Rabbi Michael and Sheila Hecht

The late Rabbi Michael and Sheila Hecht 

The visits, the food, the cards and the donations we received in memory of my husband, Rabbi Michael Hecht, are signs and symbols of our community, of what we mean to each other, the bonds we share in life and death, and how those bonds sustain us in difficult times.

I can’t tell you how touching it is when my daughters’ friends send notes and contributions in memory of their father.

I can’t tell you how touching it is to get notes and letters from people detailing specific things and events and jokes they shared with him. They wrote how Michael helped them in good times and in bad. They recalled his smiles, wit and knowledge. They wrote me about how he influenced them to think while they were still young and impressionable, even if they disagreed with him.

Our caring clergy from B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, Rabbi Stephen Weiss, Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria and Cantor Aaron Shifman came often. When we knew he was dying, they told Michael how much he influenced them as a teacher and as a friend, and how they will miss him. How moving it was to know you were appreciated by your colleagues.

Our family is grateful for having the chance to express our love and gratitude to each other before his death, to honor our bonds as husband, father, wife and daughters. And we are grateful to you for your expressions of love for him, especially while he was alive to hear them. It really helped during the dark times. This is what bonding and community is about. You reminded us of my husband’s role in the community and what a strong, wise, knowledgeable, witty and inspiring man he was. I already knew that. I’m glad you did, too.

It is my hope you will let people know how they have affected your life for the good, so we all can truly be bonded to our families and community in the years ahead. Not just in symbols, not just in signs but in visits, in conversations and letters, e-mails and other ways to touch each others’ lives directly.

To all of you, todah rabah, for your love, memories and support.

Sheila Hecht is the wife of Rabbi Michael Hecht, who died Jan. 4 at age 80. He was rabbi of Congregation Beth Am in Cleveland Heights for 29 years until the congregation merged with B’nai Jeshurun in 1999. He became rabbi emeritus in 2001.

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