A Tribute to George Haas

Friday, 10 September, 2021 - 11:54 am

Yesterday we learned of the sudden passing of George Haas. Our hearts go out to Elaine, his wife of 62 years, their children, and the entire family. What a time to go! With a clean slate the day after Rosh Hashanah.

I called George “my favorite Levi” (he was a Levite and delighted in being called to the Torah as one). He was a mensch par excellence and one of the proudest Jews I’ve ever met. He cared about Klal Yisrael with every fiber of his being. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge about all kinds of things. He would often ask trick questions about Jewish traditions and calendar quirks. He would frequently make meaningful observations about things that I wrote or events that were occurring. His musical ken was second to none. We once had a performer tease the audience with a few notes from a song, asking if anyone could identify the composition. George piped up immediately with the correct answer, “the nutcracker.” With all of his positive qualities, he really did not like making a big deal out of himself. He had a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, as well as many other types of humor.

If there was one thing that George was more passionate about than anything else, it would be Jewish continuity. He was rabidly devoted to this cause. I am sure his survival of the Holocaust and escape from Vienna in 1939 contributed to his obsession with Jewish continuity. He wanted to ensure that he would have proud Jewish children and proud Jewish grandchildren. He was ecstatic every time another grandchild was born. He saw each Jewish baby as the answer to Hitler. In fact, every baby that was born in the community was a cause for celebration on George’s part. I cannot count the number of posts and comments from George on Facebook when he saw an announcement of a new baby, or a family photo with a bunch of children. I was once invited to give the invocation at the Yom Hashoah event at the JCC. I spoke about the importance of filling the void left by the murder of 6 million. To quote, “As we gather to remember the lives of six million kedoshim – holy ones, we must commit ourselves to filling the void. My good friend, George Haas, native of Vienna who escaped just ahead of the war, sees each of his grandchildren as an answer to Hitler. Filling the void…”

George recently celebrated his 90th birthday. In typical George Haas fashion, he wanted to celebrate with his family and friends, with a Kiddush in Shul at Chabad Metairie. He sent me this email, “Dear Rabbi Mendel: I’ll be celebrating my 90th Yom Huledet at the Chabad Center on the Shabbos preceding Memorial Day. In order not to slight the uptown folks I would like to re-celebrate my Yom Huledet on Breshit in early fall with a special Open Kiddush.” A few weeks later the sponsorship for the grand Kiddush arrived. I can assure you George, that we will have a rocking Kiddush to celebrate your life, knowing that you will be with us in spirit. Farewell my friend. May your soul be bound with the Source of all life!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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