Myrna Ilene (Galler) Hammerling was born in New York City on September 7, 1942 to Jack and Sally Galler.
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Put simply, Myrna was the kindest of souls. She embraced life with a joy of learning and a thirst for knowledge, caring deeply and living fully, leading and making a difference without ever seeking the spotlight, and taking pleasure in helping others thrive and grow. Myrna loved a good crossword, met her friends regularly at the gym, meditated, did yoga, enjoyed live music and the arts, and was a nightly devotee of Rachel Maddow. Myrna was as authentic and genuine as a person could possibly be. She worked hard to build her community strong with a sharp intellect and infectious smile, forging lifelong friendships with those she came in contact with along the way.
Any memoir would not be complete without acknowledging the 62 year love affair she enjoyed with Elie Hammerling. The two dated at Wingate High School, were together at Brooklyn College, and got married on April 4, 1963. They were at each other’s side, laughing, loving and learning until Elie’s passing in 2020.
In 1963 Myrna graduated Brooklyn College with a Master of Arts in Speech and Theater, finishing with high honors of Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She spent the next decade as a High School Speech and English teacher in Brooklyn.
In 1976 Myrna and Elie relocated from Brooklyn to the Berkshires to raise their two children. She co-founded Evergreen Realty in Pittsfield MA where she found true joy in helping people find their dream home. As is often the case with Myrna, some of her best clients would become her best friends.
In 1997 after 18 years as a realtor, and in her mid-50’s, Myrna wanted to return to teaching. She commuted between Pittsfield and Manhattan for three summers to earn her Masters in Judaic Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). Not one to do anything halfway, she also studied to become a Bat Mitzvah as an adult. The journey to her Bat Mitzvah inspired and mentored many adult congregants wishing to do the same for themselves.
After graduating JTS, Myrna began working at Knesset Israel Synagogue in Pittsfield as an educator for children and adult students. Despite her illness, Myrna continued to teach through April, in no small part by overcoming her lack of technological confidence to teach on Zoom. She leaves behind a long legacy of enriched students and community.
Myrna also served as President of Knesset Israel during a year when the temple was without a Rabbi. She said of that transformational period: “If the Jews could wander around for 40 years in the desert, the Congregation could survive for a year!” She helped assign readings for each family in the synagogue to take a turn leading the prayer service over the course of the 12 months. Myrna’s leadership empowered the congregation to create a strong, engaged community at Knesset Israel that continues to thrive today.
Myrna was predeceased by her beloved spouse and best friend Elie. She is survived by her sister Lynda Galler, son Eric Hammerling (wife Andrea), daughter Jaimie Hammerling Bern (husband Rick). Eric’s son Mateo (21) and Jaimie and Rick’s sons Zachary (13) and Ari (10) will always fondly remember her warmth, kindness and spontaneous sandwich kisses from a grandmother they called “Savta.”
Funeral Services for Myrna Hammerling will be held Thursday June 3, 2021 at 2 PM at Congregation Knesset Israel, 22 Colt Rd. Pittsfield, MA with the Rabbi David Weiner, Spiritual Leader, officiating. Burial will follow in Knesset Israel Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks to honor her life by following in her footsteps. Do something generous, selfless, and meaningful for others in your community. Go out of your way to be kind and welcoming to someone who just moved to your neighborhood. Set an example for others to follow.
Donations can be made to the "Hammerling/Adult Education Fund" at Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield MA 01201, or to your favorite cause. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.