Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Keeper of the Bees

Barbara Bensoussan

Musician, public speaker, educator, businesswoman, storyteller — and now beekeeper — Amalia Haas has discovered in these buzzing insects a fulcrum around which she could focus her other talents

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

 Mishpacha image

Photo: Shutterstock

While many of us run from bees, afraid of being stung, Amalia Haas of Cleveland runs towards them, and for good reason. This musician, public speaker, educator, businesswoman, storyteller — and now beekeeper — has discovered in these buzzing insects not only a captivating hobby, but a fulcrum around which she could focus her other talents. And the more Amalia learned about bees, the more she realized bees had to teach her about community, purpose, and the awe-inspiring ingenuity of Hashem’s Creation.

I first met Amalia at the Jewish Women Entrepreneurs annual conference last fall, which she attended in connection with her business, Honey Bee Jewish and Bee Awesome. Through her company, Amalia sells honey as holiday gifts and party favors, and offers services ranging from hive removal and pollinator landscaping to workshops and programs in schools, businesses, and community organizations. Yet bees weren’t always part of this Chicagoan’s life.

Learning and Educating

Amalia’s self-assurance and articulate speech come from her background as the child of academics: Her father is a PhD biochemist, and her mother was one of the first women in the country to serve as a professor of education, at the University of Chicago. “There was a lot of focus on origins in my family — why things happen, how they happen,” Amalia says, “as well as an emphasis on educating people.”

Amalia attended Oberlin College, where she studied voice and piano performance. (She also plays the guitar and dulcimer.) In addition to evolving as a musician, she was deeply influenced by the college’s emphasis on sustainability; for example, their Environmental Studies building includes a Living Machine full of plants that clean and recycle all wastewater used in the building.

She also grew in Jewish observance in those years, spending summers learning in Eretz Yisrael and then an additional three years there after she finished at Oberlin. She took classes at Michlalah teachers’ college and went on to earn a Master’s in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University. After her marriage, Amalia and her husband Adam, a medical student, spent ten years on college campuses at Oberlin and Cleveland State, where she served as the director of Hillel Houses. There, she directed programming and did kiruv work.


The couple moved to Beachwood, Ohio (outside Cleveland) 18 years ago, when their oldest was two and Adam was beginning a residency in anesthesiology. Amalia decided to start a vegetable garden on their property, using organic methods. To her surprise, she soon had an eager audience of neighborhood kids. “The children were so astonished by my garden!” she says. “These were mostly Jewish kids who were very privileged in many ways; they had nice homes, nice clothing, the latest gadgets. But they were lacking in a fundamental human inheritance: The knowledge that food comes from plants, and the feeling of putting your hands in the soil, of turning it over to see the roots and bugs underneath.”

Seeing how mesmerized they were, she called a few of the parents at the start of August, before that dreaded-by-mothers hiatus between day camp and the start of school. “I’m doing a little day camp thing,” she proposed. The demand amazed her: She began with 8 kids and soon found herself with 45. She’d work together with the kids in her yard, and these children became fired up. 
“We spent hundreds of dollars sending them to camp,” the mystified parents told Amalia, “and they didn’t seem excited by it. Then, for much less money, they come to you, work hard, get filthy, and tell us, ‘Wow! It was amazing!’ ”

Related Stories

Always a Reason to Thank

Leah Gebber

They’ve lost four young children to a rare genetic disease, but Rabbi Yisrael and Aviva Deren carry ...

Living with Plan B

Ahava Ehrenpreis

Just 12 hours before flight time, my doctor put down his otoscope and calmly informed me I wasn’t go...

Blast from the Past

Libi Astaire

Ever since Har Sinai, the shofar has been associated with momentous events. Nothing can beat a horn’...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?