Joseph R. Maldonado, Jr., M.D., MSc, MBA, DipEBHC
Joe is an assistant clinical professor of medicine (formerly assistant clinical dean) at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and life member at Kellogg College, Oxford University. He is immediate past president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. He holds several graduate degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge. He has 30 years of genealogical research experience in New York, Puerto Rico and Spain, with a rich personal crypto-Jewish history in Puerto Rico. He has spoken at numerous conferences and meetings regarding crypto-Judaic studies, crypto-Judaic genealogy work, as well as his personal journey back to his Sephardic roots. He is currently writing a book on his family’s history in Puerto Rico since the Inquisition exiled them from the Iberian Peninsula.

First Vice President – Open

Immediate Past President
Genie Milgrom
Immediate past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, as well as president of Tarbut Sefarad Fermoselle. Genie is a researcher of crypto-Jewry in Spain and Portugal in the areas surrounding the Douro River and is author of My 15 Grandmothers as well as How I Found My 15 Grandmothers and Mis 15 Abuelas; all Latino author award-winning books. Her own extensive research, which led her to find an unbroken maternal lineage of 22 generations of grandmothers, is an unparalleled work of genealogy that has won awards nationally and internationally. She hosts her own website,, and also created to help others find information about Spanish archives. She hosts her own website,, and has created to help others find the locations of Spanish archives.

Vice President of Communications and Editor of HaLapid
Corinne Joy Brown
Corinne is the author of five books and a freelance writer for several magazines. A member of the Colorado Authors’ League, she is past president of the Denver Woman’s Press Club, and a charter member of Women Writing the West. She was also board chair of the Mizel Museum of Judaica in Denver from 1990-2000. Corinne created Writing the West, an accredited literary conference, now a part of Western State College’s humanities program. She is a Fellow of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

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

Co-Vice President of Membership: East Coast
Lissette Valdés-Valle
Lissette Valdés-Valle is a journalist and communications professional with a background in theater and Spanish dances. She received her bachelor’s of science in broadcast journalism, minor in international relations from Florida International University. Growing up in a Catholic exiled Cuban family in Miami, Lissette was connected to her roots in Asturias, Spain and her country of birth, yet there was something that inextricably drew her to Judaism and stirred her soul. After questioning the belief system she was born into and in which she never felt exactly at home, she searched for an authentic expression of G-d and spirituality that resonated with her. A few years later, she became aware of her maternal grandmother’s anusim connection and sought to regain her heritage while finding the spiritual connection for which she always yearned. After 20 years of working in Spanish language media (Univision Network, NBC Telemundo Network andérica), Lissette served as Director of communications for the Florida Department of Children and Families Southern Region and is currently the public information officer/media relations for the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office (11th Judicial Circuit of Florida). Lissette is a member of Beth David Congregation (BDC) where she is vice president of Women’s League and is an alto in the BDC choir.

Co-Vice President of Membership West Coast
Maria Apodaca
Maria’s family has been in New Mexico since arriving in 1598 with the Juan Onate expedition. She was born and raised in Albuquerque and raised a Catholic before finding out, at age 14, her family’s true heritage. She made her return to Judaism in 1999 and is active in many Jewish organizations. A member of Congregation Nahalat Shalom, she served on the va’ad (board) for three years. Her activities include: event coordinator for Festival Djudeo-Espanyol; board member of SCJS; steering committee member of Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico; member of New Mexico Jewish Historical Society; and steering committee member of New Mexico Federation’s Spanish Citizenship Committee. She shares her personal story and the Sephardic saga as a member of Road Scholar Pro and Over The Road Tours which she joined in 2016.

Robert Carl Montoya
Carl Montoya retired in 2014 as an associate regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Philadelphia. As a career federal employee, he held a variety of positions serving in the Foreign Service in London, and in senior level management assignments, mostly in Washington D.C. Carl is married to the former Donna Leibowitz, has four sons from a previous marriage, and is a proud grandfather of a 4-year-old. His passions are Judaism, genealogy and crypto-Jewish topics where he is active with the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies. He is a member of Mikveh Israel, a Spanish/Portuguese Sephardic synagogue in Center City Philadelphia and presents occasional lectures on his crypto-Jewish background.

Board Members

Member-at-Large and Editor of La Granada
Debbie Wohl Isard
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Debbie Wohl Isard earned her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New College, Hofstra University, and a Master of Social Work from Hunter College, New York. In addition to working as a social worker, program director, event planner, litigation paralegal, and business owner, she has served as a management consultant for funeral homes and an assistant elementary education teacher specializing in working with gifted/learning disabled students. Debbie has contributed articles to HaLapid and serves as editor of the SCJS electronic news connection, La Granada. She has also written articles about family health, pregnancy, ADHD, and education for a variety of other publications. A student of Jewish pioneers of the Southwest, and the history of Christopher Columbus, Debbie has been connected to SCJS since 2008. Raised with Ashkenazic traditions, Debbie now seeks Sephardic connections through genealogical research and international outreach. She is the mother of two adult children and resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

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

Member-at-Large and Outreach
Chana Cohen
Chana is the SCJS northeast outreach volunteer, marketing SCJS in her hometown of Philadelphia. Previously the SCJS membership chair, she is also a museum docent at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

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

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

Seth Ward, Ph.D.
An associate academic professor and lecturer in Islam and Judaism, Seth teaches at the department of religious studies at the University of Wyoming. He has done extensive studies of crypto-Jews, has presented papers at SCJS conferences, and contributed to HaLapid.

Member-at-Large and Society Historian
Art Benveniste
Art has been an SCJS member since 1993, traveling with society members to Belmonte, Portugal when the SCJS conference was held there in 1994. He has served as president, HaLapid editor, membership chair, website administrator and treasurer. He is a retired teacher of history, government and economics. His interest in crypto-Judaism has led him to travel to Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the American Southwest. He is active as a speaker on crypto-Jews and Sephardic history and culture in California.

Member-at-Large and Arts Program Coordinator
Ellen Premack
As past executive director of the Mizel Museum in Denver, Colorado for 15 years, Ellen has a passionate interest in Jewish life, both its history and culture. She led a small Jewish museum to greatness and connected it to many aspects of life in the Denver metropolitan area. She continues to serve on a variety of boards such as the Colorado Holocaust Educators as well as SCJS arts coordinator. A patron of the arts, a collector and an artist herself, she loves the Southwest and lives in Santa Fe.

Grants Administrator
Dolores (Dolly) Sloan
Dolores is author of the nonfiction history The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal, and editor of the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto-Jews. A Society member since 1998, she is Research Fellow for Sephardic and Crypto-Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, developing curriculum for the program. She is the SCJS grants administrator, past president, former HaLapid editor, and SCJS arts programs founder. Dolores is a former arts and health administrator for the state of New Mexico and a speaker in the U.S. and Europe on crypto-Judaism.

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

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

Advisory Council

Abraham Gross, Ph.D.
Stanley Hordes, Ph.D.

Seth Kunin, Ph.D.
Abe Lavender, Ph.D.
Dolores Sloan
Matthew Warshawsky, Ph.D.


Copyright © 2017 - Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies.
All U.S. and International rights reserved.
Website by -
HirMon & Associates, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
Copyright 2017
Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
All U.S. and International rights reserved.