In 1939, Rabbi Mel Hecht was born in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of five, his family moved to Miami, Florida where they had a large, extended Jewish family, complete with relatives who were hazzans and mohels. Soon after moving to Florida, his parents bought a hotel in Hialeah, about 10 miles outside of the city, where Hecht spent the remainder of his childhood.
Hecht attended the University of Miami where he earned a Ph.D. in Divinity, and subsequently attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1971, he became a rabbi upon graduating from seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Three years later, Hecht joined the U.S. Army and served as a race relations officer in Germany.
After his service, Hecht returned to Florida (Fort Pierce) to lead his own congregation, and in 1980, he moved to Las Vegas and became the congregational rabbi for Congregation Ner Tamid. Two years later, he left Ner Tamid to start a new congregation - Temple Beth Am - which grew swiftly. In 1982, Hecht also married Michelle ("Micki"). The couple have three children: Melissa Hecht, Karin Toti, and Adam Hecht.
Hecht, Mel, Rabbi. Interview, 2016 March 17. OH-0635. Transcript. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.View Related Items View Oral History Listen to Audio Clip