It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the passing of the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs this past week. Rob was a 1975 graduate of Starr King, and a 2006 recipient of an honorary doctorate from the school. Along with his wife, the Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs, (also a Starr King grad), he served the First Unitarian Church of Oakland for 17 years before moving to Unity Church, Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota where he and Janne served as co-ministers for 22 years.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Rob was a member of Chicago’s First Unitarian and a committed member of UU Liberal Religious Youth. His many years of service to the UUA included everything from the Urban Concerns and Ministry committee to the Panel on Theological Education to the UUA Board of Trustees.
Community activism was one of Rob’s passions from the start. At First Unitarian here in Oakland, he and Janne guided the growth of the congregation while restoring both the church’s mission and its historic home. One of the hallmarks of Rob’s ministry was recognizing the importance of the urban church as an instrument for long-term community restoration, and he was deeply involved in many such efforts. He helped found the community-based planning effort known as Oakland: Sharing the Vision. He served as Chaplain of the Oakland Union of the Homeless and played a key role in shaping Oakland’s response to homelessness as founding chairperson of Oakland’s Commission on Homelessness. As president of Dignity Housing West, he helped develop more than a hundred units of service-enriched transition housing. He also helped envision and then helped establish the Center for Urban Family Life.
There is no obituary large enough to encompass all the ways in which our faith tradition was shaped by Rob Eller-Isaac’s involvement. Rob is survived by his wife, Janne, and his three children: Jonah, Jessie, and Hannah. He will be deeply missed, but his vision and legacy will live on in the ministers, activists and congregants whose lives he touched and continues to inspire.