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Mount Sinai Obituaries and Services » Erin Williams Hyman

Erin Williams Hyman

May 6, 1972

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Erin Williams Hyman, born May 6, 1972, died on September 18, 2014, in her recently restored modern home on the Central Coast. Diagnosed with a complex form of breast cancer almost three years ago, Erin was and is a model of strength, elegance and grace. With great magnanimity, purpose and fierce intellectual inquisitiveness, Erin lived and loved fully and will always be in our hearts.
Born and raised in Palm Springs, California, Erin went to Palm Springs High School, attended the University of California, Berkeley, for her undergraduate studies, earned a doctorate degree in comparative literature at UCLA and was a post-doctoral fellow at Cornell University.
Above all, Erin Hyman was a writer and editor. Her cultural commentary on subjects from wine to Oscar Wilde can be found in journals, essay collections and blogs. She edited several books including, Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982 and An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect, and contributed to a forthcoming book surveying the history of architectural installations. In addition, she edited for the architectural firms of Morphosis, Diller, Scofidio Renfro, and Rios Clemente Hale.
Her lifelong interest in architecture and modern design was born from close family connections — her late maternal grandfather, the artist John Koerner of Vancouver, B.C.; her paternal grandfather, the late architect E. Stewart Williams, of Palm Springs; and her mother, Sidney Williams, the curator of the new Palm Springs Art Museum, Architecture and Design Center. Erin also worked for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art researching and writing for the exhibition, How Wine Became Modern: Wine and Design, 1976-now (2010).
In 2012, after being diagnosed with cancer, Erin created the incredibly insightful and eloquent blog, B’Matzav, for “reflection on healing, thriving, and parenting with breast cancer, from a Jewish perspective.” There, Erin shared intimate thoughts and words of wisdom. The J Weekly’s article can be found here:
From December 2013, writing a eulogy for a friend, she quoted the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai saying:
“Open closed open. Before we are born, everything is open in the universe without us.
For as long as we live, everything is closed within us. And when we die, everything is open again.
Open closed open. That’s all we are.”
Erin followed this by writing:
I love this piece of poetry and I think about it all the time–the way before our existence we are part of the limitless pulse of energy, and how we are returned to it after the short parenthesis that is our individual bounded life. In this vision, death is like a new breath, a universal exhale, a release back into the all.
Erin was President of the Bay Area Young Survivors group and edited The Day My Nipple Fell Off – A BAYS Anthology chronicling the experiences of young women with breast cancer from diagnosis, through treatment, and in the “new normal.” From the book’s introduction, Erin wrote:
Before I went to my first BAYS meeting, my only experience with support groups was in seeing them parodied in film or on TV. I had a vague apprehension about being subjected to tuna casserole, over sharing, or pious invocations of Jesus. What I got instead was a room full of bad-ass woman, who–instead of simply being out in the world scaling mountains, brokering deals, dancing on bars, or mothering babes–were doing all those things while recovering from surgery, undergoing chemotherapy, or fending off the symptoms of hormone treatment.
Erin began her writing career while in college, as an editor of the Berkeley Guides, and spent blissful time researching and travel writing in both Sardinia and Rome. She lived in Montpellier, France, and the Bay Area after college.
From 1997-2006, Erin lived in Los Angeles. During that period she researched, taught and earned her Doctorate of Philosophy from UCLA. Feeling a cultural vacancy in the culture of Santa Monica, she created a monthly salon at her small Santa Monica apartment, where she and Micah Hyman, a rabbi for Camp Ramah in California and a student of Arabic at UCLA connected and fell deeply in love. Before long, Erin and Micah were regularly co-hosting warm and wonderful Shabbat dinners and New Years soirees for their dear and appreciative friends. They married in June of 2002 at Temple Isaiah, Palm Springs, originally designed by her grandfather, and celebrated at the museum, where her mother serves as curator of architecture and design.
After a year living in Paris on fellowship, she lectured at UCLA while Micah served as a Chaplain for the Medical Center. Their first son Nathan was born there in 2004. After a Mellon Post Doctoral Fellowship at Cornell University Erin, Micah and Nathan settled down in San Francisco where Micah accepted the position of Rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom. Theo was born three weeks later. In the City by the Bay, Erin dedicated herself to a fine balance of her young family, work projects, her own creative writing, and full life as an independent mind and soul. She pursued her passion for writing on design and architecture, the nature and beauty of Northern California, and developed a culinary expertise shared with and by many friends and guests. This was exemplified by the family Shabbat dinner table, filled with animated conversation, fine wine and and organic food, served with enthusiasm and casual elegance. She and Micah traveled to Prague to unearth the story behind her maternal grandfather’s Jewish heritage and, in 2013, spent a wonderful summer in Israel with their sons.
The family’s recent move to Morro Bay afforded Erin a glorious summer and she was truly able to enjoy her last months–slowing down time, spending it with her family and a steady stream of visitors, seeing the beach from her window and on good days, focusing on food and farmers markets. From her blog, these words:
Around here, there is a farmers’ market in one of the surrounding towns every day of the week. If you miss it, you can still stop in at Dot’s farm stand and U-pick on your way home and grab some green beans, corn, or strawberries. Cal Poly has groves of peaches falling off the trees. Our days started to revolve around meal planning: I would start with huevos rancheros or a really custardy French toast, and by the time I was sopping up the last syrup, I would already be planning the gooey cheese on baguettes and watermelon-feta salad for lunch–or the chocolate mousse I’d need to chill for after dinner.
Strong in mind and spirit and beyond reasonably capable in all matters – Erin was an inspiration to anyone that met her. Above all, she understood and maintained the value of a life well lived.
Erin is survived by her husband Rabbi Micah Hyman, her beautiful sons, Nathan and Theo; her parents, Sidney and Dr. Erik Williams of Palm Springs; her brother, Brian Williams (Kelly) of Portland, Oregon and in-laws Milt and Sheila Hyman.
Funeral services will be held at Temple Isaiah, 332 W Alejo Rd, Palm Springs, CA on Sunday, September 21, at 11 am. Evening shivah services will be held Monday, and Tuesday evenings at 5:30 pm at the home of Milton and Sheila Hyman, 216 S. Linden Drive, Beverly Hills CA 90212. There will be a memorial service at the end of the mourning period, October 19, 10:00 am, Congregation Beth Sholom, 301 14th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to: BAYS, San Francisco or the Palm Springs Art Museum, Architecture and Design Center. May her memory be a blessing.
Erin’s blog: