Rabbi Richard Rheins, Senior Rabbi
Born in Cincinnati, OH, Rabbi Rick Rheins spent most of his youth in Indianapolis, IN. He earned a BA from Indiana University in 1980, a Masters degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1988, and was ordained a Rabbi from HUC-JIR in 1989. From 1989 to 1995, Rabbi Rheins served as Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Chappaqua, NY, with Rabbi Chaim Stern z”l, the acclaimed liturgist. In 1992, Rick was selected by the Central Conference of American Rabbis to serve on the Responsa Committee (at the time, the youngest ever to be so selected). He has authored a number of halakhic responsa as well as other scholarly articles.
In 1995, Rabbi Rheins was named by Temple David of Monroeville, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, to succeed its founding Rabbi of 35 years. In the ten years that Rick led Temple David, it grew substantially both in its membership and in the number of programs and services. During his tenure, he received many community honors, served on the boards of several organizations, and was especially active in communal interfaith efforts.
In July 2005, Temple Sinai selected Rabbi Rheins to succeed its founder, Rabbi Raymond Zwerin. Rick’s scholarship, passion, commitment, and devotion to God and the Jewish people are evident in the number and diversity of new services, classes, and programs at Temple Sinai. Rick is an enthusiastic and acclaimed teacher and he strives to create opportunities of engagement for every member. In addition to serving Temple Sinai as its Senior Rabbi, Rick is the immediate Past-President of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council and is the Vice-President of the Solomon Freehof Institute of Progressive Halakhah. He also serves on the National Council of AIPAC as well as other local boards, including the ADL.
Rabbi Rheins is married to Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins. They are blessed with three children, Joshua, Samuel and Jakob.
Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins
Born in Passaic, NJ, Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins has been professionally involved in the Jewish community in numerous ways: as a synagogue Rabbi, Community Educator, Education Administrator, Outreach Coordinator, and Curriculum Writer. Previously, she served as Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, as Denver Community Coordinator for Chai Mitzvah and was Assistant Rabbi of Temple Beth El in Providence, RI; Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Florida, NY; and Director of Youth Education at Temple David in Monroeville, PA. For more than a decade Rabbi Rheins volunteered as faculty at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, IN. At Temple Sinai she has taught Adult Education and Teacher Professional Development classes, tutored B’nai Mitzvah students, led High Holy Day and Shabbat services, and planned and co-lead six Temple Sinai tours to Israel, as well as women’s Israel study tour and Jewish heritage tour to Central and Eastern Europe. Rabbi Rheins is a member of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council and served on its executive board for four years.
Rabbi Rheins graduated summa cum laude in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1984 and was ordained by HUC-JIR, Cincinnati, OH in 1988, where she also received an MA in Hebrew Letters and, in 2013, an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Her life is filled with the love of her three sons, Josh, Sam, and Jakob and her husband, Rabbi Richard S. Rheins.
Rabbi Raymond Zwerin, Rabbi Emeritus
Rabbi Raymond Zwerin was ordained as a Rabbi from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, OH in 1964. In 1989 he received a Doctor of Divinity degree from HUC-JIR. He is the founding Rabbi of Temple Sinai, and has been serving in the Denver community since 1964.
Rabbi Zwerin was co-founder and president of A.R.E. Publishing, Inc., a major producer of creative Jewish educational materials for children and adults. He is a past Executive Board member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and past president of the Midwest Association of Reform Rabbis, and the Rocky Mountain Rabbinic Council. Rabbi Zwerin is a founder of Theodor Herzl Jewish Day School of Denver and a founder of Babi Yar Park Memorial to the Holocaust and was active in the cause of Soviet Jewry.
He is the author of over a dozen books for children and teachers and the editor of some 700 titles. One of his latest books contains 98 of his High Holy Day sermons and is entitled, "Forty Years of Wondering". His most recent publication is also his first novel, "Holy Fire", a biblical mystery intertwined with a Holocaust story of redemption.
Together with his wife Rikki, Rabbi Zwerin has two married children, Ron (Julie) and Dina (Darren) and four grandchildren, Noah Asher Boivin, Elizabeth Rose Zwerin, Ethan Reuben Boivin and Bradley Ryan Zwerin. He is an avid Colorado Rockies fan and can be seen at the ball games with several people surrounding him listening to his commentary on the game.
Cantor Sheila Nesis
Cantor Sheila Nesis grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to New York, NY in 2007 to join the clergy at Temple Israel in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Prior to that, and in partnership with the World Union for progressive Judaism, she toured the United States performing a repertoire that included liturgical Jewish music, tangos and boleros, Ladino songs, and jazz of the 1930s and ’40s. She also served as Cantor and Educator for Congregation Kehillah in Scottsdale, AZ, as well as other Reform and Conservative institutions in the Phoenix area for two years.
Cantor Nesis studied voice with renowned voice coach and soprano, Ida Terkiel of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. She learned the art of chazanut, cantorial singing and chanting from a Sephardic Cantor and Rabbi in Buenos Aires, imprinting her vocal style with a silky ethereal quality. In Manahttan, Sheila trained with Broadway voice coach Liz Caplan, voice teacher and soprano Marguerite Krull, and voice coach Ruth Rainero.
Sheila understands music, both secular and Jewish, as a sacred experience — a way to deeply and spiritually connect with others. Her performances have been described as enchanting, drawing all listeners into the shared moment created by her vocal talent.
Menucha is Cantor Nesis’ debut album, produced by singer/songwriter Todd Herzog in Phoenix, AZ. In her debut as a composer, she brings a fresh sound to the world of contemporary Jewish music. The selections on this album ﬁnd their roots in the songs and rhythms Sheila grew up listening to and singing. Latin American, Israeli, Ladino and Middle Eastern elements come together for a unique world music sound. Cantor Nesis’ compositions have a strong, vibrant identity, enriching the current Jewish musical language with the colors and ﬂavors of our diverse world. She is currently working on new music as well as her thesis for her Masters in Philosophy of Language.
Cantor Nesis, her husband Alex, their beautiful son Solomon, and their Norfolk Terrier Freddy are excited to call Denver and Temple Sinai their home! Cantor Nesis is thrilled to work with Rabbi Rheins and the rest of the wonderful Temple Sinai community.
Director of Programming
Lisa Thorner joined the Temple Sinai staff in January of 2009 as the Director of Programming and Volunteer Recruitment. In addition to planning and implementing programs, Lisa is responsible for encouraging volunteer participation. Lisa has extensive experience in event planning and brings an abundance of energy to Temple Sinai.
Prior to Temple Sinai, Lisa spent 17 years working in college athletics. She worked at the Western Athletic Conference from 1997-2007 where she served as the Assistant Commissioner for Championships and the Senior Woman Administrator. While at the WAC, Lisa was responsible for planning championships for 17 different sports. Prior to the WAC, she spent five years as the Assistant Director of Media Relations at San Diego State University.
Lisa loves to interact and work with people and has a vast experience in event planning and development. She has planned events, both large and small and helped plan annual fundraisers for The Gathering Place and Mylifeline.org.
Lisa graduated for the University of Colorado, Boulder with a degree in Journalism. Lisa is a Denver native and is the proud mother of two boys, Josh and Zach.
Debbie Burnette is a native of Denver. Debbie and her family have been lifelong members of Sinai. In fact, Debbie’s family joined Temple Sinai six months after the inception. She went through Religious School, Confirmation and became a Bat Mitzvah at Temple Sinai.
Debbie worked as an event coordinator for Barry Wehmiller for seven years, was the Regional Sales Trainer for Elan Pharmaceuticals and a top producing sales rep. Prior to Elan Pharmaceuticals she was the bookkeeper for Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Debbie and her husband Clint have five wonderful children. Tiffany, Josh and Nathan, who also attended Preschool School, Religious School and became a Bar and Bat Mitzvah at Temple Sinai, Gabbie, who attends Religious School and became a Bat Mitzvah in the fall of 2016 and Chris, her step-son who has been in her life for sixteen wonderful years. Debbie also has a handsome and energetic grandson, Leo.
The first voice and/or face you hear and/or see is that of Diana Kaplan. Diana is a third generation native of Denver and has been a member of Temple Sinai since its inception. Diana is a Melton graduate and has worked in various industries throughout her life, but one of the most important jobs in her past was when she baked all of the Onegs for Temple Sinai.
She and her husband, Michael, have raised their 4 children here at Temple and it has been their spiritual “home” for the past 30 years. Diana keeps busy outside of Temple Sinai with her Mah Jongg groups, knitting, pilates, reading and other card groups.
Jody Meyer joined the Temple Sinai staff in the fall of 2015. Originally from Southern California, Jody has lived in Denver for the past 16 years. Jody received her BA degree in French from Wellesley College and her MA degree in non-profit arts management from New York University. She previously worked in production and development for the Walt Disney Company/ABC studios in both Los Angeles and New York.
Her husband, Mark, is a Denver native, and they have two children who are actively involved in Temple Sinai religious school and youth group activities. Jody and her family are delighted to be part of the Temple Sinai community.
Executive Assistant to Clergy
Lin Sunshine was born and raised in Denver and studied through Confirmation at Beth Joseph Congregation. After 20 plus years working for a law firm, Lin retired in June 2010 and pursued various volunteer and educational avenues, including the Melton Core curriculum, 9Health Fair, the Union for Reform Judaism North American Board and Temple Sinai where she answered the phones one day a week.
Always willing to lend a hand, more projects in the Temple office came her way, including management of Special Purpose Fund donations and later the data base. One thing led to another and before she knew it she was spending two and sometimes three days a week in the Temple office. Lin’s Judaic knowledge and her exceptional organizational skills have now been put to work with her supporting our Clergy, as well as managing all donations and the data base. Lin can be found in the Temple office on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays from 9 a.m. to Noon.
In 1982, Lin married Temple Sinai member, Gary Sunshine. They have three grown children who were raised at Temple Sinai beginning with Preschool and going through Confirmation: Elizabeth, Rebecca and Benjamin.
Youth Education and Leadership
Debbie Kohn is the Temple Sinai Preschool Director. Besides having more than 15 years experience teaching and directing kindergarten and preschool programs, Debbie is also a parent, who together with her husband, is raising two children. Debbie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child & Family Studies and Early Childhood Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Assistant Preschool Director
Marissa Vaughn is a Colorado native and is the Temple Sinai Preschool Assistant Director. She joined the Temple Sinai team in 2009 as a teacher. Early Childhood Education is her passion! In her free time you can find Marissa outdoors enjoying her two dogs!
Julia Teitell ,
Director of Youth Engagement
Julia Teitell is new to Temple Sinai as of the summer of 2015. She, however, grew up in the Jewish community of Colorado where she served on her youth group board in high school as well as the Hillel Board at Colorado State University. Julia double majored, at CSU, in Human Development & Family Studies and Sociology. Julia has spent the last twelve years working with youth in a variety of capacities, as a Nanny, Religious school teacher, and Program Director at Shwayder Camp. Most recently, Julia returned to the United States after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching English at the University level, in China.
Julia is passionate about creating a comfortable, welcoming environment for all of Temple Sinai’s youth, where they can explore Judaism as well as create Jewish friendships in a safe space.
Michelle Schwartz, MARE, RJE, Director of Religious School Education
From a very young age Michelle Schwartz has been actively involved in the Denver Jewish community. As a teenager she thrived as member in United Synagogue Youth Group where she discovered a true love for the intricacies of Jewish religion. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Michelle accepted a position as the Youth Director for Rodef Shalom and the Hebrew Educational Alliance working mostly with the middle and high school age groups.
In 1995, Michelle joined the Temple Sinai community as both a religious school teacher and independent tutor. She taught grades 6 through 10 and developed the impressive structure of the B’nei Mitzvah and Confirmation programs. She focused her energy on bringing more life and deeper meaning to Jewish study in young adults. During this time, Michelle also solidified her place as a noted B’nei Mitzvah tutor in the Sinai community.
In June of 2008, Michelle became the Assistant Director of Education and in 2014 became the Director of Religious School Education. She received her Masters in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May of 2014 and her RJE designation in September of 2016. She continues to develop exceptional education programming.
Michelle is a Denver native, married to Brian Schwartz and the mother of two girls, Macey and Avery. She loves spending quality time with family and friends and baking goodies.