Humans of Olami: Danielle Gyles

Danielle Gyles did not grow up Jewish. In fact, she grew up in the small Colorado town of Pueblo, where there is not a large Jewish population. “I love my hometown,” Danielle explains, “But it’s definitely one of those small towns that people don’t really understand. It was a blue-collar town for a very long time, and when the mill went under a lot of people lost their jobs. For a long time the city was scrambling trying to figure out how to keep their citizens.”

So while Danielle loved the community and the people rallying to keep Pueblo thriving, she found herself looking elsewhere. “It’s a very Catholic town,” she offers. “My mom and I would always do our grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. It’s like you have the whole place to yourself.”  But growing up, Danielle always felt compelled to learn more about Judaism. 

“When I was a little kid I thought I was Jewish. I asked my mom one day, ‘are we Jewish?’ and she was like ‘why would you think that?’ but, it just made sense to me. I felt a connection, even very early.” So, Danielle’s supportive mother encouraged her to learn more about Judaism and helped her to observe Sabbath on Saturdays. Her parents read her stories of Adam and Eve, and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and Danielle’s young mind was instantly inspired by the relationship these people all had with G-d. “As a little kid, I was just like, I want that relationship.”

Over the years, as Danielle grew up, she looked all over for the right fit to her spirituality. But it was always Judaism that kept calling her back. “Once I found and when I found that it was just like this whole world opened up and suddenly everything I had thought and believed in my heart was right there in front of me. I felt validated for the first time, spiritually, in my entire life. I would sit on for 15 hours straight, just reading everything I could.”

Eventually, Danielle found herself speaking with a Rabbi in 2020. She flew to New York and started the conversion processes there. As the country began to open back up after the Pandemic in 2020, a friend of hers in Denver introduced her to Sara Wolfe, who immediately invited her to Shabbos Dinner. “So I drove up from Pueblo and spent Shabbat with them. What a privilege it was. That was the first time I got to actually enjoy Shabbat with other Jews.”

From there, as Danielle was trying to decide her next steps, a room opened up in Lowry, and she began the process to move to Denver. It wasn’t long before she was teaching at Hillel as a 5th grade teacher, inspiring children with her love of Hashem and her connection to Judasim. And her optimism and connections are just that – inspirational. “Even my roommate, she tells me that the thing she notices is that my faith and trust is unparalleled. I explained to her that it’s all we have in the end. Hashem never lets you down. Everything we need, everything we’ve ever needed, as long as we put our faith in Him, I’ve never gone for want. I’ve never felt abandoned. Even when things do get hard, I’ve always had that reassurance, that small voice that tells me that everything is going to be ok and that ‘I’m not leaving you.’ That’s why I’m here. To walk my path for Hashem.”  

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