For Michael Haas, tikkun olam started at home. And it started early.
“Tikkun olam has always been a focus and part of my life,” Haas said.
“Giving back to the community and tzedakah was an integral part of my household growing up. My parents (Bill and Shirley Haas) were very involved with their synagogue and what was then Agnon School. So, I got to see firsthand the importance of being involved in the community and impact that it can have.”
Haas said he also saw the efforts of people like Bobby Goldberg and Peter Rzepka and the impact they had on the school and in the community.
Haas shared the impact his grandfather, Edward Haas, had on him. He left Vienna in 1939 after being arrested and coming to the United States with nothing.
“I think his story about the need to help Jews was inspiring to me and has played a role in what I do today,” said Haas, who earned a political science degree from Syracuse University and then a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
“I heard a story that really inspired me. I don’t know if it’s one of those stories that is more lore than reality, but when the Yom Kippur War broke out, I was told that the Cleveland Jewish community had an emergency meeting and the entire community gathered together, including the Mandels and others who stepped up in such a significant way, and said to everyone in the room, ‘We need to do what we need to do’ to help Israel.’
“The irony, of course, is that years later, “I would have a chance to see that same level of commitment at the Mandel Day School. I just kept thinking about the community. If the bell rang again, I wanted to be there to help our community – not only locally but wherever there was a need. My grandfather’s experience and my early exposure to Jewish education, and the impact it can have on our children, have guided me in terms of my level of involvement. My Jewish education and attendance at Jewish day school have had a significant impact in my life.”
So much of an impact that decades later, Haas returned to the school to lead Agnon School as board president during a transitional period when it received a $17,050,000 gift from the Joseph and Florence Mandel Family Foundation.
– Bob Jacob