Speakers Bureau

Speakers Bureau: New Mexico Jewish History



The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society (NMJHS) is proud to announce its newly established Speakers Bureau in collaboration with the Historical Society of New Mexico (HSNM).

NMJHS is pleased to provide speakers on a variety of topics related to New Mexico Jewish History ranging from the early Jewish Ashkenazi Pioneer families coming down the Santa Fe Trail to the Converso descendants of Sephardic Jews who traveled north from Mexico in the early 16th Century.

How to Request a Speaker:

Organizational members of HSNM may take advantage of the Speakers Bureau. If your organization is not currently a member of the HSNM, go to Join HSNM! and send in an application with $50.00.

Steps required to request a speaker:

The list below contains the names, contact information and topics of NMJHS available speakers. Other available speakers may be found on the HSNM website at www.hsnm.org If your group is a current organizational member of HSNM, simply contact the desired speaker directly and make all arrangements with that individual. Please be sure to discuss the speaker’s audiovisual needs. After the speaker completes the presentation, fill out a copy of the Completion Form and mail it to HSNM, and will pay an honorarium of $125 to the speaker. All speakers have agreed in advance to accept this honorarium as sole remuneration. However, the organization may provide meals or other assistance, as it wishes.

Organizational members are allowed up to two speakers per year. Please recognize HSNM’s support in your publicity and during the program.  For more information, contact Janet Saiers at jsaiers@msn.com


Available NMJHS Speakers:


Stefanie Beninato:  info@swguides.com

Beninato is one of the famous, unknown tour guides in the Santa Fe area. Plying her trade for several years, Stefanie is dedicated to providing entertaining, informative and accurate tours. She is a near-native and lover of the Southwest, having earned a doctorate from the University of New Mexico in Southwest history. Stefanie has also worked for the state museum systems in a variety of capacities and participated in archaeological digs and field work here. Besides touring, Stefanie lectures, does research, mediations and facilitations.

Speaking Topics: A History of Crypto-Jews in New Spain and New Mexico

The German Jews of Santa Fe: 19th and 20th Centuries



Harvey Buchalter: hcbuchalter@gmail.com

A New York native, Harvey has resided in New Mexico since 1969 and is a retired high school and college teacher as well as an active sculptor, designer, and writer on Jews in New Mexico, how their history and culture have made a lasting impact on the state.

Harvey is also a certified Yiddish-to-English translator and has translated many memoires, documents, and even the 400- page autobiography of one of the most gifted sculptors in early 20th century Europe.

He is an active member of the NMJHS, former Board member, and is the recipient of the prestigious Hurst Award presented to individuals or organizations who have made contributions to New Mexico Jewish History.

Speaking Topics: “Building Community & Culture: Jews in the 20th Century Albuquerque

“The Jewish Immigrant Experience in New Mexico”

“How Yiddish has Shaped Life in America”

“Albuquerque’s Congregation B’nai Israel: The First 90 Years”


Dianne Layden, Ph.D.:   dlayden@earthlink.net

Dianne R. Layden is a writer in Albuquerque and a retired college professor. Her field is American Studies. Subjects of her research and publications include New Mexico history and culture, public violence, and social justice. She has studied hate crimes since the late 1980s. Among other awards, her essay “Alleged Hate Crimes at Nosh Deli in Albuquerque” won a first-place award in 2015 from New Mexico Press Women. Dr. Layden is a member of several area historical societies and has served since 2014 on the Foothills Community Policing Council, one of six CPCs created by a police reform agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque.

                  Speaking Topic: “Hate Crimes in the U.S. and New Mexico”


Norma Libman: nrmlibman@gmail.com

Norma is a journalist and lecturer with degrees in Education and Literature from Northeastern Illinois University, and has taught at universities, colleges and workshops in New Mexico, Illinois and elsewhere. She also has designed Jewish content programs for the Rhoads Scholar program and served as a presenter and group leader.

She lectures extensively on Literature, Writing, and Jewish History and Culture. In addition, Norma has conducted extensive research in Crypto-Jewish History and interviews many individuals and families with hidden Jewish histories.

Speaking Topics: “Lives of Contemporary Crypto-Jews in New Mexico”

“From Spain to New Mexico: The Journey to Keep a Secret”


Richard Melzer: rmelzer@unm.edu

Professor of History, UNM-Valencia Campus, Ph.D., UNM, since 1979; Dr. Melzer has published and lectured on a wide variety of topics in 20th Century New Mexico History, including his most recent books Breakdown: How the Secret of the Atomic Bomb was Stolen During World War II (2000) and Coming of Age in the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps Experience in New Mexico, 1933-42 (2000) and Buried Treasures: Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History (2007). His publications have appeared in New Mexico Magazine, New Mexico Historical Review, Western Historical Quarterly, El Palacio, and Journal of the West and Military History of the Southwest. He has been UNM’s outstanding Teacher of the Year and is a Past-President of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

Speaking Topic: “The Swastika in New Mexico Cultures and History”

Noel Pugach: npugach@unm.edu

Noel is currently Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Mexico, where he has taught since 1968. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin, and specializes in U.S. Foreign Relations, with a special emphasis on China.

Pugach has written studies of nine Jewish families, the most recent being a study of four Alsatian Jewish families who settled in Albuquerque, and has published numerous articles on New Mexico Jewish history in Legacy, NMJHS Quarterly Newsletter, The Forward, and B’nai Brith Magazine.

Speaking Topics: “New Mexico Jewish Pioneer Families”

“New Mexico Jewish Ranchers”

“Four Alsatian Families Shape Albuquerque”

“The Impact of World War I on the Holocaust”


Naomi Sandweiss: sashisand@aol.com

Naomi currently is the Executive Director of Parents Reaching Out in Albuquerque and previously served as Youth Program Supervisor at the University of New Mexico, Division of Continuing Education.

She has several publications including Jewish Albuquerque and contributing writer to The Jewish Legacy in New Mexico, New Mexico Jewish Link, and Tablet Magazine.

Speaking Topics: “A Mobster in the Family: Jewish Outlaws, Gangsters & Bandits”

“Family Vignettes: Uncovering, Honoring and Sharing Family “Stories”

“Star of David on the Santa Fe Trail: Jewish New Mexico”


Isabelle Sandoval: isantadoval@msn.com

Isabelle is a retired professional educator and has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northern New Mexico College and NMSU. She also served as an Elementary School Principal in Santa Fe and Hernandez Schools. She continues to consult with Santa Fe and other public school districts in ELL/Bilingual Programs. Isabelle holds an Ed.D. from the University of Wyoming.

Speaking Topic:Bi-Lingual/ESL Education and New Mexico Crypto-Jews”

Paula Schwartz: amar@swcp.com

Paula Amar Schwartz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and came to New Mexico in the 1950s to attend UNM. She completed her Ph.D. in Psychology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She is now retired, living in Albuquerque, with husband Mel Schwartz. While in practice, she published many scientific articles and books, and served as President of the Philadelphia Society of Clinical Psychologists, the Academic and The Clinical divisions of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, and the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Her first book, “Beyond Time and Space” was published in 2008.  A second volume, “Unfolding Universe” in December 2013.   She has just concluded serving as President of the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society.

Speaking Topics: “Challah Rising in the Desert: Jewish Settlement in New Mexico”

“Telling New Mexico’s Jewish History through the medium of film.

Rabbi Jack Shlachter: physicsrabbi@gmail.com

Speaking Topics:  “ Jews in Theory: A Snapshot of Theoretical Division at Los Alamos in 1945”

“ Hi Ho* at the Houhai** – Rabbi-ing for Beijing’s Ex-Pat Jewish Community

*Hi Ho – shorthand for High Holidays **Houhai – pronounced ‘hoe hi’ – a lake in central Beijing

Rabbi Jack began working at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1979.  The bulk of his career was in experimental organizations, and he has been part of Theoretical Division since 2010 and is currently the Division Leader of Theoretical Division, an assemblage of nearly 300 Ph.D. scientists focused on modeling and theory in all the natural sciences.

For the past three consecutive years during the Jewish High Holidays he has served as the spiritual leader at Kehillat Beijing, a unique, progressive ex-pat congregation in Beijing, China.  He has previously been the itinerant rabbi in such far-flung locales as Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Vienna, Austria.