Yaacov Heller

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Yaacov Heller
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Yaacov Heller with his Adam (and Eve) sculpture
Born1941 (age 82–83)
Cleveland, Ohio
OccupationArtist-Sculptor-Jewelry Designer

Yaacov Heller (born 1941[1]) is an Israeli-American artist, sculptor, and jewelry designer. He is known for his sculptures of Biblical themes given as Israeli state gifts to International leaders.[2]  He is also known for his sterling silver jewelry and large outdoor bronze sculptures.[3]

Personal life

Heller was born in 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio as Jack E. Heller into a traditional Jewish family. His parents were Ida and Joseph Heller. He took on his Hebrew name Yaacov when immigrating to Israel in 1972.[4] He joined the US Navy in 1957 and was honorably discharged in 1961. He initially settled in Hollywood, Florida, where his parents had retired. In 1965, he moved to California, and began to develop a wide range of custom-made gold jewelry.[5]  Seven years later he moved to Israel, where he lived for 18 years (1972-1990). In 1990, Heller came back to the US and settled in South Florida, eventually moving to Boca Raton, Florida[6]

Artistic career

Heller studied at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a child. At 17 he enlisted in the US Navy. While on board the USS Forrestal (CV-59)|USS Forrestal, as a radarman petty officer, he painted portraits of his fellow sailors and their families from photographs.[7] In 1965, after moving to California, he created a wide range of jewelry pieces including a commission to create a custom gold pendant from James Komack the producer/actor in The Courtship of Eddie's Father|The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, a situation comedy on national television starring Bill Bixby.[5] File:Yaacov Heller and Benjamin Ferencz.jpg|left|thumb|Heller presenting Benjamin Ferencz his bust in a presentation July, 2019. Heller created one hundred and fifty 14 carat gold pendants which were presented as holiday gifts to the cast and crew along with notables on the MGM lot. Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor were also recipients of the pendant.[8] In 1972 Heller moved to Israel where with the help of scientists and university chemistry professors, he developed a process for applying pure silver over wax in a chemical solution breaking down the metal with electricity in a cold casting process. He set up a foundry in Jerusalem, Israel dedicated to electroforming, which he used to produce both jewelry and statuary.[9] The action-oriented silver electroformed-cast representations of Biblical scenes he created were frequently given as gifts by the Israeli government to world leaders such as Anwar Sadat[10], Gerald Ford,[11][12], John Vorster[13] and many other heads of states. In 1990, Heller moved back to South Florida eventually settling in Boca Raton. During that time, he created a wide range of Judaica statues and busts, figural statuary such as the Fiddler on the Roof, Count and Countess de Hoernle,[9][14] and Flossy’s Fountain, a tribute to Florence “Flossy” Keesley, the first lady of daytime television and philanthropist.[15] That inspired Heller to create a maquette of Flossy’s Fountain as an award for the Palm Beach International Film Festival|Palm Beach International Film Festival lifetime achievement honorees.[16] Singer Connie Francis received the award in 2017[17] In 2014 Heller was commissioned to create The Garden of Humanity, a memorial which recognizes the six major genocides of the 20th century.[18][19] It was unveiled April 25, 2015.[20]  In early 2019 Heller created a bust of Ben Ferencz|Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Chief Prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen trial|Einsatzgruppen Trial in Nuremberg|Nuremberg Germany.[21] A documentary on the making of the bust titled "Two Heads Are Better Than One: Making of the Ben Ferencz Bust" premiered Monday September 7, 2020 during the YiddustFest Film Festival.[22]

Exhibitions and museums

A collection of Heller’s Biblical tableaus was displayed at the Peeler Art Center of DePauw University from April to May, 2015,[23] and the original David and Goliath presented to Gerald Ford is now in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum|Gerald Ford Library Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[12]

Honors and awards

2020 Opal Award, Boca Raton Rotary Club (RCBR). This award honors people who have demonstrated an on-going commitment to service through philanthropic and professional leadership.[24]

Select works

  • Clasped Hands, (1966) a necklace pendant based on the logo from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” a US situation comedy (1969-1972)
  • David and Goliath (1974) sculpture commissioned by Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin presented the statue to President Gerald Ford at a state dinner in Washington, DC in 1974.[7]
  • The Sacrifice of Isaac (1972)
  • Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1973)
  • The Judgement of Solomon (1973)
  • The Expulsion of Adam and Eve (1973) (Version #1)
  • The Death of Samson (1975)
  • Elijah Rising to Heaven, (1976)
  • The Last Supper (1978)
  • The Expulsion of Adam and Eve (1978)
  • The Prophecy of Isaiah (1979) Commission from the Israeli government Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a peace offering for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (see Jerusalem Post)
  • Jet Fighter, bronze,(1984), commissioned by the Israeli Air Force on the occasion of the  retirement of the head of the Israeli Air Force
  • Rabbi Irving Lehrman Bronze Bust,(1988) Temple Emanu-El fund raising, Miami Beach
  • Medallions (Gold, silver and bronze),(1988) Temple Emanu-El fundraising, Miami Beach
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1989), for the Douglas Gardens, Miami [25]
  • Hand of Life (1996), for cardiac surgeon Dr. Malcolm Dorman [26]
  • Flossy’s Fountain (2003), commemorating Florence “Flossy” Keesely to be found at the entrance to the amphitheater in Mizner Park, Boca Raton.[27]
  • Count Adolph and Countess Henrietta de Hoernle, bronze, (2010), Mizner Park, Boca Raton, Florida, philanthropic couple from Boca Raton [15]
  • Menorah, bronze, 15-feet high (2014), Congregation B’Nai Torah, South Boca Raton[28][29]
  • The Garden of Humanity (2015), a memorial for the six major genocides of the 20th century, Royal Palm Plaza, Boca Raton, FL  [30]
  • Bust of Benjamin Ferencz, (2019) “The Last Living Nuremberg Prosecutor”[31]

In the media



  1. Staff (2016-07-01). "Boca artist Yaacov Heller makes imprint on city". Boca Newspaper. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  2. "Possible Dinner to Include Major Art Show". Jewish Press. p. 1.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. Buruchian, Alex. "Sue & Yaacov Heller Description". The Rotary Club of Boca Raton. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  4. "An Artists Life: Biblical Themes Spark Work". Jewish Floridian. July 27, 1984. p. 5A.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "A Walk to Remember". Boca Magazine. November 20, 2014.
  6. "Artist Heller bringing talents to South Florida". Jewish Journal. March 17, 1992.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "David and Goliath". The Israel Economist. 40: 216. 1984.
  8. Martinelli, Krista. "From Jerusalem to South Florida Sculptor Yaacov Heller Brings Peace Through His Works". Around Wellington Magazine. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "An Artists Life: Biblical Themes Spark Work". Jewish Floridian. July 27, 1984. p. 5A, 10A.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "The Gifts Prime Minister Begin Will Take With Him To Egypt". Ma'Ariv - Israels Leading Newspaper. Israel. August 25, 1981.
  11. "See Goliath Fall". The Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. November 14, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Israeli Gifts for the President and Mrs. Ford" (PDF). Ford Library Museum.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "Statue Big Draw at Show". The Star. May 6, 1976.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. King, Dale (August 4, 2016). "Boca's icon of philanthropy Countess Henrietta de Hoernle, 103". Boca Newspaper. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Countess' 99th birthday party set at Mizner Park". Sun Sentinel. September 14, 2011.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. "'Flossy' Statue to be annual award at PB Film Festival". Boca Newspaper. 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  17. "Iconic singer gets award, reminisces at film fest opener". Sun Sentinel. April 4, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. Shatzman, Marci. "Garden of Humanity gathering rallies community against hate". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  19. "A Stroll In The Garden of Humanity". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  20. Shatzman, Marci (May 6, 2015). "'Never Again': Peace park dedicated in Boca". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-07-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. Weinroth, Pamela J (June 24, 2019). "South Palm Beach County Social Scene". Boca Raton Tribune. Retrieved 2020-07-27. The Board of the Garden of Humanity met Thursday to film a special presentation to Benjamin Ferencz, chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials, for an upcoming documentary.
  22. "Two Heads Are Better Than One". Yiddish Fest. Retrieved September 7, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. "2019 Exhibits". DePauw University. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  24. Riddick, Bill. "22nd Annual Opal Awards". The Rotary Club of Boca Raton. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  25. Fiddler on the Roof in Douglas Gardens. "From Jerusalem to South Florida Sculptor Yaacov Heller Brings Peace Through His Works". Around Wellington Magazine.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. "Hand of Life with Dr. Malcolm Dorman". YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. "Flossy's Fountain, Mizner Park, Boca Raton, Florida - Fountains on Waymarking.com". www.waymarking.com. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  28. "B'nai Torah Menorah". Yaacov Heller.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. "Synagogue to dedicate Yaacov Heller sculpture". Sun Sentinel. April 4, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. "Garden of Humanity Gathering Rallies Community Against Hate". Sun Sentinel.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. Ferencz, Benjamin (2020). "Two Heads Are Better Than One: Making the Bust of Ben Ferencz". IMDB.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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