Our Advisory Board
Jewish Heritage Alliance Advisory Board Members reflect our mission and work. We are about telling the story of Sefarad, a story we believe is historically "missing in action". That the important historical period of Sefarad (Jews of the Iberian Peninsula comprised of today's Spain and Portugal), and the profound effects and consequences of that period, by and large are overlooked and underreported by historiographers.
JHA will gather and deliver information relating to this important segment of Jewish and world history. From the early beginnings when the Jews first arrived at the Iberian Peninsula, through the erratic precarious times and events, including the "Golden Age", one of the greatest periods of Jewish history, a period of immense achievements, to the pogroms and forced conversions, leading to the exile. We continue following in the footsteps of the exiles, depicting their travails, illustrating how these brave, tenacious people settled, flourished and created the new world.
In our on-going effort to deliver the Saga of Sefarad to the public domain, we rely on the knowledge, research and experience of our Advisory Board, a group dedicated to the Sefarad Saga, each with unique credentials and in-depth knowledge of the subject.
PLEASE NOTE that this is a work in progress, and we invite you to come back from time to be updated.
Jewish Heritage Alliance "In the Footsteps of the Jews of Sefarad" project, is the brainchild of Michael Steinberger. Michael hails from the tourism industry where he enjoyed over 4 decade's experience. Having been born in Israel and living his adult life in diaspora, helped in shaping Michael's commitment for Jewish heritage and this project. Michael's interest in Sefarad (Jews of the Iberian Peninsula) was motivated by the far-reaching events of this segment of Jewish and world history and the profound consequences this period produced, including today's Conversos (descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity 530 years ago), especially those making their way back to their Jewish roots.
Steinberger's vision is derived from the supposition and belief that the Sefarad narrative, both historical and the present-day consequences, are not sufficiently reflected in the annals of Jewish or world history thereby lacking the proper imprint and standing it deserves. Steinberger launched Jewish Heritage Alliance with the underlying mission to deliver this epic story and all its consequences and effects to the public domain. To extend the scope and reach of the mission, Steinberger is created a strategic alliance partnering with organizations, institutions, and individuals, covering the private and public sectors, including religious, secular, historic, academia and governments.
Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun
Ariel Yeshurun is a graduate of the Shehebar Sephardic Center and the Hebron Yeshiva Rabbinic College in Jerusalem. He completed his studies at Amiel-Strauss Institute for diaspora leadership training for rabbis. Rabbi Yeshurun received his Rabbinic Ordination studies as well as holds a Rabbinic Advocate license from the Israeli Ministry of Justice. Rabbi Yeshurun served in the IDF, has a Bachelors of Science degree, and finished the first two years of medical school. Ariel Yeshurun served as rabbi for 11 years at 'Shaarei Tsedek' Jewish Congregation in the Caribbean island of Curaçao. He is the founder of the JCLC (Jewish Community Learning Center), a Miami based adult Jewish education center. He is the president of the board of the Rabbinical Association of the greater Miami Jewish Federation and a member of the National Council of AIPAC. In addition Rabbi Yeshurun is the founder of “For Women By Women” a Miami based support group for divorced women. He also serves on the board of the Leo Martin March of the Living, and Friends of the IDF (FIDF) as well as on the advisory board of Kosher Miami (KM) and ‘Yehi Or,’ a JCS family abuse prevention and treatment program. Rabbi Yeshurun is currently the congregational rabbi of 'Skylake Synagogue' in North Miami Beach.
Our Emissary for Portugal
Ruth Calvão is our Ambassador to Portugal and points beyond. Ruth brings many years of unique experience in the subject of Jewish history of the Iberian Peninsula. Hers is a special journey that combines her personal life experience with her dedicated, lifelong work, to promote and safeguard the relevance of the Saga of Sefarad, past, present and future.
Born in Lisbon, Capital City of Portugal, Ms. Calvao studied anthropology and was always fascinated with Jewish traditions and culture. What makes Ms. Calvao a true, living expert on the subject of Sefarad is that she was born a Christian and like many of her fellow Conversos, has embarked on an individual journey for her Jewish identity. Ruth made Aliya and moved to Israel in 1977 where she married and raised children in a Jewish environment.
Ruth brings extensive experience in working with EU and Israeli Institutes and Government bodies, both national and local, NGOs and Philanthropic Institutes in Europe and the Middle East. She is a recognized, and well-respected authority on Jewish history in Portugal and beyond. Ruth Calvão is a founding member and heads the Project Development and Outreach of the Centro de Estudos Judaicos de Trás -os- Montes, Rotas Históricas e Culturais Ibéricas (Center for Jewish Studies in Trás-os-Montes, Iberian Historical and Cultural Routes). Ruth has 35 year hands-on experience coordinating projects and budgets; both with governmental and private organizations, including endless voluntary work during this period. She pioneered many innovative initiatives which focus on how an individual or a community tell their story using tools such as community theatre and arts to implement social change. She is a dedicated mother and grandmother and splits her time between Israel and Portugal.
Rabbi Peter Tarlow, PhD
Emissary, Latino Community Outreach
Rabbi Peter Tarlow, PhD, is our Ambassador at large, responsible for Latino and Jewish Communities Outreach Projects. Peter was the director and rabbi of Texas A&M Hilel for thirty years. He retired on July 1, 2013, and became its Rabbi Emeritus. Upon retirement he assumed the leadership of the Center for Latino – Jewish Relations. Tarlow writes a weekly bilingual social religious commentary that is read throughout the United States and Latin American and he also writes a monthly philosophy column for the Bryan Eagle. Tarlow is also a chaplain for the College Station police department.
Tarlow now helps emerging Jewish communities throughout the Spanish-speaking world, and he is currently working with Jewish communities in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru and the United States. He is an expert on Sephardic and Crypto-Jewish history and works in conjunction with universities around Texas to lecture on Sephardic history and culture. He also lectures on the impact of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions on both European and American Jewry. Tarlow also lectures on Sephardic, and Crypto – Jewish literature and culture at major Texas Universities and for Jewish and Latino organizations throughout Texas.
In April of 2013, Tarlow was asked to accept the role as the Envoy for the Office of Chancellor of the Texas A&M system, John Sharp. As such he represented the Texas A&M system, as requested by the Chancellor, around the world. In 2015 he began teaching at the Texas A&M Medical School’s Department of Humanities, and in 2016, Governor Gregg Abbot of Texas named Tarlow as the Chairman of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.
Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.
Sefarad Emissary and Outreach
Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D. comes from a long and distinguished rabbinical lineage dating back to fifteenth century Spain and Provence. Following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, his family migrated throughout the ages through Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. Rabbi Abadie was born in Beirut Lebanon, and grew up in Mexico City, coming to the United States where he earned his B.A. in Health Sciences in 1983, B.Sc. in 1984 in Bible Studies, Hebrew Teacher's diploma in 1985, and a Master's degree in Philosophy in 1986. Rabbi Abadie received his Rabbinic ordination in 1986 from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He graduated SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1990 with an M.D. degree. He did his residency in Internal Medicine, and later his fellowship in Gastroenterology at Maimonides Medical Center.
Rabbi Abadie joined the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) in 2020 as its Senior and Resident Rabbi. As the Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates experiences dramatic growth from an influx of Jewish tourists from Israel and the West following the historic signing of the Abraham Accords, Rabbi Dr. Abadie provides spiritual leadership to the local community helping to build and grow Jewish life in the Gulf.
Born in Havana Cuba into an upper class Roman Catholic family of Spanish origins, Genie moved to Miami at the age of 5. As an adult she made her way back to her Jewish roots, tracing her Crypto-Jewish heritage through 22 generations, dating all the way back to 1405 to Pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal.
She is the author of the book “My 15 Grandmothers” as well as “How I found My 15 Grandmothers A Step by Step Guide”, including her latest book “Pyre to Fire” winning the 2015 and 2018 Latino Author Book Awards. She also writes for several on line sites including www.esefarad.com as well as the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jewry.
She has spoken at the Knesset in Israel and lectures around the world bringing awareness to the topic of the Jews returning from the Inquisition. Her work has been showcased in many publications, including the Jerusalem Post, The Miami Herald and other publications around the world. She was awarded the State of Florida Genealogy award for her outstanding achievements and advances in the Pioneer work she accomplished in Genealogy. Most recently, she was awarded the coveted Medal of the Four Sephardic Synagogues from Jerusalem for her decades of work in recuperation of Sephardic Memory
Genie is currently the Director of the Converso Genealogy Project which is in the process of digitizing all the Inquisition files around the world so that others may also find their roots .This important project was given the Seal of Approval by the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in Israel, an Organization that has championed this cause.
Prof Dr. Haim Shaked
Liaison Academic Community
Haim Shaked was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. He was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he graduated with a B.A. Cum Laude (1962) and an M.A. Cum Laude (1966) in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. In 1969, he was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), on completion of his studies in its Department of History, chaired then by the eminent late Professor Bernard Lewis. Dr. Shaked's doctoral thesis dealt with a unique manuscript biography of the Sudanese Mahdi.
Dr. Shaked was on the faculty of Tel Aviv University (TAU) where he attained the rank of Full Professor (tenured). He was a co-founder (1966) and later (1973-80) Head of the Moshe Dayan Center/Shiloah Institute for Middle Eastern and African Studies. He also served as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and member of TAU's Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee as well as the University Senate and its Steering Committee (1975-80). As dean, Dr. Shaked oversaw, among other academic units, the School of Judaic Studies, including several departments and research institutes devoted to various aspects of Judaic Studies (e.g., history, literature, language, archaeology).
Dr. Shaked's academic specialization is in the modern history and politics of the Middle East; Islam as a political force; and Arab-Israeli relations. He was the co-founder and editor of the annual publication Middle East Contemporary Survey (24 volumes published).
Dr. Shaked is currently a tenured Professor of International Studies at the University of Miami and the Founding Director of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, as well as Director of the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies at the UM's College of Arts and Sciences.
Ariel Bentata is the vice chair of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and general campaign chair. He has also served as treasurer and an executive committee member, as well as the federation's major gift chair. He is a member of the board and executive committee and the international division. He is a recipient of the Stanley C. Myers Presidents' Leadership Award and was a member of The Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership Cabinet. He also served as chairman of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, leading its capital campaign to build a new educational and cultural building along with completing major renovations to existing buildings. Bentata is founding and managing partner of investments for Accesso, LLC, a full-service, vertically integrated commercial real estate investment management company.
Saby Behar was the President of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. His community involvement dates to the late '70's when as a native Peruvian, he became a leader of the Latin American Jewish Community of Miami. In addition to his leadership in the International Campaign Division, Saby's involvement in The Federation has included the Young Leadership Committee, Planning and Allocation, The Board and the Executive Board of Directors. Saby was a member of the Executive of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet and a Wexner Fellow as well as a member of the Executive of the Jewish Federations of North America and a Board Member of the Jewish Agency for Israel. His involvement as of late has been with organizations dedicated to educating Jewish teenagers, college students and young professionals.
Esther Serok Ed.D is a researcher and teacher at the Seymour Fox School of Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recently returned from North America where she served as the representative of the World Zionist Organization Executive in North America and the president of the Council for Hebrew Language and Culture in North America.
She represents Hadassah at the Women’s Zionist Organization of America at the WZO extended executive and in the Presidium for over 20 years. She directs the Jewish Education and women empowerment programs at the Hadassah Youth Aliyah villages for the last 22 years. Researched the Ladino culture, collecting Ladino folk tales.
Esther taught summer courses at Teachers College- Columbia University and Hebrew Union College both in New York and was invited to serve as an International Scholar at the Elbenwood Center for the Study of the Family as Educator at TC –Colombia University in NY. She specializes in family education, had developed a unique model of studying the family as an educator and working with migrating families. She published several articles on Jewish Family Education and various curricular unites in Teaching Israel. She participates and lectures in International Academic conferences around the world regarding the challenges and advantages of families in multicultural societies. She was the first executive director of the Tali Education Fund. Dr. Serok is a graduate of Hebrew University, a certified high school teacher for Hebrew literature and language. Received her Ed.D in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Ainsley Cohen Henriques
Sephardic Communities of the Caribbean
Ainsley Cohen Henriques,CD. commitment to the Jewish Heritage in Jamaica and the Jamaican Heritage generally is that he has served in many and diverse area in the island in which his ancestors settled in the early 18th century. He has served as a member and President of the B’nai Brith Lodge and Vice President of the District XX111; as President and Vice President Director, President and Honorary Secretary of the United Congregation of Israelites – KK Shaare Shalom – for many years. He also served as secretary to the Union of Latin American and Caribbean Congregations (UJCL) and co-hosted their 5th annual conference in Jamaica.
He has practiced as a genealogist focusing on former and present Jewish Jamaican families, founding the Jamaican Jewish Genealogical Society. He and his wife created the Jamaican Jewish Heritage Centre for the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in Jamaica in 2006. And in 2010 co-hosted the “Jews in the Caribbean conference” in Kingston with Professor Jane Gerber and assisted by the now Professor Stanley Mirvis. The proceedings of that conference, edited by Jane Gerber, was published by the Littman Library in 2014.
He initiated the archaeological dig on the Neveh Shalom synagogue site built in c. 1704 in Spanish Town and latterly coordinated with the Caribbean Volunteers Expedition (CVE) the clean up and cataloguing of the 17th century cemetery at Hunts Bay followed by the cataloguing of all the graves in Jewish Jamaican cemeteries and graves still to be found all over the island.
Ainsley still serves on the Commonwealth Jewish Council and as the Honorary Consul for Israel in Jamaica. In his contribution to Jamaican Heritage, he has served as Chair of the Jamaican National Heritage Trust for a number of periods and on numerous other national boards such as The Institute of Jamaica and private and public companies.
Dr. Isaac Amon
Director, Academic Research & Program Development
Dr. Amon graduated summa cum laude with Highest Honors in Medieval History, with a focus on the Iberian Inquisition, before earning a J. D., LL.M in alternative dispute resolution and a J.S.D. (PhD in Law) in comparative law, criminal procedure, and legal history, all from Washington University in St. Louis.
In law school, he was awarded the Dagen-Legomsky Public Interest Fellowship to work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and served as a research assistant to the Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity to the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. With a background in international and comparative history and law, he studied at Utrecht University, Hebrew University, and the Sorbonne; lectured on criminal procedure, the Inquisition, and Sephardic history in the United States and Canada to professional and lay audiences; and served as an Adjunct Professor of Law to visiting students, lawyers, and judges. Most recently, he has been published in law review and professional journals.
A first generation American, Dr. Isaac Amon's paternal ancestors originated in 15th century Spain before leaving the Iberian Peninsula due to the Expulsion of 1492. Over the centuries, following their arrival in the Ottoman Empire, they served as Chief Rabbis, diplomats, and physicians to the Sultans.
Isaac brings his unique skillset to manage the Research & Project Development at JHA.
Esther Serok Ed.D
Program & Content Advisor
Corinne Joy Brown served as chairperson of the Mizel Museum of Judaica in Denver from 2000-2008, during which time she became interested in the story of crypto-Jews of the American Southwest. She joined the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies in 2001, seeking research and resources for a proposed novel which was released in 2016 and subsequently won the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Historical Fiction and a Latino Literacy Award, among other distinctions.
Corinne was selected by the Jewish Book Council to be an author on tour for 2017-18 and has presented to NMAJH in Philadelphia and other communities in Oklahoma, El Paso, Albuquerque and other cities. She has been a board member of SCJS for 12 years and is editor of their semi-annual publication HaLapid, a journal subscribed to by the Library of Congress, Harvard University, and other prestigious institutions.
She is a past president of the Denver Woman's Press Club and founder of Writing the West, a 20-year writing program held at Western State College (now CU Gunnison.) She is a Fellow of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs History Department. Corinne is the author of nine books in print and has recently co-authored a Holocaust memoir to be released 2022.