Rabbi Meyer Heller
Born Brooklyn, N.Y., December 28, 1921 Passed peacefully in his sleep, March 17, 2018
Rabbi Meyer Heller, fondly known to his congregants and friends as Rabbi Mike, was respected as an ethical, compassionate, and magnanimous man - a mensch - who, in the midst of California and Hollywood wealth and glamor, always stayed humble and self-effacing. He could mix with the stars, but it never went to his head. He was dedicated to his family, to Judaism, to his profession, and to his congregations and congregants.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Esther Marcovitch Heller and his second wife, Judy Freedman Stockler Heller. He was the loving son of Fanny Appel Heller and Moses Heller; and devoted brother to Alan Heller. Dedicated, loving, supportive parent to Marc, Joel, Dianne Stockler, Judy, Sherry Stockler, David, and Danny, and grandfather “Pops” to Jason, Aaron, Brenner, Benjie, Miriam, Micah, and Soleil.
He was a graduate of Boys High School, Brooklyn; Yeshiva University, New York; and Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, where his rabbinical thesis’s topic was “Humor in the Torah.”
He proudly served in the U.S. military as a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
He served as Assistant Rabbi at Temple Emanu-el of San Francisco, 1951-1963; Head Rabbi at Temple Solael of Woodland Hills, 1963-1965; Co-Rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood, 1965-1969; Head Rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 1969-1999; and Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 1999-2007. He was also Camp Rabbi, Camp Saratoga (Swig), 1951-1963 and Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps, 1964-1977.
He is fondly remembered by many in his congregations for children’s sermons that were entertaining, easily understood, and carried a moral lesson, delivered from the point of view of characters he’d created, with names like “Peter Pin” or “Henry Hammer.”
Always an athlete, he played baseball and football in high school. Later in life, he was a regular at the Hollywood and Beverly Hills YMCAs, playing basketball and volleyball. Rabbi kept a record in his locker of every win and loss, over 30 years of playing volleyball for over an hour per day, at the Beverly Hills Y! He was renowned for towering softball home runs, and for playing pick up sports with neighborhood kids in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Rabbi Mike is remembered by individuals he touched over the course of his decades-long rabbinical career for being a remarkable and inspirational mentor and teacher. One of the most impactful messages he regularly imparted was perhaps his most cherished life lesson: “If you love someone, tell them now. Tomorrow it may be too late.”
Memorial contributions may be made to Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, care of Rabbi Jonathon Aaron, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 or to Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Early Childhood Education Program, 3200 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94118.