By Michele Justic
We lost a man who made thousands smile. As a talented photographer with an artistic eye and a caring soul, Jerry Meyer shared in countless community simchas. But it was really his extraordinary way with people that made him a star. Jerry could always turn an ordinary situation into a memory for life.
Born in November 1944 to Helen and Arnold Meyer, Jerry was raised in Washington Heights and later Forest Hills.
Jerry met his wife, Essie, at Sherwin sleepaway camp in 1963. They both were at the canteen and at the same time asked for a Charleston Chew candy bar. There was only one left so Jerry said he would buy it and they could share it. The rest was history!
His photography career was born when he was graduating Chofetz Chaim and the class was trying to figure out what to do for the yearbook. Arnold Meyer had just gotten a Polaroid camera as a holiday gift from his boss. He gave it to Jerry who jumped into a new role of taking yearbook photos. Jason, Jerry’s son and protégé boasts, “Once he had the camera in his hand, his love and passion started. He never put the camera down from that day!”
After his yearbook success, Jerry looked for a mentor to help guide and teach him. He found Paul and Joe Kroll of Playtime Studios, based out of Brooklyn. Jerry worked with them until Susan Kolhagen took a chance and hired him for her wedding in 1966. Paul and Jerry remained close friends until Paul passed away.
In a 2010 interview with 5TJT, Jerry detailed his ideology: “When they come to the Jerry Meyer Studio, they’re dealing with people who have feelings towards the event of that day, which can be stressful. Other photographers can make people more nervous by intruding on the action. Our top-caliber photographers and staff are understanding and compassionate.”
Jason has worked with his father for the past 25 years. He remembers, “He loved each and every client as if they were part of his family. He so loved celebrating with his extended family of the thousands upon thousands of brides and grooms he was able to have the privilege of working with.”
Another well-regarded simcha professional, Shloime Dachs, remembers Jerry fondly, “The first time I met him was at a wedding hall. He came over to me. He recognized me and said to me ‘You’re Shloime Dachs. I’m the photographer.’”
Since then they collaborated on countless simchas together. Shloime noted, “You just looked at him and you learned your lesson of life to be happy and make sure everyone around you is happy. He was so perfect for this industry. Everyone is tense and on a clock. Jerry did everything so calmly. Everyone enjoyed getting the picture taken. He was an easygoing, special person. I learned from him to ‘be a guest at a client’s simcha’ — to feel like you’re not just working.”
Gershon Veroba, composer and creator of G-Major Events & Music, added, “Jerry was part of a traditional package that any professionals who did weddings would walk into. That band, that caterer, this picture. You knew, ‘We’re gonna get a job done.’ This was the industry standard tied into a bow. He was a great photographer, of course, but also a great guy.”
Veroba continued, “No matter what went on, he knew exactly what to do. Everyone was friendly with him. In the hundreds of times I worked with him, he was always friendly and charming.”
“Jerry Meyer was the consummate professional,” said Jeff Neckonoff of Azamra Events. He was always on top of what was going on at his parties. He was always a gentleman and in constant communication with me regarding the schedule of events as well as making sure the customer was always taken care of as a priority. He was also a wonderful guy. He will be sorely missed.”
The engaging personality carried over to his personal life as well. Jerry and Essie enjoyed time with their lovely family: Elana who married Max Berlin, Jason who married Lauren, and many grandchildren, bli ayin hara.
“He was a very nice guy. Everyone liked him,” said 5TJT Columnist and Astor Brokerage owner Chanita Teitz. He used to buy esrogim from my husband. He was easy to work with and a great photographer.”
Their strong connection with the Queens community was publicly acknowledged in 2009 when Jerry and Essie Meyer were honored by the Young Israel of Queens Valley Gemilas Chesed-Chevra Kadisha at the 43rd annual melaveh malkah. They were presented with two awards: one because of the chesed activities that they had been involved with in the Queens and Nassau Communities, and Jerry officially became a “chaver” in the exclusive European society. They were also honored by the One Israel Fund in 2012 with the hakaras ha’tov award.
Jason concludes, “It was truly amazing to have the honor and privilege to work with such a kindhearted man. He taught me how to be a great dad and how to navigate through the day-to-day challenges that raising a family can bring. I am the person I am today because of him. He taught me compassion, honesty, business, ethics, respect, and to love and respect everyone.”