Humans of Olami: Lily Gross

From weekly Shabbat programing to regular classes and on-going support, Lily Gross is a crucial part of Jewish life on the University of Denver campus. As the Director of Jewish Student Life at the University of Denver Hillel, she helps to create engagement in spaces where students can come together to create their own communities – rich with support, connection, education and Jewish identity. “We’re really working on creating events where students can explore the depths of Judaism and what that can mean to them,” she explains. “So that students can find different ways to incorporate Judaism into their lives today.”

It might be safe to say that Lily was on the path to Jewish leadership from an early age. As the daughter of a Reform Rabbi in Houston, TX, she grew up with a lot of purpose and intention behind her own sense of Judaism. “So, in a way, I might have been the most practicing of all my friends, even though I didn’t know it.” However, it was that path that paved the way for the outreach and support Lily provides to students on campus day in and day out.

“When I finally got involved at Hillel, I got the chance to really explore what Judaism meant for me, to explore what is this thing called Judaism and how does it relate to the things I like to do?” Lily explains, “So I really am passionate about showing people that Judaism is a multifaceted diamond, and you can choose to look at the way that it shines, and you can choose to sit and bask in the glory of Torah. And I guess that’s why I love it. I’m so passionate about my job because I get to help students really explore and figure out how to take something that’s so ancient and apply it into their everyday lives.”

Another facet of Lily’s Jewish identity is her connection to the community through Olami Denver Experience. “I’m very grateful for Olami and for Rabbi Danny and Sara. They did an amazing job of really bringing me into community and showing me a new facet of that diamond of Judaism that I had never really experienced. They taught me a lot of beauty around Shabbat and taught me about the beautiful diamond of truly digging into learning – which is now one of the most important parts of my own Judaism.”

Weekly Shabbat lunches with the Wolfe’s transformed Lily’s life in a way that has allowed her to increase her own Shabbat practice, something she loves and connects to her own community through. Plus, she met her current boyfriend at an Olami event “so I have lots of gratitude for Olami for bringing us together.” And Lily has tremendous appreciation for Sara Wolfe, who has helped guide her practice and learning in such a compassionate and knowledgeable way. “She is the reason, hands down, that I am involved in Olami and we are so lucky to have her in our community.”

For those considering attending an Olami event or looking for a place to connect, Lily offers this advice, “Denver has a huge, growing young professional Jewish community and there is something for whatever you’re looking for. If you want to play on a sports team, if you just want social hangouts or if you want to get to know people or have a meaningful Shabbat Dinner. Or even if you want to have deeper Torah learning or learn Gemara over Cholent and Whiskey – anything you want to do, you can find in Denver, in a way that highlights all the spectrums of what it means to be Jewish. And Olami Denver is one of those amazing places to look.”

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