36 Under 36 2009: Simcha Gross, 22

 Simcha Gross’s biggest problem? Too many attendees.

When an unprecedented 850 people showed up to the second Tanach Yom Iyun at Yeshiva University last December, Gross and Yehudah Bernstein, his fellow coordinator, had to scramble to find seats. And they couldn’t be happier.

"I believe in the passionate pursuit for religious truth," says Gross, who began formulating the program when he arrived at YU as a sophomore, and saw the first Yom Iyun take place last March.

The events are open to the entire community and draw students, parents, and hundreds of attendees who are unaffiliated with YU. Speakers at the events have included Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, and Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, who travels from Israel. The most recent Yom Iyun  took place April 26, and featured an even larger roster of lecturers.

Gross says that YU was overwhelmingly helpful when he approached them with the idea, and has supported him along the way — even as he’s pushing the boundaries further. He and fellow YU student Gilah Kletenik founded TEIQU: A Torah Exploration of Ideas, Questions and Understanding. The organization has held a panel on Ethics and Kashrut and hosted Professor James Kugel, a controversial biblical scholar, to discuss Midrash.

"We want to create and facilitate heightened intellectual discourse," Gross says. "We want people to think about issues seriously and appreciate the value of questions."

Team player: Gross was captain of the hockey team for four years during high school. Young Networking: TEIQU hosted an interfaith dialogue with fellow 36er Rabbi Yehuda Sarna on March 30.


Staff Writer


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