04 April 2008

New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: book, conference

The Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies 18th annual conference will be held August 3-5, in Phoenix, Arizona. At the 2007 event, photographer Cary Herz of New Mexico was honored for her contributions and dedication (see more below).

The Forward carries a review of Herz's book, “New Mexico’s Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory” (University of New Mexico Press, 2007), by Eli Rosenblatt.

In northern New Mexico’s Sandoval County, there is a tombstone of a World War II veteran in a cemetery nestled in the desert brush. The name of the man, who was born in 1921 and died in 1980, is Adonay P. Gutierrez, and it is engraved on the stone below a cross. Nine different Native American communities reside in the surrounding counties, and even if cemetery visitors see his cross before his name, this lone Jew lies among them.

For Cary Herz, New Mexico photography correspondent for The New York Times, Gutierrez’s memory is one way to begin exploring New Mexico’s anusim, Hebrew for “forced ones” or Jews forced into hiding during the Spanish Inquisition. Her new book, “New Mexico’s Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory” (University of New Mexico Press, 2007), gathers photographs spanning the experience of the descendants of Jews who settled in New Mexico during its conquest by Spanish explorers.

“I kept hearing about these people, who had come over with the conquistadors — Jews,” she said in a recent interview with the Forward, “and I asked, ‘How could they be here?’" ...

The book is the first visual exploration of descendants of Jews who fled Iberia during (and after - some well after) the Inquisition, traveled with Spanish explorers and settled in today's New Mexico.

About 60, Herz is the daughter of Central European Jews, works as an editorial, commercial and documentary photographer, covering the Southwest since she moved to New Mexico in 1984. “I envisioned a book like this a long time ago,” she noted. “My goal was not to photograph cemeteries. I wanted to show the world their faces.”

In 2007, the Society honored Herz. She has been the official conference photographer and has worked to capture images of the people whose ancestors, through families' oral histories and genealogical records, knew about their heritage. Herz has sought out symbols at gravesites, artifacts and icons that might point toward the presence of the descendants of crypto-Jews who came to the New World.

The Call for Papers for the upcoming conference reads:

We invite papers on crypto-Judaism from any discipline (e.g., anthropology, history, sociology, philosophy, literature , music, etc.) and from any geographic location or time period. We also welcome papers on other aspects of the Sephardic experience and other communities whose historical or sociological experience is similar to that of the crypto-Jewish community. All interested scholars and professionals, including advanced graduate students, are invited to submit proposals for papers, presentations or workshops.


--are welcome from individuals with personal stories and genealogical or other research relating to crypto-Judaism

--may be for individual papers/presentations or for complete sessions on specific topics.

--must include a 200-word abstract and a brief bio.

--deadline for proposals is June 5.

The society offers two $200 scholarships to encourage graduate student participation and submission of proposals.

Proposals or inquiries should be sent to Seth Kunin s.d.kunin@durham.ac.uk.

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