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Center for Judaic Studies

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Fellowships & Awards

Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel

Congratulations to the 2015 recipients of the Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship!

Rachele DiFebbo Rachele DiFebbo 
Originally from Tennessee, Rachele DiFebbo is currently working towards a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution at the University of Denver. After earning her BA in International Studies and Religion from Centre College, Rachele spent the 2013-2014 school year teaching first grade in the West Bank. She has also worked on developing a U.S. citizenship course for refugees, conducted research on Palestinian Christians, and most recently served as a research assistant for the Conflict Resolution Institute at the University of Denver.

Dr. Ivor Douglas

Ivor S. Douglas, MD is Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine and Section Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Denver Health where he directs the Medical Intensive Care Unit and is a highly cited researcher in lung failure, sepsis and critical illness. Dr. Douglas, frequently provides critical care consultations for gravely ill patients around the world including Israel. With a particular interest in health care policy and the ethics of end-of-life and palliative care, Dr. Douglas is active in several national and international organizations, including chairing the American Thoracic Society’s (ATS) Health Policy committee. Since relocating to Colorado in 2002, the Douglas family has actively participated in Jewish community programs and organizations and education institutions. He and his family are committed to in the vitality of traditional Jewish culture in Colorado and the vital role of a robust, viable and vibrant modern Israeli democracy.

Rachel FennRachel Fenn is a student at the University of Colorado Boulder in civil engineering. She is a Colorado native and looks forward to bringing her 7-month Israel experience home. The most significant of my programs in Israel are the Green Apprenticeship at Kibbutz Lotan and exchange semester at Technion Israel Institute of Technology. These unique experiences enable her to be fully immersed in Israeli culture, heritage, and language and have allowed her to gain the intellectual, technological, and sustainable knowledge that Israel has to offer. 

Maha FosterProf. Maha Foster is a Lebanese American and has been teaching Arabic at the University of Denver for the past 7 years.  She is currently working on her PhD dissertation on visual speech perception and has completed 2 Master degrees, one in education at the American University of Beirut, and the other in linguistics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Besides visiting the Holy Land, her motivation for applying to the Vinnik scholarship is to assess three different approaches used at 3 different institutions in Israel in teaching Arabic. 

Amy Oppenheimer Amy Oppenheimer-Abitbol is the creator and director of Faces of Israel, an honest and nuanced educational program that explores Jewish identity, religious pluralism and civil liberties in Israel in a dynamic and engaging way. Amy, who was raised on the East Coast but spent significant amounts of time living and teaching throughout Colorado, has been a guest speaker and scholar-in-residence at over 300 institutions in North America and Israel and serves as a frequent keynote speaker for the Israeli Ministry of Finance through the Israel Bonds Division. Amy is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with 8+ years of experience in the management consulting and non-profit consulting worlds. She recently married the love of her life, David Abitbol, and looks forward to studying and conducting research at Hebrew University in Jerusalem next year. 

Tiffany SandersTiffany Sanders is a third year student at the University of Colorado Boulder, pursuing a degree in Advertising and Communications, along with a minor in Technology, Arts and Media. A Colorado native, she has always loved our great state and had a desire to be involved in the diverse and dynamic Jewish community. She attended Denver Jewish Day School, was a leader in BBYO in Denver, and is an avid member of Chabad at CU, all of which has contributed toward seeking study abroad at Tel Aviv University. 

Chany Scheiner

Chany Scheiner is co-director of Boulder Center for Judaism. Any successful organization needs a heart and that is what Chany provides, along with organization, marketing, innovative programming, and countless Shabbat dinners. Some of her accomplishments are large and public like the annual menorah lighting on Pearl Street and the Matzo and Shofar factories, while others are quiet and private like the time she spends counseling individuals and sharing the wisdom that comes from study. 

Keelie SorelKeelie Sorel is incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. Her passion in visiting Israel is largely based on her desire to learn more about interfaith cooperation both within society and in educational settings. Currently at the University of Denver, she is the Program Coordinator for the Social Justice LLC, a master's candidate in the Higher Education program, and Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Outreach and Support. In an effort to better support her students, social activism, and personal development, this trip will serve as foundation for her work in the interfaith community. Prior to DU, she received her B.A. in Communication Studies with a minor in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University. After graduation, she spent a year teaching English in Pohang, South Korea, highlighting her love of travel and cultural exploration. Keelie is eager to continue exploring and learning and looks forward to sharing what she learns with the larger community.

Hear from some of our past winners from our 25th Vinnik Fellowship Anniversary Video:

Source: DU VideoManager

We will begin accepting applications for the 2016 Vinnik Fellowship in January, 2016

The new application deadline for 2016 is TBA. Stay tuned!

About the Fellowship

The Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel honors the life of the late Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik, esteemed physician, scholar, professor of medicine, and respected community leader and activist.

His love of education and dream of bridging the gap between the United States and Israel, and among Jews, Muslims and Christians inspired the Vinnik family to establish the memorial scholarship fund.

By providing funds for educational travel to Israel, the fellowship honors Dr. Vinnik's wish to foster increased understanding of Israel, Judaism, and Israeli and Jewish culture.

Since 1989, more than 80 students, community leaders, and educators of diverse faiths and cultures have received fellowship support. Fields of study have ranged from the Dead Sea Scrolls to peace studies to Israeli music.

  • Eligibility criteria: This award is open to anyone age 18 or older interested in educational travel to Israel. We encourage applications from community members from all religious and cultural backgrounds, as well as from teachers, clergy, and students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels. Those enrolled in programs in Judaic studies, religion, and interfaith studies, or who are pursuing ministerial or rabbinic degrees are encouraged to apply.

Application instructions:

A complete application includes the following:

  1. Cover page: On the cover page, please provide us with your name, address, phone, email address and a one-paragraph synopsis of your proposal.
  2. Statement of Purpose: Please provide a proposal (no more than 3 double-spaced, 8 1/2" by 11" pages) that clearly articulates in detail your proposed plan of study and/or research project, and explains how it will inform your general course of study or professional development. Please be sure to state how your plan addresses one or more aspects of the late Dr. Vinnik's wish to foster an increased understanding of Israeli and Jewish culture, Judaism and Israel. Please be as detailed as possible (e.g. if you are going to participate in a program, tell us the name of the program and a bit about it, and include the website address so that committee members can look up more information easily). Your proposal should also make clear what other sources of funding you have or are pursuing to enable you to pursue your plan.
  3. Colorado Impact Plan: Fellowship awardees must bring their experiences back to positively impact on Colorado within one year of their return from travel. This can be done in the form of a lecture or presentation, a publication, or in some other creative way; the goal is to benefit the Colorado community in which you study or work, or perhaps to build a bridge to help some new Colorado community with which you are less familiar. As part of your application, please provide a one-paragraph (and no more than one-page) proposal articulating how you will share your experience upon your return to Colorado. Please be as detailed as possible (e.g. if you plan to give a lecture, please tell us where, etc.).
  4. Two letters of reference
  5. Resume or CV
  6. Budget of your Israel program up to $2,500: The committee reserves the right to fund selected proposals in total or partially.
  7. Winner requirements
    • As a Vinnik Fellowship recipient, you will be expected to:
    • Share your experiences upon your return from Israel (see Colorado Impact Plan above).
    • Submit a 500-word essay about your experience within one month of returning from travel. (Submitting photos of your experiences in Israel are also encouraged and will be used for publicity purposes in connection with the fellowship.)
    • Submit to us a JPEG photo of yourself (for use in publicity).
    • Attend a special Vinnik Award reception at DU to talk about your experience. This might include speaking for about 3-5 minutes and/or preparing a PPT, or a one-page write-up for use as part of a poster display. (Note: This would be in addition to whatever you will be doing as part of your Colorado Impact Plan.)
    • Work with the CJS staff to complete paperwork for receiving your award.

Sending in your application

Please send completed applications by May 4, 2015 to:
Vinnik Fellowship Application
Center for Judaic Studies
University of Denver
2000 E. Asbury Ave., Ste. 157
Denver, CO 80208-0911

Contact Information:
For further information, please contact us at, or by phone at 303-871-3542.

Some of our Past Winners

To learn more about some of the funded projects, click on the award winners' names below.

• Elsa Asfaw
• Elizabeth Coleman
• Sarah Fenn
• Galen Goldsmith
• Prof. Sari Havis
• David Krouwer
• Alex Rosenthal

• Kira Altman
• Maxine Brumer
• Elizabeth Coleman
• Gina McReynolds
• Prof. Jonathan Sciarcon

• Josh Fixler
Dustin Gutierrez
• Prof. Alison Schofield
• Lee Treadwell

• Adrina Durham
Barbara Figg
Mark Genter
Sari Havis
Sharon Mar Adams
Amy Balogh
Michelle Stapleton
• Mason Wedgle

Sarah Chin
Barbara Figg
Zilla Goodman
Justin Howland
Roddy MacInnes
Ella Peterson
Amy Balogh

• Adam Rovner
• Kristin Hissong
• Thomas DeClerck