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Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Evening of Jewish Culture

CJS Honoring the memory of sandy vinnik

We honor the memory of Sandy Vinnik, an inspiring leader, a committed volunteer, and a dedicated learner. Sandy was deeply involved with the Center for Judaic Studies (CJS), the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society (RMJHS), and the Holocaust Awareness Institute (HAI) for decades, bringing a profound blend of mind and heart to everything she did. Sandy was the thoughtful founder of and outspoken advocate for the Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel.

Her legacy lives on with our annual Vinnik Evening of Jewish Culture! 


Click to learn how you can make a donation in memory of Sandy Vinnik

To make a donation in memory of Sandy Vinnik to the Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel: Make your check out to 'Center for Judaic Studies' Indicate 'Vinnik Fellowship' on the check memo line

Mail checks to:

Center for Judaic Studies
University of Denver
2000 E Asbury Ave., Suite 157
Denver, CO 80208-0911

Also to share: Upon receipt of your donation, your name will be added to the below, alphabetical list of all the people who have donated to the Vinnik fund in Sandy's memory. If you wish to donate, but do not wish to have your name included on this special tribute page, please just let us know; otherwise, we will add your name here.

If you would like further help, please contact the Center for Judaic Studies (CJS) at 303.871.3021 or email

Click for an alphabetical list of those who have given in Sandy's memory

Robert & Mary Behrns

John Berman

Karla M. & David Berman

Aaron & Ellen J. Bregman

Peggy D. Brody

William & Alberta Buckman

Kenneth & Barbara Card

The Chotin Foundation

Harvey Cohen

Mary Lynne Connor

David Dansky & Vicki Perlmutter

Sanford & Linda Dee

William & Sharon Elfenbein

Patty Figel

Katherine Fox

David Friedberg

Faye Gardenswartz

Alan & Sally Gass

Daniel & Jill Goldstein

Ronald & Michelle Goss

Deborah Green

Edward & Elka Haligman

Roberta A. Heisterkamp

Mark & Cathy Huttner

Bernard & Lenore Jacobs

Herbert & Beatrice Kaplan

Melvyn & Roberta Klein

Kristi Dinner

Rochelle G. Krovitz

Nancy L. Levy

Michael & Cynthia Lowinger

Sue B. Lubeck

Audrey Friedman Marcus

B.A. & Linda Matarrese

Pushpa & Suner J. Mehta

Kathleen J. Meyer

Larry A. Mizel

Brent & Julie Morse

Peter Novick

Jonathan & Lisa Perlmutter

Theodore & Sandy Pomeranz

Suzzane L. Renwick

Marsha Scheer

Lenore G. Schottenstein

Jerry & Marilyn Snyder

Ann Baxter Stailey

Stanley & Marilyn Stark

Joseph & Irene Szyliowicz

Triad Securities Corp.

Harry & Lucile Trueblood

Tyler & Company, P.A.

Jerry & Bobbie Wagger

Ana M.Wahl

Thomas III & Molly Walsh

Stephen D. Vinnik 

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

Source: DU VideoManager

Some of our Past Winners

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


Congratulations to the 2017 recipients of the Vinnik Fellowship!

Camilla BelfonCamilla Belfon has been a student in the Joint PhD program at the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology since 2013. Her research interest is in Diaspora Judaism in the Second Temple Period. Having a diverse heritage with origins in an Afro-Caribbean and Sephardic Jewish blend, she conducts dissertation research in Jewish ethnic constructions. Prior to beginning her PhD, she served as Assistant Professor in New Testament at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. Belfon is extremely grateful for the opportunity to further her dissertation project through studying at various libraries and institutions in the area of Jerusalem. It is only with the support of the Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel that this trip could have been possible. 


Betsy Coleman

Betsey Coleman is a veteran teacher of over 40 years who has traveled extensively in the Middle East. Her signature classes at Colorado Academy are Coming of Age in the World and Contemporary Voices from the Middle East. As part of a Distinguished Award in Teaching Fulbright, she created the website: Teaching Israeli and Palestinian Identity through the Arts. A number of university websites and the Middle East Policy Council's TeachMideast have included the site as a teaching resource. The generosity of the Vinnik Award continues to help Betsey deepen and widen her work. Betsey is very excited to be heading back to Israel and Palestine to interview, video, and photograph additional artists and arts organizations. She also intends to make her site more accessible for teachers and students in schools and universities.

Erica GrossmanErica Grossman is a creative lead in the Innovations Department at Anythink, the library district that serves Adams County, Colorado. Erica was part of the creative team that developed and launched Outside the Lines: Libraries Reintroduced, an international initiative designed to shift perceptions of libraries worldwide, and currently serves as chair of the initiative's planning committee. With the support of the Vinnik Fellowship, she will study the ways in which libraries in Israel have transformed to meet the distinct needs of their communities. She looks forward to sharing her experiences with peers and the greater library community. Prior to her work in libraries, Erica worked in journalism and media throughout the Denver area.

Connie HammondConnie Hammond is a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a classic mountain girl, Connie grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak. Some of Connie's favorite activities include advocating for Israel, learning about new topics and viewpoints, hiking, whitewater rafting, caving, eating sushi, traveling, genuinely serving, and Zumba dancing. Studying social work at Oral Roberts University, she enjoys interacting with diverse populations and hearing their stories. As recent President of the ORU United for Israel club, she thoroughly enjoys furthering the pro-Israel activism on her campus. Connie is abundantly thankful for the distinct opportunity to deepen her knowledge and understanding of Israel through the Onward Israel summer internship she is participating in with the help of the Vinnik Fellowship.

Primus RussellPrimus Russell is a retired Denver Public Schools art educator and is currently a substitute teacher in the district. Primus is a graduate of East High School (Go Angels!) and a graduate of Colorado State (Go Rams!). He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia West Africa. Primus is a Holocaust Educator dedicated to teaching this important history in the Public Schools. He is thrilled and honored to have the Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship to update and explore new teaching strategies while doing intensive research at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem (August of 2017). Primus is excited to develop innovative teaching strategies of Holocaust history through the eyes of heroic artists. These men and women who risked their lives and often perished with the hope that their buried treasure might be discovered to tell stories of resistance and survival of the Jewish people. This opportunity of a lifetime would not be possible without The Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship. Thank you!

E. Darlene SmithE. Darlene Smith is a student at Iliff School of Theology, where she is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with emphasis in pastoral care after proudly completing the Chaplaincy Certification program at the Denver Seminary. Darlene also successfully finished two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Porter Adventist Hospital Denver, Colorado. She humbly serves as an Elder and provides pastoral care to the parishioners at Central Christian Church Denver. Her passion is to work with war veterans as a chaplain at a V.A. Trauma Medical Center. Darlene has worked as a volunteer at the V.A. Medical Center Denver serving disabled war veterans. She is elated to have the opportunity to continue her study in the Trauma and Resilience program along with the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Post-Traumatic Disorders (PTSD) Clinical Education, and the Archaeology of the New Testament at the Hebrew University-Jerusalem, summer 2017. She is extremely excited to have the opportunity to share her trauma education with clinical experience, and theological study with the Denver Metro community. Darlene says, "It is a profound opportunity, and I am forever grateful for receiving the Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel."

Trevor Wolff

Trevor Wolff is a 2nd year Masters student in a Religious Studies at the University of Denver. His interest in Abrahamic religions started while abroad in the Middle East in his undergraduate career. His primary research interests are in ideas of The Islamic 'ummah (community), their changes over time, and their effect on present politics around the globe. Prior to entering the Masters program, he received his BA in Political Science and History from the University of Minnesota. He is excited for this opportunity to explore inter-religious moments of dialogue in Israel as well as hearing different perspectives on the problems facing the relationship between Judaism and Islam currently, as well as the potential for understanding and camaraderie.



Camilla Belfon has been a student in the Joint PhD program at the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology since 2013. Her research interest is in Diaspora Judaism in the Second Temple Period. Having a diverse heritage with origins in an Afro-Caribbean and Sephardic Jewish blend, she conducts dissertation research in Jewish ethnic constructions. Prior to beginning her PhD, she served as Assistant Professor in New Testament at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. Belfon is extremely grateful for the opportunity to further her dissertation project through studying archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (summer 2016). It is only with the support of the Vinnik Fellowship for Advanced Study in Israel that this trip could have been possible.

Chad Leahy is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Denver. His research on a range of topics in Early Modern and Medieval Spanish cultural studies has been recognized in journals including Anuario Lope de Vega, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, Cervantes, Criticón, Hispanic Review, Revista de Literatura Medieval, and Romance Notes. His current monograph project, Jerusalem in Early Modern Spain: The Poetics and Politics of Possession, explores the place of Jerusalem in 16th- and 17th-century Spanish culture.

Ajelet Mor is a rising senior at the University of Denver. She is majoring in International Studies and Sociology with minors in Leadership studies and Judaic studies with an emphasis in Hebrew. She grew up in the east coast but has always had a love for Colorado and anything having to do with the outdoors. Ajelet is involved in many sports and clubs on campus, loves to travel and is passionate about Israel, Judaism, and Jewish culture. She is excited to have this opportunity to learn more about her passion and to share her experiences with others.

Aaron Novy recently received his Master's of Art from American University in Washington DC. His program of study was US Foreign Policy with an emphasis in geopolitical threat assessment. He attended the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs for his undergraduate studies where he received a degree in Political Science and another in International Business. Aaron went to Israel to learn Hebrew and gain international experience. Specifically he wanted a better understanding of regional influences impacting Israeli society and to develop familiarity with the dynamics that have been shaping the region for hundreds of years. He is also connecting to Jewish culture; a life long dream of his. While in Israel, he will also intern with a private security company as an analyst on Middle East and North Africa affairs. Prior to going to Israel, Aaron worked at the US Congress for a Member from Colorado and spent 3 years in various political roles throughout the State of Colorado. When he returns, Aaron looks forward to educating the Colorado Springs Jewish Community about the many opportunities and resources available to young people who also want to go to Israel.

Joshua Rheins is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received a Bachelor's degree with a Major in Political Science and a Minor in Classics. Josh has been involved with several Jewish and political organizations, including AIPAC, and recently served as a delegate at the Colorado Republican Assembly and Convention. Having been to Israel multiple times with a focus on Israeli culture, religion, and history, he will now return to further his understanding of Israeli politics and government operations through firsthand experience. Josh will be working for the Israel Government Fellows program, which employs its Fellows within various government ministries. Upon his return, he plans to share his experiences and help educate the Colorado community about Israeli government and politics.

Carmiella Salzberg is a Colorado Native and alum of Denver Jewish Day School. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy with a concentration in Conflict Transformation and Peace-building at The European Graduate School in Switzerland. She has been active in the Denver refugee community as an art teacher and creative facilitator for several years. Her work has included establishing a weekly women's art class at the African Community Center, co-organizing a community 'edible screen printing' event during the 2016 Denver Month of Printmaking, and designing and organizing two large-scale mural projects with teens in Aurora and Westwood. She is thrilled to utilize the Dr. Irwin E. Vinnik Fellowship to participate in a 6 month internship at Bialik-Rogozin School, a K-12 school in South Tel Aviv which serves mainly refugee youth and the children of temporary foreign workers. Carmiella's work there will include assisting in art, environment, and capoeira classes, as well as in a large-scale art installation project directed by renowned local artist, Nisan Almog.

Dr. Alison Schofield, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Judaic Studies at DU, is currently working in the Dead Sea Scrolls lab in the Israel Museum where she has reported some breaking news – a new, nearly-complete papyrus manuscript was looted from a "new" cave in the Dead Sea area. This presents a remarkable new find, and after recovering the manuscript, the IAA is now launching a two-week excavation of this cave near the Dead Sea. There has not been an excavation of this kind in the area in the past 30-35 years, and the director of the IAA has invited Dr. Schofield to participate. You can read the official press release here.

2015 recipients of the Vinnik Fellowship

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.

• Elsa Asfaw, 2014
• Elizabeth Coleman, 2014
• Sarah Fenn, 2014
• Galen Goldsmith, 2014
• Prof. Sari Havis, 2014
• David Krouwer, 2014
• Alex Rosenthal, 2014
• Kira Altman, 2013
• Maxine Brumer, 2013
• Elizabeth Coleman, 2013
• Gina McReynolds, 2013
• Prof. Jonathan Sciarcon, 2013
• Josh Fixler, 2012
Dustin Gutierrez, 2012
• Prof. Alison Schofield, 2012
• Lee Treadwell, 2012
• Adrina Durham, 2011
Barbara Figg, 2011
Mark Genter, 2011
Sari Havis, 2011
Sharon Mar Adams, 2011
Amy Balogh, 2011
Michelle Stapleton, 2011
• Mason Wedgle, 2011
Sarah Chin, 2010
Barbara Figg, 2010
Zilla Goodman, 2010
Justin Howland, 2010
Roddy MacInnes, 2010
Ella Peterson, 2010
Amy Balogh, 2010
• Adam Rovner, 2009
• Kristin Hissong, 2009
• Thomas DeClerck, 2009