Yaacov has been rated among the world’s most accomplished sculptors and top silversmiths. His work has been used to convey messages of hope, tolerance, acceptance and remembrance and peace through the interpretation of the human form and spirit while holding to his personal unwavering commitment to artistic quality. Throughout his sixty-year career, he has been commissioned to create historically significant works for presidents, kings and queens, heads of state and other dignitaries and celebrities. Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Hosni Mubarak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Jacque Chirac, Yitzhak Rabin, and Anwar Sadat are among the many world leaders who have owned pieces bearing the artist’s signature. Works are found in presidential libraries and museums worldwide.
A piece of great pride for Heller in his career is a sculpture of David and Goliath commissioned by then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in 1974. It was given to President Gerald Ford during a White House visit. “David and Goliath was an analogy for the state of Israel,” he says. “A small country surrounded by mighty oppressors.”
Yaacov served in the United States Navy from 1957 – 1961. This was followed by using his artistic ability to design hairstyles for The Miss Universe Pageant. In 1965 he moved to California and began designing jewelry for Hollywood’s elite, shortly thereafter, James Komack, the producer of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” commissioned Heller to create a pendant piece based on the show’s logo. He produced 150 of these in gold which were given to everyone on the MGM lot including Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor. This was the start of his renowned jewelry collection. In 1972, Heller moved to Israel where he served in the country’s army and spent eighteen years.
He worked hand in hand with the presidents and prime ministers and was recognized as “The Silver Ambassador” for the use of his works as Gifts of State. During this same period of time, he was called to create forty bronze busts as well as bronze, silver and gold medallions to help raise over two million dollars to “burn the mortgage” of Temple Emanuel in Miami Beach. Rabbi Irving Lehrman came to the artist’s studio in Jerusalem twice to sit for the bronze bust to be used for the project. Yaacov returned to the States to join comedian Alan King and others in what was coined “The Event of the Decade” for this purpose.
A most important accomplishment while in Israel was that Yaacov developed a specific process of electroforming silver sculpture and jewelry designs which was the start of a huge industry. The process is still being used today in the country by many foundries.
Another creation, a 12 foot “Fiddler on the Roof” (a self-portrait) located at Douglass Gardens, Miami, is a significant piece in today’s world as it represents the delicate balance of our lives. This work along with an installation, “The Celebration,” can be seen outside the Toppel Center for Life Enhancement. These sculptures are musical and were created to serve a therapeutic value to the residents.
Works found locally in Boca Raton include Flossy’s Fountain at the entrance to the Count de Hoernle Amphitheatre, a sculpture of the Count and Countess de Hoernle adjacent to the stage inside the venue, an eight-foot high bronze menorah welcoming visitors and worshipers at B’nai Torah Congregation, two silver Festival Menorahs at Beth Ami Congregation and a fabulous blown glass and bronze eternal light in the Kabbalah Center. In keeping with the emphasis in Yaacov’s work, “The Garden of Humanity” commissioned by Royal Palm Place in downtown Boca Raton was installed. This memorial along with numerous benches engraved with quotes from dignitaries, leaders, artists and writers, etc., as they relate to education, tolerance and world peace serves as a remembrance of The Holocaust, The Armenian Genocide and other atrocities of the twentieth century. He has put together a lecture on the Garden which gives history of the genocides, educates and offers an understanding as to why the project exists. This lecture has been taken outside to Palm Beach State College, Hadassah groups and others. One of the quotes recently on a bench lead to Yaacov meeting with Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor. After the two met and shared their thoughts, with his permission, Heller created a bronze bust of this ninety-nine year “young” very wise man. Currently, a documentary chronicling the process is in the making. With remembrance goals and education in mind, Heller has formed the non-profit, “Garden of Humanity” recently, and previously installed an additional Holocaust Memorial at the Temple Beth El Memorial Gardens in the Baltimore, Maryland area a few years back. As a supporter of local charities, numerous quality works of art and jewelry pieces have been donated for fund raising purposes through the Heller’s Gallery 22 International. Recipients of these pieces include Cystic Fibrosis, Tri-County Animal Shelter, American Association of Caregiving Youth, American Friends of Red Magen David, American Friends of Meir Medical Center, Unicorn Foundation, Chabad of East Boca, Soroptimist, Place of Hope, Alzheimer’s Brain Bowl, Connected Warriors, and many others.
In addition, he has designed custom works for organizations such as JAFCO to recognize their donors. As an active member of The Rotary Club of Boca Raton, Yaacov has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow, served on the boards, designed a “mentor” pin/pendant, designed the club’s pin, painted significant works for OPAL, donated works for fundraising, acted as a mentor for a Rotary Scholarship Recipient then following through with her as an intern/employee and more. He has taken special interest in Future Stars as it relates to furthering the development of young talent in the arts.