail.com

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 19

2019 SCJS CONFERENcE • June 30-July 2 • denver

Stanley M. Hordes Distinguished Scholar Lecture

David Gitlitz, PhD

Stanley M. Hordes

Distinguished Scholar Lecture

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies takes great

pleasure in announcing the inaugural recipient of

the Stanley M. Hordes Distinguished Scholar Lecture

series, a distinction and lecture to be given each year

at our annual conference, bestowed upon a scholar

whose contribution to advancing the field of crypto-

Judaic studies has been exemplary.

David Gitlitz. PhD

Kudos to recipient, author/historian Dr. David Gitlitz

whose canon of works exploring crypto-Judaic culture

are unmatched. Notable are “Secrecy & Deceit -

The Religion of the Crypto-Jews,” a major resource for

researchers, the collectible “Drizzle of Honey,” Sephardic

recipes gleaned from Inquisition testimonies, and “The

Lost Minyan,” a further exploration of the Inquisition

experience. Dr. Gitlitz is a former professor emeritus of

Hispanic studies, University of Rhode Island, former chair

of modern languages at the University of Nebraska, former

associate professor of Spanish, Indiana University, and

a graduate of Oberlin College and Harvard University. A

recipient of the National Jewish Book Award for Sephardic

Studies, his other areas of interest include the Spanish

Golden Age of Literature, pilgrimage studies, university

administration and teaching. Gitlitz researched, traveled

and wrote together with his late wife, Linda Davidson.

For the first Stanley M. Hordes Distinguished Scholar

Lecture David will present Twenty Generations of Conversos

and the Transmission of Jewish Identity.

• • • • • • •

Dr. Stanley M. Hordes is one of the founding members

of SCJS, as well as its passionate visionary. A former state

historian for New Mexico and author of the pivotal work,

“To the End of the Earth, New Mexico’s Crypto-Jews,”

a book that has been a major factor in shaping thought

about the descendants of Spanish conversos or crypto-

Jews in the American Southwest, his dedication to this

field of research and SCJS is inspiring. He was recently

honored by the Santa Fe Jewish Book Council with the 2017

Lifetime Achievement Award. Hordes is an adjunct research

professor at the Latin America and Iberian Institute of the

University of New Mexico and holds a PhD from Tulane

University. His leadership of SCJS over the decades is

immeasurable. Now serving on our SCJS Advisory Council,

his enormous influence and accomplishments will be

honored in perpetuity.

• • • • • • •

Sunset over Denver, Colorado

20 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

2019 SCJS CONFERENCE • June 30-July 2 • denver

A Special Performance - June 30


While every SCJS conference offers a huge

opportunity to gain new insight and

understanding into the crypto-Judaic field

of study, it also exposes attendees to the best in the

arts exploring this powerful subject. This year will be no

different. Launching the conference Sunday night, June 30,

attendees will be moved by “Conviction,” a play in one act,

adapted from a true story, starring one of Colorado’s most

celebrated actors, Ami Dayan.

Ami Dayan

Ami Dayan is a

Boulder-based Israeli-

American playwright,

director, actor, and

instructor who has

studied and worked

professionally in the

United States, Europe

and Israel. A twotime

recipient of the

America-Israel Cultural

Ami Dayan

Foundation Grant,

Ami’s work has been commissioned by The Denver

Center Theatre Company, The Colorado Shakespeare

Festival, and The Roe Green Foundation. His play

“The End” received the Westword Award for Best Original

Script. His free adaptation of Nobel Prize Laureate Dario

Fo’s “A Tale of a Tiger” has been performed worldwide

since 1994, including a celebrated off-Broadway run,

followed by a Helen Hayes Award Nomination for

Outstanding Non-Residential Production. Numerous other

off-Broadway credits highlight his career.

About the Play

The Spanish Inquisition endorsed by the Catholic monarchs

attempted to rid Spain of 500,000 Jews. Across Spain, they

had grown in number, prosperity and influence, making

them a political and economic threat to Ferdinand and

Isabella. As a result, some 400,000 Jews abandoned their

identity and converted rather than be burned.

“Conviction” broaches this incendiary chapter of Jewish

history as a time-traveling mystery wrapped inside a

love story. Translated from Hebrew and adapted by Ami

Dayan, the play opens in Franco’s 1960s’ Madrid. Israeli

professor Chaim Tal is being grilled by an Inquisitor, the

director of the Spanish National Archives. Tal has been

caught stealing a confidential file detailing the true story of

a Catholic priest who, 500 years earlier, was caught living a

double life. Father Andres married a Jewish woman and sired

a family with her, all while carrying on his duties as a priest.

Why would the professor commit such a brazen crime?

The answer becomes clear as we shift to another time and

another inquisition, of sorts. Andres shares his secret past

to an unseen and unheard fellow priest, within the safety

of a Catholic confessional, thereby allowing Dayan to tell

him, and us, the full story of Andres “fall from grace.”

Dayan steps into nine roles with clarity and “conviction.”

The story behind the play is rooted in history. In the

following text, a translated excerpt of the original

Inquisition file of Andres Gonzalez has been compiled.



“…when I was a priest in Alcabdete, in Talavera, one Sunday I

was coming to the church to say mass and a farmer approached

me – by the name of

Fernand Alonso – and

said, ‘I came here

because as I was coming

to church there was one

of these women from the

household of Gonzalo

Marques resting and

honoring the Sabbath as

a Jew…’ and they were

off to burn the house

and its [inhabitants]. It

Church official signatures

on Gonzales’ file

would have been best for me later not to intervene, but I did.”

(Andres Gonzalez, 1486, translated by Lina Williams and

Mark Williams.)

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 21

2019 SCJS Conference schedu

The evolution of mankind is recorded through story, written and oral. It’s how we

preserve the past and understand the present. At each SCJS, conference, scholars,

academics, historians and descendants come together to share the latest in research,

illuminating this field of study from various points of view. We welcome them all.

Announcing our first Silent Au

in search of heritage and informatio

annual conference by defraying regi

by SCJS members and reflect our mi




Sunday • June 30

Board Meeting

Lunch on your own available at the hotel.

Conference Registration (Lobby)

PRE-CONFERENCE Genealogy Workshop

• Schelly Talalay Dardashti —

Jewish Ethnicity and DNA: History, Migration and Genetics.

• Genie Milgrom —

Finding Your Jewish Roots Through Catholic and

Inquisition Records




Welcoming Remarks — Corinne Brown,

Debbie Wohl-Isard and Genie Milgrom

3:10-4:40pm Panel 1

• Andrée Aelion Brooks —

Doña Gracia Nasi: Revisiting the Conversos’ Greatest Leader

• Beth Lurie —

Livorno: Converso Refuge and Center of Jewish Life

• Yda Schreuder —

Crypto-Jews Through the Ages: From Spain, to Portugal, to

Antwerp, to Hamburg, to Amsterdam, and to London in the

17th Century


Social Hour and Reception (Atrium)

Cash Bar (zink)

Reception featuring entertainment by The

Lorenzo Trujillo Trio, featuring Dr. Lorenzo

Trujillo, folklorist, cantante and violinist.

5:30-6:30pm Dinner • INTRODUCTIONS • REMARKS —

José Luis Parrado, Honorary Consul of Spain



starring Ami Dayan (Theater Ballroom)

Q&A After Performance

For Registration and

Hotel Reservations visit now -


*Schedule is subject to change.

Updates at www.cryptojews.com

Monday • July 1

Breakfast on your own.

Hotel restaurant and coffee bar open from 6:00am


Opening remarks • SCJS Welcome • Schedule

Review • vendor Introductions

8:30-9:50am Panel 2

• Abraham Gross —

Crypto-Jews in Portugal: A 19th-Century Missing Link

• Rebecca Wartell —

Not Like Other Converts: Conversos in Early Modern Sephardi

Rabbinic Thought

• Rachel Bortnik —

Searching for Echoes of Ladino in Crypto-Jewish Dialects

9:50-10:10am Break

10:10am-12:15pm Panel 3

• Claudia Long — Hiding in Plain Sight

• Marcia Fine —

Conversos Survival in Mexico and the Southwest Territories:

Syncretism and Assimilation in the 17th Century

• Rabbi Deborah Prinz —

The Sephardi Chocolate Culture of 18th-Century

New York & Newport

• Rifka Cook —

Crypto-Jews: The Culinary Recovery of Exile

Noon-1:00pm Buffet Lunch — (INDIGO ROOM)

• Dolly Sloan — Remembering Martin Sosin

Introduction Sosin Foundation and Baca-Duran Funds

1:00-2:00pm Martin Sosin Address to Advance

Scholarship in the Crypto-Judaic Arts -

Hiddenness and Reawakening as Musical Drama (Premiere).

Poetry by Miriam Herrera • Music by David Wohl.

Miriam Herrera (poet and reader), Lorenzo Trujillo

(voice/violin), Stacy LeSartre (violin), Catherine Flinchum

(flute), Daniel Masters (classical guitar), David Wohl


2:00-4:15pm Panel 4/5 with 5-10 minute break

• Sara Koplik and Rabbi Jordi Gendra-Molina —

A Treasure Trove of Poignant Crypto-Jewish Stories:

Spanish Citizenship Applications

• Kathleen Alcala —

Volver a la Fuente: Seeking Spanish Citizenship

• Schelly Talalay Dardashti — The Inquisition: The Jews That Left

• Genie Milgrom —

The Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition: The Jews That

Stayed Behind

22 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780


ction to Honor the Baca Duran Fund, created to help fund those

n about their roots. The Fund provides assistance in attending our

stration or housing costs. All auction items are donated or created

ssion or field of study. Credit cards and checks accepted.

4:15-5:30pm Break with assorted snacks

5:30-6:30pm Keynote Address - Jeff Wheelwright, PhD —

Identity Politics and The Secret of the San Luis Valley

6:30-7:30pm Dinner • General Membership Meeting

Meeting conducted by Debbie Wohl Isard, SCJS


7:30-8:30pm Judy Frankel Memorial Concert -

Hal Aqua and The Lost Tribe



Tuesday • July 2

Breakfast on your own

8:15-8:30am WelcomE • SILENT AUCTION RESULTS

8:30-10:00am Panel 6

• Maria Apodaca — Personal Journeys

• Norma Libman—

Telling Crypto-Jewish Stories Through Lectures in New Mexico

and Nationwide

• Dianne Layden —

Telling Crypto-Jewish Stories Through Jewish Historical Societies

10:00-10:30am Break

10:30-11:45am Stanley M. Hordes Distinguished Scholar

Lecture - David Gitlitz, PhD —

Twenty Generations of Conversos and the Transmission

of Jewish Identity.

11:45am-12:30pm Box Lunch

12:30-2:00pm Panel 7

• Kimberly Sanchez-Cawthorn — Love & Legacy: Amor Eterno

• Neil Manel Frau-Cortes —

Identity and Alterity in Poetry and Music By/Against Anusim

• Marie-Theresa Hernandez —

What Cannot Be Thought: Writing a Jewish Guadalupe in

Colonial Mexico

2:15-3:45pm Panel 8

• Cynthia Seton-Rogers —

Redefining the Crypto-Jews’ Place in the Historical Narrative

• David Nidel — Crypto-Judaism and the Penitentes

• Corinne Brown —

In the Crosshairs - HaLapid Preserves Crypto-Judaic History


Final Words and Adjournment

community partners

This year’s conference welcomes the support of

several organizations and private individuals who

have gone the extra mile to help us get the word out

and fund our event. We could not have done it without them.

With our warmest thanks to

Robin and Bennett

Greenspan Fund

at the

Houston Jewish

Community Foundation

our generous conference patrons

Bonnee Oderberg

Loretta and Dennis Worthington

Larry Mizel

Rabbi Stephen Leon

And our distinguished community partners

Gaon Web - Books and Film

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ron Hart and Gloria Abella Ballen

Publishers of quality books and documentary film about

Sephardim, Jews, women’s voices, life in the Southwest

and more. A 501(c)(3).

Mizel Museum

400 So. Kearney St.

Denver, Colorado

The Mizel Museum is dedicated to fostering cross-cultural

understanding, combating racism and promoting social justice.

We achieve our mission through educational programming,

events and exhibits that connect universal Jewish values

to the larger world.

Museo de Las Americas

861 Santa Fe Dr. • Denver, Colorado

Museo de las Americas is dedicated to educating

our community through collecting, preserving,

interpreting and exhibiting the diverse arts

and cultures of the Americas from ancient to

contemporary, through innovative exhibitions and programs.



MyHeritage provides an easy way to find new family

members, discover ethnic origins, and to treasure family

stories, past and present for generations to come.

Temple Aaron

407 So. Maple St. • Trinidad, Colorado

Preserving Jewish life and values in the

South Central Colorado Rockies

for over a century

TheatrE Or - Diane Gilboa

Denver, Colorado • TheatreOr.com

Theatre Or (the Hebrew word for light) is a non-profit

professional theater company producing plays of Jewish interest

and universal appeal, with a specialty in Israeli plays.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 23

2019 SCJS CONFERENcE • June 30-July 2 • Denver

multimedia, and concert hall. His growing awareness of

the history of the Iberian Jews awakened a desire in him to

create a musical interpretation of the emotional journey

from “hiddenness” to “reawakening,” as expressed in

Miriam Herrera’s poem, Kaddish for Columbus (see next

page). David is dedicated to exploring the crypto-Judaic

narrative in musical terms, an endeavor that may lead to

growing understanding of this history for the benefit of

future generations.

David Wohl

Martin Sosin Address to Advance

Scholarship in the Crypto-Judaic Arts

David Wohl

An established and award-winning composer and

lyricist, David Wohl is also a multi-faceted and highly

accomplished keyboardist in popular demand. He is

the composer and arranger of several original musicals

and has composed a wide variety of music for television,

Judy Frankel Memorial Concert

The lost tribe

Hal Aqua and The Lost Tribe play klezmer fusion

music — an exuberant musical experience, rooted

firmly in traditional Jewish modes and melodies and

driven by contemporary rhythms and danceable grooves.

The versatile musicians who make up The Lost Tribe have

a deep respect for their source material, from the evocative

tunes of Eastern European Jews and gypsies to the sinuous

rhythms of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In the

long-standing Jewish tradition of absorbing musical

inspiration from surrounding cultures, The Lost Tribe

steeps their songs in a broth spiced with rock, reggae,

salsa, funk and blues influences, serving up an irresistible

party vibe. The band includes Hal Aqua (vocals, acoustic

and electric guitars,octave mandolin, ukulele), Annie Aqua

(violin, vocals), Ben Cohen (electric and acoustic bass, tuba,

trumpet, accordion, vocals), Shanti Hazan (drums and

percussion), and Miriam Rosenblum (clarinet, recorders,

button accordion).

Especially for this occasion, the Lost Tribe debuts its

long-awaited world music album, heavily influenced by

Sephardic, Ladino and Mizrachi sources. We dare you to stay

in your seat!

The debut of this new piece, Hiddenness and Reawakening as

Musical Drama, at the conference will engage the talents of

four collaborating musicians, including Lorenzo Trujillo,

a 14th-generation descendant from New Mexico and a

noted performer in his own right, excerts from the poetry

of Miriam Herrera, a converso descendant from Texas. We

also welcome Stacy LeSartre on violin, Catherine Flinchum

on flute, and Daniel Masters on guitar. With our special

thanks to Classic Pianos of Denver for providing a baby

grand piano.

The Sosin Stratton-Petit Foundation is a long-standing patron

of SCJS and donates annually to provide arts performances that

further the public’s understanding of the crypto-Judaic journey.

Their grant makes this address possible.

The Judy Frankel Memorial Concert is made possible

by a donation from The Sosin Stratton-Petit Foundation.

24 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

Poetry - included in the Sosin Address

Kaddish For Columbus: Prayer for 500 Years

Legend says Columbus was a crypto-Jew escaping Spain’s Inquisition, along with a boatload

of illegal conversos, in hopes of settling in the New World

I believe in my animal twin:

Together we bellow and embrace

in arms of darkened hills

winding above the Rio Grande,

along the Sangres and Santa Fe, up

to the Pajarito plateau.

I believe in the air

at this elevation, in its power

of redemption. I believe

by grace of

some ineffable pronouncement, I live—

Not like some newcomer fish

thin-blooded, spitting out voiceless

sounds, but with lungs and gills

of a new-wrought beast, easy

in water and sky.

I believe in the rattlers’ sect—

Tribes who shed skin for sake of

divinity, and accept as fate

to be steered by a blackbird’s tail.

I meditate on the Boundless,

on the Inspiration

that looks upon sundown’s ruddy expanse

and bestows commandments:

“Roll in river

mud, inhale sage brush,

build your houses round,

clay red as the upper thigh

of a sun-burned woman—

Live! Live!”

(I trust in these words.)


I believe my Grandfather’s spirit,

looselegged in khakis,

still carries a rifle and hunting knife

north and south

along this same river valley.

I believe in the hemisphere

where there are no borders, no

papers required to prove his footsteps

on this land

for over five hundred years.

(I consecrate to his memory

the number 500.)

Skin, all at once the color

of mountain snow, of river mud

and adobe. Hair like cornsilk

or tail feathers of

a red-tailed hawk, and a soul,

shiny and tempered

as loot from Obsidian Ridge.


I confess—

My hallowed temples are

lands of dry heat. I’ve kept

sandy beds on too many continents, just to

be caressed by this heat. I forgive

my promiscuity, my love

for each singular oddity,

promising to give me a form

unlike my own.

I reaffirm my vows to the desert

as I taste its salty mouth,

and know why

pilgrims and prisoners come here:

To wander through pincushion

gardens, to see miles of

footprints in circles, to be engulfed by


I extol the amour of the cholla,

saguaro, beavertail, horse crippler,

spiny stars and cat claw.

I worship the slow-moving hunters,

green-eyed masters who see

what burrows below.


I say Kaddish for Columbus

and forgive him. I bless

his explorer blood cast within me—

An alloy of iron, nickel, silver, gold, cobalt,

moon and meteorite.

I bless our ancient shamans

who changed him into a limping wolf,

so that every year

he too makes the pilgrimage

with the Vietnam vets

with the lame, the blind,

the shattered of will,

with the Penitente brothers

to Chimayo’s candle-lit chapel.

He too rakes with his paw

at the replenishing hole

for a taste of miraculous dirt.

He too looks up with longing

at abandoned crutches

and metal braces

hanging on old adobe walls.

Gray fur is his purgatory—

but I believe that one day he will

find redemption.

When the generations

of his heart

can sway, genuflect,


to the new humanity

his celestial navigations

have created?


I glorify the shadow of spirits at dusk,

their aweful power

as they close in—

flat-out run on hoofs—


toward a wandering soul,

swept against a cliff

by force of animal will.

I swear, this tiny soul remembers

its first summer, holds

a breath under the breaking sky,

reveres blazes of pink, purple, gold—

and covers its eyes

when a juniper bush

appears to catch fire.

At dusk, the earth’s veins

give up their color

to the Sangre

de Cristo mountains. The hills

put on purple veils and bow

to the sky.

—M. Miriam Herrera

“Kaddish for Columbus” was originally

published in Nimrod International Journal

of Prose and Poetry: A Range of Light:

The Americas.Vol 41, No. 2,University

of Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK (July 1998)

I believe my grandfather

creates new Sabbaths,

when he looks in the river

at his rough, holy image. I believe

he’ll awaken my own

sleeping image with his

odd beauty:

M. Miriam Herrera is the author of the poetry collection, Kaddish for Columbus, published by

Finishing Line Press. She is a graduate of the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at

Chicago. Her poems have appeared in Earth’s Daughters, New Millennium Writings, Blue Mesa

Review, Nimrod, Southwestern American Literature, and other journals. Herrera’s parents are

natives of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and are descended from Sefarditos—conversos

or crypto-Jews who came to the new world to escape the Spanish Inquisition. She teaches

writing and Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and is the

poetry editor for HaLapid.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 25

2019 SCJS CONFERENCE • June 30-July 2 • denver

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. He was previously

awarded the 1996 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the

Arts, acknowledging his work as a folk violinist, guitarist,

and vocalist, among his other accomplishments as a

musician, ethnic dancer, folklorist, arts administrator,

and culture bearer for approximately five decades.

Lorenzo Trujillo

A Musical Treat

lorenzo trujillo

Dr. Lorenzo Trujillo is affiliate professor of music and the

director of the Metropolitan State University Mariachi

Ensemble and the Mariachi Correcaminos. He began

playing mariachi and traditional southwest Hispanic music

as a teenager with the Mariachi Alegre and The Southwest

Musicians with whom he made recordings presenting music

for entertainment and liturgical holiday events. Lorenzo

is also the director of the Southwest Musicians. In Fall

2016, he was appointed Direttore della Musica Sacra Ispanico

of the Conservatory of Music for Denver’s Cathedral/

Trujillo was awarded funding from the National Endowment

for the Arts as a performing artist in 1976. In 2004, he

was awarded the Hilos Culturales Distinguished Traditional

Folk Artist Premio for his lifetime contributions to the

traditional Hispanic traditions of southern Colorado

and New Mexico. Dr. Trujillo has presented thousands

of concerts, lecture demonstrations, and has published

extensively about traditional music and dance of the

Southwestern United States over the past 40 years. He

has recorded and performed for television, radio and

on numerous CDs. In 2009, he was inducted into the

Colorado Chicano Music Hall of Fame and in 2011 was

presented with the Tesoro Cultural Center’s Tesoro

de Oro Award. His most popular CD is “The Golden

Age of the Southwest: From 1840 to Hollywood.”

Lorenzo Trujillo is a Doctor of Education and Doctor of

Jurisprudence with a longtime legal practice in Denver.

He has been a supportive member of the Society for

Crypto-Judaic Studies for many years and is a proud 14thgeneration

descendant, raised in northern New Mexico.


Our honored Guests

José Luis Parrado

Honorary Consul of Spain



Museo de Las Americas


Randy Rubin

Temple Aaron

Trinidad, Colorado

Georgina Kolber

Mizel Museum


26 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

2019 SCJS CONFERENcE • June 30-July 2 • denver

Highlights of select abstracts - a taste of things to come

A Treasure Trove of Poignant

Crypto-Jewish Stories:

Spanish Citizenship Applications

Sara Koplik, PhD

Director of Community Outreach Jewish Federation of New Mexico

Rabbi Jordan Gendra-Molina, PhD.

In 2015, the Spanish government passed a law enabling

individuals to apply for citizenship with proven Sephardic

heritage. After training from immigration attorney Luis

Portero, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico began

to issue certificates of Sephardic heritage. Thousands

of applications poured in from over 50 nations. The

process required a personal statement, important for

those with incomplete genealogical evidence. These

statements contain detailed information and stories

about the ways that Sephardim, crypto-Jews, and converso

families maintained their identity over the centuries

and around the world. Anonymous excerpts from select

applications will be shared while describing larger trends.

The Inquisition: The Jews Who Left

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

During the Inquisition, many Jews were killed, forcibly

converted, or left following the events of 1391 and 1492.

This program will focus on those who left: where they

went, what organizations they created in new places,

how they maintained connections with brethren around

the world, and the significance of those newly-formed

Sephardic communities. We will look at leaders in

those communities, consider the spread of Sephardim

into the New World (including the Caribbean, North/

South America), the reach of the Inquisition, and

Central and Eastern Europe, including Sicily, Italy,

Amsterdam, Hamburg, Vienna, the Ottoman Empire,

North Africa, North America, Central America, South

America, the Caribbean, Romania, Russian Empire, the

Middle East and India. Resources will be provided.

Telling Crypto-Jewish Stories Through

Jewish Historical Societies

Diana Layden

The knowledge of crypto-Jewish stories can be spread

through Jewish historical society publications, films,

and events. This presentation describes the efforts of

the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society to disseminate

crypto-Jewish history in New Mexico and southern

Colorado. NMJHS was founded in 1985 and has published

a newsletter, Legacy, since 1988, distributed widely.

Issues are available online at www.NMJHS.org. Legacy

has published several articles about crypto-Jews,

including the independent film made by past NMJHS

president Paula Amar Schwartz, “Challah Rising in the

Desert: The Jews of New Mexico.” Crypto-Jews have

given presentations at NMJHS annual conferences;

Yvette Cohen Stoor, for example, wrote an article for

Legacy, appeared in Paula’s film, and presented at the

2018 conference. Sample articles will be distributed.

What Cannot Be Thought - Writing a

Jewish Guadalupe in Colonial Mexico

Marie-Theresa Hernandez, PhD

In 1648 a priest named Miguel Sánchez produced the most

important book of the Mexican colonial period. For over

500 years, “Imagen de la Virgen Maria,” was credited for the

identity of the Mexican nation through its treatise on the

apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This presentation

concerns a new analysis of the Sánchez book, indicating

a second story that, until the 21st century, was never

considered. As a colleague of Sánchez’s wrote in a postscript

to “Imagen,” the text exemplifies “what could not

be thought.” Critiques of the Sánchez text stressed the

Christian nature of the story, misinterpreting passages as

patriotic missives while the colony was experiencing the

most intense Inquisitorial activity of the century. Previous

readings ignored that Sánchez was writing to secret

Jews living in Mexico City, expressing their terror at an

Inquisition that had incarcerated and executed many from

their community. Why had no one noticed the ubiquitous

presence of the Inquisition? Why was there no interest in

his reference to the psalm telling of children who sang the

praises of the Holy Cross in order to confuse their enemies?

How can a book that has been republished numerous times

in 500 years be so thoroughly misread?

The focus on the cryptic text of “Imagen” tells us “what

cannot be thought” — identifying the existence of a public

secret that if acknowledged, could send nearly everyone to

the jails of the Inquisition.

This and much more at the

conference in Denver!

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 27


Let me begin with the work of

Olibama Lopez Tushar, a woman

raised in the San Luis Valley who

moved to Denver as an adult. She

wrote about this region many years

ago in a slim book titled “The People

of ‘El Valle’ — A History of the

Spanish Colonials in the San Luis

Valley,” a history that describes the

region’s people, their way of life,

customs and traditions, as well as its

founding-and still-prominent

families. Our own SCJS member

Arnold Trujillo grew up there. The

forward of the book is dedicated to

his grandparents.

I learned about Olibama Tushar

through what was once called

the Spanish Genealogy Society of

Colorado, a group that met monthly

at the Denver Public Library. They

named their club after her and the

name always stuck in my mind

because it is so melodious. Once

the group folded some years ago,

I never gave it further thought.

Coincidentally, I met Arnold Trujillo

at the SCJS San Diego conference

many years ago and he actually lent

his personal copy of this book to

me for my research for my awardwinning

novel “Hidden Star,” set

in remote northern New Mexico. I

was looking for an understanding

of the greater area’s way of life.

He thought it might help.

The book is a thorough look into

a highly traditional community,

descended from Spanish Colonial

times, that has triumphed in fulfilling

the responsibilities of rural family

and community life. I enjoyed it,

discerned what I thought was most

important to me, and stuck it away

on my bookshelf for far too long. I

Stars align



saves a rare



mailed the book back to Arnold only

just last year, certain that it had

served its purpose, and apologetic

for my tardy remittance. Arnold

reminded me just how hard it was

to come by. Very few copies existed

and he was glad to get it back.


Shifting gears and changing subjects,

allow me to introduce you to our

graphic designer, Jacqueline Hirsch

of Lakewood, Colorado. She has been

making this magazine look beautiful

and coherent for the last five years.

Jacqueline also served as caregiver to

her ailing mother Ruth who passed

in late 2017, and her beloved brother

Detlef who also passed away in early

2018. Her father Kurt, ill with lung

cancer and bereft of his beloved

family, died three months later.

A tremendous year of grief and loss,

more than most daughters can bear.

Jacqueline’s parents ran a successful

family printing business, Hirsch

Graphics Enterprises, for decades

after they emigrated to the United

States from Germany. They fulfilled

the classic American dream, selftaught

in a profession of which

they all were very proud. When

the couple retired, a longtime

friend and fellow printer took over.

Though now a different name, the

business keeps going to this day.

After selling the business, Kurt

and Ruth still kept an office at

home, always staying busy and

occupied, up until the very end.

Not surprisingly, the house was

filled with projects and papers

when Kurt finally passed, leaving a

challenging job for Jacqueline and

her husband Chuck Montgomery

(our former webmaster) to tackle,

one mysterious box at a time.

Imagine my surprise when Jacqueline

called me one afternoon and said,

“I found a few boxes stored in the

garage. I’m not sure exactly why, but I

think they might be of interest to you.

It’s the complete printer’s set-up —

artwork, offset negatives, plates and

28 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

Above, left - Original photos included in “El Valle”

Above, right - A stack of master layout boards, one for

each of the books nearly 200 pages

Left - Offset printing negatives, “stripped” (mounted)

4-up for printing

Jacqueline Hirsch

galleys, plus a printed copy — of a book called “The People

of ‘El Valle’.” Done the old way – before digital printing.”

“Yes,” I exclaimed, catching my breath,

“it’s important. Thank you!”

I decided to find the material a proper home. Arnold

Trujillo wanted it but I was selfish; I didn’t send it to him.

I wanted anyone interested to have easy access — and

Arnold lives in California, far from the story’s source. The

Denver Public Library Western History division also wanted

it, but an archivist there turned it down; said the content

was not easily accessible to researchers in this form and

didn’t lend itself to microfilm either. Then I shared the

news with Joyce Gunn of the San Luis Valley Museum. She

called colleague Rick Manzanares who works with a special

archive/library in the area that covers San Luis heritage.

He was thrilled. FedEx helped package it and in early

March 2019, this treasure made its way through Colorado,

down the Sangre de Cristos, back to its place of origin.

“Unpacking this shipment brought tears to Rick’s eyes,”

said Joyce in a recent conversation. “We can’t thank

you enough.”

Here’s what I think: Some things are just waiting to be

found. And perhaps the universe has a timeline of its own.

All I know is this: Through serendipity and what seemed

like a random event, “El Valle” has found its way home.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 29

scjs 2018 regional conference review

St. Augustine Conference

BY Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

The early morning rain made

for a cold and dreary trip to

World Golf Village

Renaissance St. Augustine Resort on

Sunday, December 9, 2018. But inside

the Legacy Conference Room there

was only brightness and luminance

as 75 participants gathered for a

conference designed to help tell the

“Story of Crypto-Jews in the

Southeast US,” a partnership of the

Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies and

the St. Augustine Jewish Historical


After a warm welcome from SCJS

president Debbie Wohl-Isard and

SAJHS president Merrill Shapiro,

participants were treated to a

presentation titled The Crypto-Jews

Who Helped to Shape the New World by

Cindy Seton-Rogers, PhD candidate

at the University of Texas; then

Sephardic Jews and the New Pirates of

the Caribbean by Dr. Sharonah

Fredrick, assistant professor, SUNY

Buffalo, and a presentation Crypto-

Jewish Narrative, Strategies and Identity

in America Southeast, 16th-21st Century

by SCJS board member, Dr. Seth Ward

of the University of Wyoming.

A brief review of the History of Florida

Jewish History was provided by Dr.

Marcia Zerivitz, founding director,

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

Jewish Museum of Florida, followed

by a presentation Resources for The

Study of Florida Jewish History by

Dr. Rebecca Jefferson, director,

Price Library of Judaica, University

of Florida.

Following a sumptuous luncheon and

lots of opportunity for networking,

attendees were treated to a

presentation by SCJS board member

Dr. Seth Kunin, Curtin University,

Perth Australia, on Recent

Developments and Research in the Study

of Crypto-Judaism. Debbie Wohl-Isard

and Merrill Shapiro then each

reviewed recent developments in the

work of the Society for Crypto-Judaic

Studies and the St. Augustine Jewish

Historical Society.

The day was concluded with

presentations by Professor Jacob

Frisch, Wayne State University, on

Conversos at Santa Elena; by Albeyra

L. Rodriguez, Inter-America

University of Puerto Rico, titled The

Foreigners: Jews in Cartagena de Indias

1634-1660; and a striking

presentation by Dr. Lourdes

Arguelles, professor emeritus,

Claremont Graduate University,

Narratives of Reconnection, Conversion

and Renewal, striking because it raised

the question of Jewish ancestry

among those seeking entry to the

United States at its southern border.

The benefits of the networking alone

made the time, effort, energy and

attention lavished on this event well

worth the investment. But beyond

the connections and friendships

established, those in attendance have

become ambassadors and advocates

for the study of crypto-Judaica,

spokespersons for a point-of-view

that challenges an old orthodoxy that

says “American Jews are mostly

Ashkenazim from Central and

Eastern Europe whose ancestors

spoke Yiddish!”

Clearly, the echoes of this conference

will be heard for many years as

people in the Southeast US begin to

search for the Sephardic roots and

crypto-Jewish history in their







in the



Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies

St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society

Sunday • December 9, 2018

World Golf Village Renaissance

St. Augustine Resort

30 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

upcoming conferences



Hispanic Organization for Genealogy and Research

(HOGAR de Dallas)



October 3-5, 2019 • OMNI Dallas Hotel at Park West

1590 Lyndon B Johnson Freeway, LBJ and Luna Rd • Dallas, Texas 75234

Registration $20 – $150 • www.eventbrite.com/e/40th-annual-texas-hispanic-genealogicalhistorical-conference-tickets-56306733957/amp

For information visit www.hogardedallas.org



Texas State Genealogical Society

2019 Family History Conference

October 11-13, 2019 • Omni Houston Hotel Westside

13210 Katy Freeway • Houston, Texas 77079 • 281-558-8338

Details available soon at www.txsgs.org/2019-conference



New Mexico Jewish Historical Society

Jewish Life in Taos and Northern New Mexico:

Past, Present and Future

November 9-10, 2019 • Sagebrush Inn

1508 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, New Mexico 87571 • 575-758-2254

For information visit www.nmjhs.org



The Anusim Center of El Paso

Join us for the 16th Annual Anusim Conference

November 2019 • El Paso, Texas

More details coming soon - go to


HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 31


Light C atchers

In addition to being the

most inspired and dedicated

president of SCJS —

a volunteer position that Debbie

Wohl-Isard takes as seriously as any

job — she is also an artist, one who

excels in an exciting but challenging

medium—fused glass.

If our passions are an extension of our

most cherished values, it’s no wonder

Wohl-Isard has chosen to work with a

material that reflects light; a perfect

metaphor for learning and education,

as well as the dissemination of

information, one of the goals of SCJS

she so firmly believes in. Her craft

engages the senses, and teaches us

something too, asking us to look at

and through and beyond the obvious.

There’s always something hidden in

the layers.

Titling the series Shin Shui (like

Jewish Feng Shui), said Wohl-Isard

about her colorful vertical piece

shown here, “Evoking the essence

of a mezuzah, each creation is

individually designed to catch the

light near a threshold as one goes out

or comes in. Or, it may be hung in

any bright place. I urge the viewer to

find the Hebrew letter “shin,” often

hiding in plain sight.”

Whether you read Hebrew or not,

the mystery of the shapes and forms

seem to speak their own message,

benevolent and clear. “The crypto

experience of shattered lives, secrecy

and hiddenness are powerful forces

within my creative inspiration. I have

to shatter the glass before re-forming

it into a new whole. Sometimes I have

a plan for the design; other times the

glass seems to move itself into place.”

These pieces radiate joy. How Debbie

finds the time to create is a question

only she can answer. But for the

lucky owners of these scintillating

light catchers, we’re glad she does.

One or more of the Shin Shui series

will be included in the first ever

silent auction at the Denver SCJS


“Yud hey vav hey” (5"x2") vertically

displayed in a Kabbalah-inspired

rendering of the name of God.

CB — Editor


This multi-colored piece (8"x3") tells

the story (from bottom to top) of the

darkness of the Inquisition and the fires

of the autos-de-fe, crossing turbulent

seas to the New World where the land

journey continued north into New

Mexico. The shape of this piece includes

the horizontal segment that may lead

some to find the hidden cross before the

sun emerges in the Shin.

“ The crypto experience

of shattered lives, secrecy

and hiddenness are

powerful forces within my

creative inspiration.”

32 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780


I Know Who I Am

My credentials are ancient, unique.

I am a link in the 5000 year-strong, unbroken chain,

despite persecution and pain.

My ancestors spoke directly to God, gave humanity the Ten Commandments,

the ethics code, the belief in one God,

a universal wisdom by the prophets,

taught to an entire world.

My ancestors were tested all the time,

be it Babylon or Spain,

in near or remote lands sounding exotic to the ear,

and now, in a new homeland, Eretz Israel.

My ancestors survived floods, pogroms, plagues,

burning in fires, indescribable wars, hunger, blazing sun,

freezing cold.

Despite all, my people prevailed,

renewing links in that 5000-year chain, untamed,

despite persecution and pain.

I am Eternal.

I know who I am.

By Shula Robin

Late friend of

Yaakov Gladstone

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 33

stage and FILM



sense of anticipation filled the air in Jerusalem at the

grand opening of “Hidden, the Secret Jews of Spain,”

presented by the Women’s Performance Community

of Jerusalem and OU Israel. This original musical shared the

history of our lost Sephardic families during the Inquisition

in Spain. I attended the performance in fall 2018, invited

by Sharon Katz , production manager and the show’s music

director Avital Macales.

As a descendant of the b’nai anusim, I had been following

this musical’s journey via social media for several months.

I had the honor of meeting many of the talented women

performers at the musical’s inception in Jerusalem earlier

that year at their first rehearsal.

The directors of “Hidden, the Secret Jews of Spain,”

are Shifra Penhower; music director Ellen Macales;

choreographer Judy Kizer, and producer Bati Katz. The cast

includes 70 dedicated Orthodox women (a women/girls-only

production) coming from Jerusalem’s environs. The musical

production flows smoothly with younger and more mature

women working together in harmony.

Most of the show, set in Spain in 1692, is based on the

history of “The Family Aguilar,” as recounted by Rabbi

Marcus Lehmann, with permission from Feldheim

Publishers. “Hidden,” in its musical form, represents

the recounted stories (based on Inquisition records) of

thousands of Jews who remained hidden from view for

centuries to survive.

The Secret Jews of Spain

The musical opens with “A Secret Yom Kippur” held by the

converso families and the Aguilars, along with their rabbi

(played by Sharon Doubler Katz). The rabbi also serves

as teacher and pretends by day to be the Aguilar family’s

butler. Converso Jews left behind would gather secretly

in cellars or secret synagogues where they could avoid

detection. The rabbis also taught Torah secretly to the

children. The characters of “Hidden” are believable, yet not


Top - In costume,

Sharon Doubler

Katz (l), and

Graciela Fenn (r)

Center - Entire

ensemble in scene

with Spanish clergy

Bottom - Women’s


Community of

Jerusalem in

family scene

by Graciela Serrano Fenn

Many families were Catholic by day and Jewish by night,

living underground lives in Spain, ending in the 1492

Expulsion. However, many of our people did not disappear

as once thought. The musical uses a combination of

historical vignettes based on what thousands of conversos or

New Christians, (nuevos cristianos) endured, depicting their

miraculous survival through persecutions over 500 years.

The production illuminates the subject, yet did not depict

the horrors of the age in an insensitive manner. The

atrocities committed against the Jews of Spain (later in

Portugal) by the powerful Catholic King Ferdinand and

Queen Isabella are symbolically expressed through light,

music and dance. Production techniques use blackouts,

sound, and red silk scarves for flames. The effect is

understated and profound.

34 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

The story of the young son, Diego

Aguilar, for example, shows his

transformation into the Grand

Inquisitor of Madrid as an adult. This

character interacts with his younger

self via two actors. The Aguilar

family is later imprisoned after being

denounced by a past family friend

turned rival, an Inquisition agent.

Diego is unfortunately left behind

because he had fallen ill during the

family’s arrest. He is raised as an

orphan by the rival, and eventually

rises to the rank of the Grand

Inquisitor of Spain. In effect, Diego is

now the hidden Jews’ worst enemy.

The haunting song, “Where Do I

Belong,” sung by Avital Macales in

her role as Diego, evokes feelings

of sadness and conflict. Diego’s

memories of his past life are

triggered by touching one of the

rimonim of a Torah scroll confiscated

by the Inquisition. Diego suddenly

remembers the prayers of his

childhood. This song transfers the

character’s suffering and pain to the

audience in a real way.

As a descendant of the b’nai anusim,

now a returnee, (American-Israeli),

I felt personally the pain and

suffering portrayed by Diego’s

character. The melancholy in the

song, and in many other pieces,

captures these conflicting emotions.

The musical provides beautiful

choreography and some comedy

(singing and dancing pirates!), but

also a reminder of the trauma that

Iberian Jewish families endured.

In conclusion, “Hidden, the Secret

Jews of Spain” is beautifully

presented, with authentic period

costumes, while being portrayed

solely by women. I salute the efforts

of the creators and cast, a bright light

shown into the darkness of

our Sephardic past in Spain.

I wish the players of the Women’s

Performance Community of

Jerusalem a strong future.

Children of the Inquisition

A Film Whose Time Has Come

What began as a dream, the

telling of the story of the

Iberian Jewish Diaspora in

the 15th and 16th centuries as a result

of the Spanish Inquisition, and the

reawakening of its descendants around

the world, has become a reality.

Director Joe Lovett and his crew at

Lovett Stories and Strategies can truly

celebrate an astonishing film, a

riveting story of persecution and

survival under extreme odds.

“Children of the Inquisition” is not

only a two-hour documentary, it is also

an immersive website and educational

outreach project that unearths 500

years of hidden history. The project

looks in depth at what happened to

specific families forced to convert to

Catholicism or flee during the Spanish

and Portuguese Inquisitions through

the eyes of their contemporary

descendants, many of whom are just

discovering their often nuanced Jewish

roots. Diverse personal narratives

about subjects, that many members of

SCJS have come to know and respect,

reveal the connections between the

subject’s individual family’s journeys

and this buried history. The discoveries

of these flights to safety enable each

subject to access a fuller understanding

of how their lives were

shaped by a perilous history.

More than just a film, “Children of the

Inquisition” is an opportunity to better

understand our complex world and

identities, a revelation for many.

Constructed of interviews about

descendants: José Barreiro; artist

Carlos de Madeiros; journalist and

author Doreen Carvajal; Kingston,

Jamaica resident Dr. Winston George

Mendes Davidson; Professor Devin

Naar of the University of Washington

in Seattle, and young Ise Sharp,

BY corinne J. Brown

granddaughter of Ainsley Henriques of

Jamaica, the powerful imagery is tied

together with a superb soundtrack.

Historical insights by author David

Gitlitz enrich the tour of Spain and an

interview with Rabbi Stephen Leon of

El Paso, Texas focuses on the hidden

Jews of the Southwest. Contributions

by historian Jane Gerber lend

clarification and credibility.

After six years of shooting in 12 cities

spanning four continents, the new

release recently premiered at the

Seattle Jewish Film Festival to rave

reviews. Said Lovett about his

accomplishment, “Making ‘Children of

the Inquisition’ has been an

extraordinary learning experience. I’ve

learned there is much more to history

than what we’ve been taught and

much more to identity (Jewish,

Christian, Muslim) than what we’ve

assumed. And there is a much wider

Jewish history and experience than

that which is often recounted in

today’s narratives. Our subjects and

our expert consultants have helped me

to understand the people of the Middle

Ages and their tribulations of

persecution, forced migrations and

hiding. I’ve gotten an important

perspective on the plights of today’s

refugees and the politics and prejudice

that creates their situation.”

See “Children of the Inquisition” in Denver

Wednesday, June 5 • BMH Synagogue

For details, email info@bmh-bj.org

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 35


On the

Chocolate Trail

By Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz

Jewish Lights, 2017, 2nd edition


love chocolate!

It has been a

staple in my

life forever:

a reward for a job

well done,

a comfort when

life seems too

much, and

a pleasure to be

enjoyed. I like certain chocolates more

than others: dark over milk, and white

chocolate only as a last resort. It wasn’t

until I read Rabbi Deborah Prinz’s book,

“On the Chocolate Trail,” that I gained

a real understanding of the history of

chocolate, its connections to culture,

history and rituals, and how one can

learn more of its impact on people

everywhere. In addition, Rabbi Prinz

has included several recipes that

introduce the reader to the magic

of cacao.

Prinz and her husband Mark, also a

rabbi, embarked on several journeys in

search of the connection between Jews

and chocolate. In Section One, she

takes us along on their adventures in

Europe and shares with us what they

see, learn and taste along the way. She

not only found links between Jews and

chocolate, she found connections

between chocolate and other cultures

and traditions around the world. She

explores historical information about

chocolate during World War II, noting

that the Germans devised a thin steel

bomb covered in chocolate that would

explode shortly after the end piece was

broken off! We learn about chocolate

in Israel and Mexico. To sweeten the

story, Prinz includes recipes that fit

each section of the book.

Section Two starts in the Pre-

Colombian world of Mesoamerica:

Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El

Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and

Costa Rica. In the Pre-Columbian

world, cacao, grown on a sacred tree,

was considered the food of the gods.

Some believed it was the Aztec

“Gardener of the Gods” who gave

chocolate to humans. When

Christianity was introduced in these

regions, clerics had to learn how to

adapt cacao into their European and

religious beliefs.

The Catholic Church had many

challenges dealing with chocolate,

including issues deriving from

chocolate addictions to chocolate

financial opportunities. Quakers

became involved in the chocolate

business when

the English


banned them

from participating

in other


Although many

got involved in

the business of

chocolate for altruistic reasons, they

often found themselves dealing with

slave labor and inferior product quality

in order to make money and find

success. The last chapter in this

section focuses on the ethics of


Prinz ends the book with more recipes,

a chocolate and religious history

timeline, a “Consumer’s Guide to the

Ethics of Chocolate,” author’s notes,

and more.

“On the Chocolate Trail” is a

fascinating and fun book. Chocolate

offers much more than I ever

imagined. Before reading this work, I

had already decided I would not waste

my time or calories on “inferior”

chocolate, and now I feel like I need to

Chocolate “Morsels”

The Spanish explorer Cortes brought cacao and

chocolate making equipment to Spain. The Spanish

king adored it and tried to monopolize it. Among

those entering the chocolate-making business

were Jews.

1480 The Spanish Inquisition began. In 1492, Jews

were either converted or expelled from Spain and

not permitted to live there until 1925. In 1496, Jews

were ruthlessly expelled from Portugal.

Forced to convert to Christianity, some Jews

continued to observe Judaism in secret in their

homes. Many fled to Holland, Belgium, France, and

Mexico and took their chocolate passion with them.

1544 Dominicans presented sweetened, drinking

chocolate to the Spanish court and it became wildly

popular. People drank chocolate at home, in church

and at court.

1571 The Inquisition was established in “New Spain”

or Mexico, where many Jews had fled. Chocolate was

an essential daily beverage used at meals, parties,

funerals, at the beginning and end of the Yom

Kippur fast. A prominent Mexican Jew of the time

documented breaking his fast with “chocolate, eggs,

salad, pies, fish and olives.”

Jewish prisoners received chocolate several times a

day from their servants and slaves. For many Jews,

chocolate enriched their businesses, permeated

their rituals, and sustained them in prison.

1630 Sixty converso Jewish families moved to

Bayonne, France because a royal grant offered them

refuge from persecution. They began the chocolate

industry there. By the end of the century, when

there were 800 Jews and 13 synagogues in Bayonne,

it became known as a chocolate center. Still,

Jewish life was difficult. French chocolate makers

eventually banned Jews from making or selling

chocolate in Bayonne at all. (Today Bayonne credits

Sephardic Jews for bringing chocolate there.)

Meanwhile, Jews of Amsterdam were considered

expert chocolate makers. Chocolate-making had

become a Dutch Jewish specialty after the rise of

cocoa trade with Curaçao.

1663 Emanuel Soares de Rinero (a converso)

got the first permit to fabricate chocolate in

Belgium. Benjamin d’Acosta de Andrade, also

Jewish, cultivated the first cacao trees and built

a processing plant on Martinique. In 1685, Jews

were expelled from all French colonies, ending the

chocolate trade in Martinique.

1690 The Pilgrims decreed that chocolate was “the

devil’s food;” hence the name for chocolate cake.

1701 The first recorded chocolate importation to

New York was by Isaac Marquez. His trade ships

imported cacao from Venezuela, Curacao, Jamaica

and Haiti, exchanging it for rice from the Carolinas.

Jews and chocolate were found around the world

and Jewish confectioners became legends. Come to

the Denver conference to hear much more.

36 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

know more about the producer and the

product. If Prinz ever offered to take

others on her chocolate adventures, I

would gladly volunteer. For now, I

must be content with the travels and

information shared with the reader.

— Linda Katchen, PhD

By the Light of

Hidden Candles

By Daniella Levy

Kasva Press, 2017


gentle love

story hides



Alma Ben-Ami, a


Sephardic Jew,

moves in with

her grandmother

to attend NYU.

Miguel Aguilar

stops by grandma’s Judaica store and

is inexplicably drawn to the

merchandise, and more

understandingly drawn to the lovely

Alma, tending the counter. Boy meets

girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, all

told in well-researched prose. Woven

into Alma’s and Miguel’s story is the

whispered family history, the tragic

tale of Miriam and Leon, in 1492.

Every love story has an obstacle,

seemingly insurmountable, and this

one is no exception. Miguel, alas, is a

Spanish Catholic, with priestly

aspirations. Alma is bound to her

faith, and has no desire to escape.

Both desire one another, but in this

day of hooking up, swipe-right and

friends-with-benefits, Alma and

Miguel barely dare shake hands. Both

are bound by seemingly (to an

outsider) archaic restrictions—one by

her religion’s rules, the other by plans

for future celibacy. Naturally, their

determination is tested, and

ultimately, and unsurprisingly, Miguel

discovers what everyone else has

known all along: he is the descendant

of Spanish Jews, and his and Alma’s

families knew each other in the story

of Miriam and Leon.

What makes this book special? It isn’t

just the topic of Jewish descent in

Spaniards, since for this reviewer it’s a

topic well-plowed in recent fiction. It

isn’t the dialogue, which the author

renders in perfect sophomore-talk,

with extended paragraphs about faith

spoken by each side reminiscent of

late-night philosophy all-nighters

with roommates. It’s the raising of the

weird, almost ugly side of devotion to a

particular and, to some, outmoded way

of life.

Alma truly keeps kosher and she

covers her hostess’s stove with foil so

she can eat. She travels on her

semester-abroad to Madrid with pots

and pans, cans of food, and her own

plates and utensils, and roundly

reviles the Spanish for having little

available to her. She visits the

Alhambra and while she can

appreciate its beauty she suggests to

her hostess that she would prefer to

spit on the central atrium because it

was there that the Edict of Expulsion

was signed in 1492. She conflates the

rulings of a cruel church and

government of five centuries past with

individuals who are living their lives

today. She can be rude, self-involved,

and judgmental.

Author Daniella Levy doesn’t pull any

punches. While Alma disdains the

conversos who chose life as a hidden

Jew over torture and death, when she

and Miguel are accosted by a group of

Neo-Nazi youths in an alley she hides

behind Miguel, and stays silent when

he assures the thugs that they are

Christian. Alma learns nothing from

the experience.

Miguel, meanwhile, examines his

faith, his life, and his family’s roots

with a near-obsessional doggedness.

He clearly doesn’t want to enter the

priesthood, he is only trying to find

the paternal love he lost when his

father died. He examines his

relationship to Jesus (which is openly

mocked by Alma) and his family’s

roots, to the point where any other

young man would have cried,

“Enough!” and made a decision. Once

he “discovers” his family’s past and

continued secret practices, he is so

relieved that the reader almost cheers.

A simple FamilyTreeDNA test would

have done the trick.

Reviewer’s End Note:

Judaism, as readers of HaLapid all

know, is matrilineal. Traditionally, a

person is Jewish if he or she has a

Jewish mother or converted to

Judaism. This Halachic rule comes

from a time when there was no blood

test for paternity, no genetic testing

for familial relationship. We could

only be sure who the mother was.

Unlike other religions that encourage

conversion, Judaism keeps its

membership cards close. It isn’t easy

to become a Jew. While America was,

at least on an aspirational level,

founded on the idea that we don’t care

who your daddy was, Judaism clearly

cares who your mommy was. This

focus on blood is echoed eerily in the

limpieza de la sangre in Spain, where

the other side of the coin condemned

those with a fraction of Jewish blood.

This obsession with blood lines and

genetics informs current debates over

crypto-Jews, certificates of return, and

the weight of faith versus blood.

This charming love story raises all of

these questions, and to its credit,

doesn’t try to answer them

definitively. The young protagonists

are happy to operate under the laws

that govern them, the rules that

determine whom they can marry,

whom they can touch, and even who

needs to carry the passport on the way

to Shabbat services. The book lets the

reader choose whether to accept these

strictures as the norm and enjoy the

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 37

love story, or spend the next few days

arguing loudly in one’s own head

about how these two sophomores

should live their lives in the greater

context of the world.

Either way, the book stays with you,

long after the love story ends.

[Disclosures: I received a copy of this

book in exchange for a fair review.

After this review was written, but

before it was published, my fifth novel

was accepted for publication by the

same publisher.] — Claudia Long

Claudia Hagadus Long is the secretary

for SCJS. She is the author of four

novels, including “The Duel for

Consuelo” and “Chains of Silver,”

about crypto-Jews in Colonial Mexico.

Her next novel, “My Name Means

Remember,” will be published by

Kasva Press in Fall of 2019.

Me’ah Berachot -

Life as a Spanish &

Portuguese Jew

in 17th-Century



While time


are still

beyond our grasp,

books can

occasionally serve

as an alternate

way to find

ourselves in a

different era and

place. One such

book, which I just procured for a

customer, is Me’ah Berachot, Orden de

Bendiciones, a comprehensive prayer

book in Hebrew and Spanish printed in

Amsterdam in 1687.

This Siddur was intended to be as

comprehensive as possible, with

prayers and rites for all occasions and

holidays of Jewish life. The intended

audience was the Jewish community of

Amsterdam, composed mostly of

former emigrants from Spain and

Portugal. The prayers and instructions

were in Hebrew and Spanish

throughout, and the contents reflect

what life would have been like for

these Jews, living a new life in a new

land, and most of whom had very little

knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism.

Among the more traditional prayers

that would be familiar to any

practicing Jew today, you can find

several which have thankfully become

obsolete. Appearing in the book are

special prayers to recite when

purchasing a slave, and prayers at the

circumcision ceremony of a new slave.

The emigrant’s fear and connection to

those persecuted by the Spanish

Inquisition can be seen from the

several prayers to be said for both

males and females that were to be

burned at the stake by the Inquisitors.

In the prayer book, one can also find

the local recipe for haroset used in the

Haggadah seder,

as well as a full

detailed order of

purification of a

dead body in

preparation for

burial. A prayer

to recite when

one might see

the pillar of salt

(which was the

wife of the

biblical Lot) is found in the book as

well. For the benefit of users, the

measurements of the Amsterdam

mikvah were noted, as well as a calendar

with future dates of Jewish holidays,

measurements for the separation of

challah, and the rules pertaining to

deeming an animal non-kosher.

— Israel Mizrahi

Israel Mizrahi is the owner of a used

bookstore, containing over 180,000

titles, located in Brooklyn, New York.

He is a descendant of ancestors who

fled Spain and went to the Balkans.

The Weight of Ink

By Rachel Kadish

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

The Weight of

Ink” by


Kadish is a deep

and complex

historical novel

that delves into

the heart of the

conflict between

one’s inherent

nature and one’s

obligations to

society. The book works like a

metaphysical coin-flip; one face says

“sacrifice,” and the other says

“survive.” Between these antithetical

poles lies the fate of the crypto-Jew,

either to be consumed by history or to

become history’s documentation.

Like the flipped coin, both faces are

understood, but prediction is impossible.

The discovery of a mid-17th century

genizah [sacred cache] during the 21stcentury

renovation of a 350-year-old

house in London draws two academics,

Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a

love of Jewish history, and Aaron Levy,

an impatient but charming American

history graduate student, to

investigate the papers hidden there.

As the genizah papers are translated,

the story of Ester Velasquez, a young

Sephardic woman and ward of Rabbi

Hacoen Mendes with a hunger for

study and truth, emerges as she

struggles against the strictures of her

time that forbid learning and discourse

to women. Parallel to her story is that of

continues on page 44

38 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

hidden traditions

Some historians believe that

the Russian painter, Moshe

Maimon’s most famous work,

“Marranos: Secret Seder,” actually

tells the story of the Seder Hamishi,

a secret tradition; a special Passover

seder held, not on the first or second

night of Passover but as its name

suggests, on the fifth night of the

holiday. Legend has it that during

the time of the Inquisition, first in

Spain, then in Portugal and finally on

the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and

into Italy’s mainland, Jews who had

been forced into Christian conversion (b’nai anusim) were

helped, surprisingly, by their Christian neighbors.

Neofiti, as these newly-minted Christians were called,

continued to arouse the suspicion of Inquisition authorities

– so much so that gardeners, maids, cooks and nannies

who worked in households of converted Jews were offered

a bounty if they could catch their employer cleaning

the house of chametz, (leavened bread), changing pots,

pans and dishes, or preparing pane azimo, or matzah, the

unleavened bread eaten during the Passover holiday.

And then, when the first night of Passover finally arrived,

Inquisition soldiers, who laid in wait for the sun to set,

would burst through the doors of what had once been

Jewish homes, checking to see if any of these former Jews

were judaizing – in this case, making Passover in secret.

Observing this injustice, some courageous Christians

concocted a plan to help their Jewish

neighbors. At great personal peril

to themselves and their families

(Christians who helped Jews were

often tortured and murdered along

with the Jews they tried to save),

these Christians encouraged their

Jewish neighbors to hold a seder, not

on the first or second night but,

to not arouse the authorities’

suspicions, on the fifth night. Stories

are told of Christian families who

allowed Jews to sneak into their

Christian cantinas, (basement rooms)

and under the cover of darkness, these

Jewish neighbors first made the space

kosher and then actually observed

Passover complete with symbolic

foods, prayers and blessings.




by rabbi barbara aiello

Here in Calabria, in the deep south

of Italy or what we like to call the

toe of the Italian boot, our b’nai

anusim continue the tradition of the

Seder Hamishi. Eight years ago when

Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud (the Eternal

Light of the South) first revived the

Seder Hamishi in the town of Selinunte

on the island of Sicily, friends and

families, both Jewish and Christian,

have gathered annually to celebrate

this remarkable Passover event.

Each year we hold the Seder Hamishi in

the Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme (formerly Nicastro)

near Timpone, the old Jewish quarter that is still intact.

Seder guests tour Timpone, at the foot of the castle of

King Fredrick II, a monarch who recognized the valuable

contribution that these Italian Jews made to the local

economy and who offered them safety and protection.

Following the tour, concert violinist Angela Amato, whose

ancestors were forced into Christian conversion and who,

along with her son Ale, have returned to their Jewish

roots, initiates this historic seder with musical selections

in Ladino, the ancient Spanish-Hebrew language of the

Mediterranean Jews.

Symbolic seder foods include the traditional shank bone

but for us anusim it is coupled with the bietola (blood red

beet) to symbolize the lamb’s blood on the doorposts that

saved the firstborn in Hebrew families. Locally-grown

romaine lettuce (more bitter than the American variety)

Rabbi Barbara tends to the Fifth Seder

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 39

eplaces horseradish and pieces of

celery stalk, rather than parsley, serve

as karpas, the green vegetable dipped

in vinegar, rather than salt water.

The traditional egg on the Italian

seder plate is rich brown in color,

because it has been roasted for hours

with onion skins, vinegar and saffron.

The seder meal begins with a primo

piatto (first course) of rice steamed

with vegetables, because in our

Sephardi or Mediterranean tradition,

rice as well as other kitniyot are

considered kosher for Pesach. Roasted

lamb is a must along with mina, a

layered lasagna-type meat, spinach

and matzah pie brought to Italy from

Spain by our crypto-Jewish ancestors.

Pesach anusim traditions begin with

the lighting of the memorial candle

in honor of our “forced ones,”

“Mina,” a layered lasagna-type meat,

spinach and matzah pie brought to Italy from

Spain by our crypto-Jewish ancestors

(Recipe at www.rabbibarbara.com/


Russian painter Moshe Maimon’s most famous work,

“Marranos: Secret Seder,” 1892, depicts the Seder Hamashi.

followed by the candle blessing for

Shabbat and Yom Tov, sung in an

ancient Ladino melody. The seder

plate itself is actually a ke’arah, a

woven basket-type tray covered

with silk netting that makes a grand

entrance to the seder table after the

kindling of lights.

At the singing of Ha lachma anya, the

plate of matzah is passed shoulderto-shoulder

among the guests,

a symbol of the heavy burden of

slavery. A tin can placed at the head

of the table takes center stage for

the recitation of the Ten Plagues as

a splash of wine punctuates each

plague. When the can is filled, the

younger guests carry the can into a

far corner of the garden with the

admonition, “May our enemies

stay far from our door.”

Then it’s a rousing version of

Dayenu which features green

onions (scallions) that guests use

to tap each other, symbolizing the

sound of the whips used to beat the

Hebrew slaves.

For me, a bat anusim or “daughter of

the forced ones,” leading the Seder

Hamishi, a secret Passover tradition,

each year in Southern Italy is one of

the most emotional experiences of

my rabbinic career. As we read the

ancient blessings I recall my own

family’s history when my nonna

carried candles to the

cellar to kindle the

lights of Shabbat.

Now, as each Seder

Hamishi brings with

it the realization that

fear and prejudice

nearly extinguished our

heritage, this understanding

is coupled

with a deep sense

of gratitude to the

nameless Christians

whose courage helped

preserve the very traditions that I am

able to enjoy today.

This year in Calabria, we Jews who

were nearly robbed of our religion,

our culture and our heritage, bring

the light of Pesach out of the cantina

and into the hearts of our brothers

and sisters. The seder concludes with

the traditional wish, “Next year in

Jerusalem.” For me and my fellow

b’nai anusim whom I serve here in

the deep south of Italy, we add,

“Baruch HaShem, next year in

Calabria” too.

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

is the first and only

woman rabbi in

Italy. In addition she is the

first and only modern

liberal rabbi who lives and

works in Italy, where she

serves congregation Ner

Tamid del Sud, The Eternal Light of the

South, the first active synagogue in Calabria

in 500 years since Inquisition times. In 2017

the synagogue was recognized as a member

of the Reconstructionist Jewish movement

and is open and welcome to Jews of all

backgrounds, interfaith and non-traditional

families, patrilineal Jews and b’nai anusim

and crypto-Jewish Italians who are

discovering and embracing their

Jewish roots.

Rabbi Barbara is an internationally featured

lecturer who was invited to present her

work at the National Press Club in

Washington, DC, at the United Nations

special committee on religious pluralism

and as a scholar in residence for synagogues

and for Italian and Jewish organizations

throughout Europe and the US.

She is host of The Radio Rabbi program, a

weekly radio show featuring topics of Jewish

interest, good news from Israel, and new

and traditional Jewish music. The program is

in its 18th year and available each week as a

podcast. Contact Rabbi Barbara through her

website www.RabbiBarbara.com

40 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

carrying the torch

Erensya Summit, Seattle

The biennial Erensya conference,

this year May 27-31, brought

together Sephardic Jews from

different communities around

the globe.

Erensya is one way the Spanish

government works toward

maintaining ties with the Sephardic

world. It also provides a venue

for establishing relationships,

networking and celebrating a unique

“erensya,” or heritage.

Erensya, which means “heritage” in

Djudezmo is held every other year.

The first was in Sofia, Bulgaria, and

the second was in Istanbul, Turkey.

The third took place in Spring 2015 in

the Spanish cities of Madrid and Ávila

with more than 80 participants from

over 35 communities and institutions


The event aims to establish a bridge

between Spain and the Sephardic


Coordinated by the Latin American

Sephardic Federation, the summit’s

more recent previous meetings took

place in Spain, Turkey and Bulgaria

and Mexico City

Maria Apodaca and Schelly Talalay

Dardashti represented Albuquerque,

New Mexico at the May summit and

talked about their activities.

This year’s event in Seattle,

Washington, was the first time

Erensya was held in North America.

The Seattle contact, Doreen Alhadeff,

is the first American to get Spanish



• Immediately following Erensya,

Schelly attended the Southern

California Genealogy Jamboree 50th

anniversary conference, speaking

about Jewish DNA at DNA Day and

on Sephardic topics for main event.

• Schelly will also speak at Hispanic

Organization for Genealogy and

Research (HOGAR) in Dallas,

October 3-5.


on the



In February 2019, HaLapid editor

Corinne Brown spoke to Denver’s

“KAVOD on the Road,” a series

of lectures and presentations

designed for older adults, and

showcased around the city. Inspired

by an article in an earlier edition of

HaLapid written by Julia Hernandez

comparing Sukkot to Dios de Los

Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Corinne

showed the trailer for the recent

award-winning animated film “Coco”

Last November Schelly Talalay Dardashti

(left) and Maria Apodaca (right) attended

the Texas State Genealogical Society

Family History Conference. Both SCJS

and Casa Sefarad shared the cost

of this conference for Maria, a joint

collaboration. Both she and Schelly were

able to reach many people and several

Texans came to our table and were very

happy to learn that they had Jewish DNA.

They were a great success and are hoping

to continue this outreach.

“Day of the Dead” mask made by hosts

of Corinne Brown’s talk about Sukkot for

KAVOD in Denver

and explained in detail where the

comparisons lie. This was part of a

larger talk reviewing the wide range

of new ideas and works in print telling

the story of the Iberian expulsion,

the history of the hidden Jews of

Latin America, and the return of the

exiles, the anusim. A crowd of nearly

100 people took it all in and enjoyed

a glimpse into another culture. It was

a great opportunity to talk about the

upcoming Denver conference too!

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 41

carrying the torch

Resiliencia, Homage to the Jewish journey

in Spanish-speaking Countries

Hats off to “Resiliencia!

The Experience of Jewish

Communities in Spain and

the Americas.” The recent week-long

event in Albuquerque, New Mexico

highlighted the extraordinary journey

of the Jewish people in Spanishspeaking

countries, and focused in

part on the US Southwest.

Co-sponsored by the Instituto

Cervantes, CasaSefarad@Nahalat

Shalom, Festival Djudeo-Espanyol

and the National Hispanic Cultural

Center, the cultural festival was a full

week of film, music, food, exhibits

and lectures.

Highlights included an opening art

exhibition, “Women of Valor” by

New Mexico native and SCJS board

member, Natalie Trujillo Gonzalez;

a genetic DNA lecture focusing on

Sephardic research by Schelly Talalay

Dardashti, a variety of significant

roundtable talks and lectures, a

Sephardic concert by Cantor Beth

Cohen and Ensemble; a series of

outstanding films with Sephardic

themes (including the recent

“Challah Rising in the Desert”); a

second concert, “Juderias” by Lara

Bello with Ladino folksongs, and

much more.

Kudos to SCJS members Maria

Apodaca and Schelly Talalay

Dardashti who worked tirelessly

with Casa Sefard@Nahalat Shalom

executive director, Rabbi Jordi Gendra

Molina and with Instituto Cervantes

director and staff to help bring this

remarkable event to fruition.

The event took place in collaboration

with the Consulate of Mexico, the

Cultural Office of the Embassy of

Spain, Centro Sefarad-Israel (Spain),

Red de Juderias de Espana (Spain),

Disputacion of Lleida (Spain), Latin

American & Iberian Institute at the

University of New Mexico, Consulate

General of Israel (Houston), Jewish

Federation of New Mexico, ADL

Mountain States Region, New Mexico

Humanities Council, and Century


The Dancer

Painting by Natalie Trujillo Gonzalez

Florida Atlantic


On February 11, 2019,

SCJS member Chana

Cohen (left) attended

a lecture at FAU (Florida

Atlantic University) with

Devin E. Naar, professor at

Washington University Stroum

Center for Judaic Studies, and

author of “Jewish Salonica:

Between the Ottoman Empire

and Modern Greece.”

A word from one of our members...

“I have attended SCJS conferences in Phoenix, Miami, Santa Fe and Philadelphia. As a historical fiction novelist, I find each

event a great way to connect with academics and others who do research on topics of interest, especially Sephardim, their

countries of origin and the Diaspora after the Inquisition. It’s scholarly and fun! They always bring in great cultural

performers and musicians. I learn so much and have met so many wonderful people. I look forward to attending the

conference in Denver!” – Marcia Fine, author

42 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

Kulanu’s 25th


Washington D.C.

February 15-17, 2019 Genie

Milgrom participated in the

25th anniversary celebration

of Kulanu, an organization that

supports emerging communities

around the world that are isolated

and who wish to learn more about

Judaism and reconnect with the

Jewish people.

The weekend retreat and

anniversary party was held at the

National Synagogue in Washington

D.C. and was hosted by Rabbi

Shmuel Herzfeld. Not only is the

rabbi the leader of this powerful

community, he is also writing a

sefer torah and gave each person an

opportunity to write it with him.

For Genie, it was a life-altering

moment. Rabbi Herzfeld takes

groups into communities in Latin

America and is very active with

communities around the world.

The Shabbat services were filled

with joy and Kulanu’s vice president

Bonita Sussman spoke about the

mission of the organization from

the bimah. Saturday night, Milgrom

gave a talk on her own history and

what she is personally doing on

behalf of the b’nai anusim, as well as

how Kulanu is extending their reach

far into isolated communities.

They also heard from Rabbi Capers

Funnye, the leader of the Ethiopian

Hebrew Congregation in Chicago,

and had the opportunity to see an

amazing movie about the return of

the Jews from Madagascar.

In all, it was a very inspirational


among ourselves

Congratulations to Genie on her new cookbook

— in Spanish and English!

All the recipes

were handwritten

by the grandmothers


centuries and

handed down,

preserved over

time. Many

Sephardic and

crypto-Judaic recipes intrigue, such

as French toast shaped like pork

chops and covered with red peppers!

Each recipe was prepared and tested

by willing friends, working often with

unknown quantities like “a pinch of

this” or a “drizzle of that.” Some of

the recipes reflect Sephardic heritage


GENIE MILGROM nació en una familia católica

cubana. En busca de sus ancestros y con gran

tenacidad, logró desenredar su historia familiar

hasta la época de la pre-Inquisición en España

y Portugal. En este recorrido ella fue capaz de

encontrar una rica herencia judía que se reveló

como un colorido tapiz compuesto de secretos

de una familia que se ocultaba y pretendía ser

católica, mientras practicaban su religión

judía de forma escondida.

Al investigar profundamente en los archivos

de España, Portugal, Colombia, Islas Canarias,

Costa Rica y Cuba, Genie Milgrom logró seguir

los pasos que su familia había realizado. Pero la

totalidad de la historia no estaba en los archivos,

sino que permanecía oculta en cajas y maletas en

la casa de sus padres. Allí Genie encontró pequeños

fragmentos de borrosas notas escritas a mano.

Sus abuelas habían copiado las recetas y la historia

de la cultura familiar en esas noticas que sus

abuelas y después su mamá habían transportado

de país a país con cada una de sus migraciones.

Lo que resulta más interesante es que en estas

recetas vemos cómo las abuelas acostumbraban

a ocultar el hecho de que estaban manteniendo

las leyes alimenticias judías, mientras

pretendían ser católicas.



de mís



Genie Milgrom honored

On March 24, 2019, Young Israel

of Kendall, Florida honored Genie

Milgrom at their annual Tribute

Dinner, “Me’Chayil el Chayil - from

Strength to Strength.” Young Israel

has been more than just a spiritual

home for Genie and husband Mike

for over 25 years. It provides a

nurturing environment and created

a springboard for achieving Genie’s

global success in helping others in

their quest for a dignified return to

their proud Jewish heritage.

Thank You, SCJS!

Thank you all so much for the beautiful

ad in the [Kendall] Journal. It has been

a whirlwind for me and it seems that I

finally have been truly able to put the

crypto-Jewish word out on the world

stage. Thank you! Thank you!

— Genie and Mike

such as Bollo Maimon

for Maimonides,

the Spanish rabbi.

The recipes follow

the family to the New

World and include the

grandmothers’ recipes

from Costa Rica, Canary

Islands and Cuba.

Testers advised some recipe corrections

to make all recipes easy to prepare in

today’s kitchens.

Available at www.GenieMilgrom.com

and www.amazon.com.

Kudos to Matthew


Matthew Warshawsky PhD,

former SCJS president,

is now in his fourth

year as department chair at

the University of Portland.

(Congratulations are better

late than never. Matthew is

currently in his second three-year

term.) Also, in 2018, Matthew

received a promotion from

associate to full professor.

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 43


VOL. XLIII / XLIV • AUTUMN / WINTER 2018 / 5779 • ISSUES 23 & 24




VOL. XLI / XLII • WINTER / SPRINg 2017-18 / 5778-79 • ISSUES 21 & 22



Welcome to Our

Newest Members

SCJS extends a warm welcome to our new

Canadian members, with thanks to

Yaacov Gladstone.

We are delighted to meet you!

Thanks for your support.

Order Back Issues of HaLapid

Own beautiful back issues of HaLapid! If you’re a new member and

would like to see what you’ve missed, we still have copies of some

issues from the past five years (in the current format) and would be

happy to send them.

$9 each or four different issues for $30, plus shipping.

Email the editor (corinnejb@aol.com) with your request

and address. Payment instructions will be sent to you.

Freda B., Toronto

Sendor D., Toronto

Ilan E., Ottowa

Rose G., Toronto

Sophie K., Toronto

David S., Montreal

Leila S., Toronto




Autumn/Winter 2018




Winter/Spring 2017-18

Spring/Summer 2017

Autumn/Winter 2016

Spring/Summer 2016

Autumn/Winter 2015

Yaacov Gladstone and friends in Portugal c. 1990

Spring/Summer 2015

Autumn/Winter 2014

Spring/Summer 2014

Book Reviews (cont.)

The Weight of Ink

continued from page 34

Helen Watt, the crusty British historian

determined to be the first to publish the

discovery of the female scribe, Aleph. As

both stories, past and present, unfold,

Kadish demonstrates that times change,

but that important questions do not;

they are fixed, like stars, and require

personal navigation.

Although The Weight of Ink may be falsely

considered a “woman’s book” because

the protagonists are female, the greater

issues of faith, the search for identity

and truth, the question of martyrdom or

survival, and the nature of the Divine

are universal. These themes evolve

along with the lines of the story.

The personal navigation of the

characters between their time and their

choices guides us through the questions

of those choices and the sacrifices they

must make to be true to the nature of

their hearts and minds. Bypassing the

herem of Baruch de Spinoza and skirting

the dangers of heresy while living

outside the Jewish community and

within the logic of one’s own mind (the

Scylla and Charybdis of faith), they

circumvent the siren call of martyrdom

by questioning why survival is

considered cowardice, when that

impulse is the heartbeat of all that lives.

Kadish asks the question: “Do you

wonder, ever, whether our own will

alters anything? Or whether we’re

determined to be as we are by the very

workings of the world?”

Rachel Kadish is an American writer of

fiction and non-fiction. Her fiction has

won many awards including the

National Jewish Book Award and the

Association of Jewish Libraries Fiction

Award. She has also received fellowships

from the National Endowment of the

Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural

Council. She teaches in Lesley

University’s MFA Program in Creative

Writing and is currently involved in New

Voices, a project using the arts to work

for tolerance. — Gail Gutierrez

Mercedes Gail Gutierrez is a visual artist whose

works explore the questions of identity and place.

She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and

awards including a Fullbright-Hays fellowship to

Spain, and numerous California Arts Council

residencies. After living in Israel, she currently

resides in Davis, California.

44 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780


are part

of a Mission!

Through your support of our studies

of the history, cultures, arts and current

status of crypto-Judaism in the United States and

throughout the world, we continue our mission of

nurturing a global organization for those researching the

history of crypto-Judaic and hidden communities around

the world.

Our first conference, held near Taos, New Mexico in 1991,

was organized by a small, dedicated group of people who

established SCJS to foster research and the exchange of

information about conversos who settled in the outer

regions of the Spanish empire. The secret observance of

Sephardic customs and traditions by many descendants

continue still.

Today SCJS is regarded as the primary body of scholars,

artists, crypto-Jewish descendants and interested

individuals investigating this phenomenon and inspiring

new research directions. Although our roots are in the

American Southwest, our horizons extend world-wide,

with enriched conferences, exciting new media

and affiliations.

Our website, www.cryptojews.com, has archival status

because scholars and interested individuals may access

hundreds of articles and papers from past issues of

HaLapid. It also features stories and news of SCJS and

related events.

Since 1991, we have attracted members from the United

States, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Spain, Portugal,

Scotland, England, France, Italy, Israel, South Africa, New

Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Macao, Goa, Central

America, the Spanish Caribbean Islands and elsewhere.

Your continued membership and donations make it

possible for us to continue our mission. We welcome new

and renewing members. We are all active participants in

this important field of study.

In addition to membership, we welcome donations to our

other funds. The Randy Baca/Dennis Duran Fund provides

assistance for those researching possible Sephardic

ancestry but cannot afford to attend conferences. A

donation to our Conference Fund ensures the participation

of outstanding keynote speakers and supports special

conference programming. In addition, your contribution

supports our mailing and publication expenses.

With continuing support, we look forward to a long future

of outreach, encouragement and discovery!

Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies

join & Donate online


(preferred method)

or complete and mail this form

Membership benefits include: Our journal HaLapid,

and our online newsletter La Granada.

Please mark your membership status, category

and contribution amount.

Status New Member Renewing Member

Category Student $10

Individual (Standard membership) $45

Senior Citizen $40

Institution or Business $50

Sustaining $100

Patron $1,000


Baca/Duran Fund $_____________

Conference Fund $_____________

General Fund



Institution/Business __________________________________________

Address ___________________________________________________

City__________________________ State________ ZIP_______________

Outside USA:

City___________________ Country___________ Postal Code___Telephone

In USA, include Area Code. Outside USA, include Country Code


Amount Enclosed $______________

Check Number _________________

Please make check payable to SCJS-Treasurer

and mail to: SCJS Mail Box

333 Washington Blvd. #336

Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Society for

Crypto-Judaic Studies

Join & Donate Online

(preferred method)

www. cryptojews.com

HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780 45

Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies


2936 Janitell Road

Colorado Springs, CO 80906-4162






- HaLapid -

Tudo se ilumina

para aquelle

que busca All is

a luz illuminated

for those

who seek the light

- Avram Ben Rosh -


46 HaLapid - SPRING / SUMMER 2019 / 5780

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