A Rabbi Walks Into a Bar…

Rabbi Robert Haas is many things to many people. He’s a community leader, a beacon of hope, a mediator, a husband, a father, and oh yeah…a stand-up comedian. South sat down with Rabbi Haas to get to know this influential member of the Savannah community. We wanted his take on spiritual health and why it’s important to laugh at yourself every now and then.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A Rabbi, a stand-up comedian, and a new father walk into a bar. Since they’re all the same person, there really isn’t a punchline to this joke. But that’s OK, jokes aren’t our job, they’re his. Rabbi Robert Haas has proven equally adept at building spiritual health at Congregation Mickve Israel and cracking people up as a stand-up comedian. With his trademark dry wit and deadpan delivery, he regaled us at South with a few choice bits from his act and a few deep thoughts on spirituality.

Rabbi Haas on his calling: Well when the skies opened and that light beamed onto me… No, I became a rabbi mostly to help people and to work with people. I was ordained in 2002, at age 12. It was pretty incredible.

Rabbi Haas on his start in stand-up: I wanted to work on my sermon jokes for the holidays. I was invited to raise money for CASA, and I had tried it once before just to take it off my bucket list. The next year before the holidays, I decided I would go to the open mic and practice some of my sermon jokes. Once I made up my mind about doing stand-up, it only took me about 25 years to do it.

His mothers-in-law: A lot of people have issues with their mother-in-law. I’m so fortunate to have the greatest mother-in-law in the world. It’s my wife’s mother-in-law I have issues with.

Spiritual health: I think spiritual health is a combination of a lot of different things. It’s not just about the spirit or connecting with God, it is also about ways that connect you with other people as well. It’s about how you fit into this world and how you fit into the next world at the same time. It’s about treating people with respect even when no one is looking. We all make mistakes in that area, but it’s not about being perfect. It’s about understanding that you need to grow as a person.

Racism: I think hate, racism, and anti-Semitism are a blight on humanity. We’re America, the greatest country in the world. I don’t want people hating me because I’m Jewish, I want people hating me because they’ve met me.

Respect: We become more spiritual by finding the best way for each of us to do so. It’s about making sure next year you behave a little bit better than last year. It’s important to show respect to others. It’s easy to show respect to people we agree with or people we like, but it’s a lot harder to show respect to people we don’t like or don’t agree with.

“A rabbi walks into a bar…” jokes: I know a lot of those. In fact, I go into bars with priests and ministers all the time…

(And do people look at you guys waiting for the punchline?)

I think so, yeah. A rabbi, a priest, and a minster walk into a bar. Ouch.

On being an open book: Everyone pretty much knows everything about me. It’s a small Jewish community. I’m a big Star Wars fan, but everyone knows that.

Rabbi Haas on being a new dad: I’m not nervous. I think petrified is the word I would use.

Rabbi Haas on Savannah: The Jewish community loves being a part of Savannah. We’ve been here since 1733 and have always loved the connections we make with the people in our Jewish community and outside our Jewish community. It’s just a really wonderful place to live.

Congregation Mivkve Israel
20 E Gordon St, Savannah, GA, 31401, 912.233.1547

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