Freelancing for the AJT for more than a decade, Bob Bahr has led a fulfilling career and volunteer life: from rubbing shoulders with Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Diane Sawyer to teaching film classes and leading religious services throughout the Jewish community.
Bahr said he often feels like a minor celebrity shopping in his neighborhood among people he’s led in his many classes and services. But he once worked with some of the greats of TV broadcast journalism, many of whom were and are Jewish. “Every journalist aspires to fame and fortune. Just the experience of working at that level was rewarding.”
He described his famous co-workers as “ordinary folks, not anything extraordinary, who knew how to communicate. They were raised to be god-like figures. Television creates a new class of divine beings to worship. Some of their glow rubs off when you are on TV.”
Bahr grew up in Kansas City in an Orthodox family. At his bar mitzvah, the rabbi addressed the congregation in a Yiddish young Bahr didn’t understand. “It was a simpler time, also a time in which Jews still had memories of Europe.” Kansas City was a close-knit community at a time when Jews were “always aware that the powers to be were not always the friendliest.”
A theater major at the University of Missouri, Bahr once was the lead in a one-act play, winning best supporting actor. He also took broadcasting courses and worked at the local radio station, realizing that being a television reporter could satisfy his theater ambitions.
Bahr earned a master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University and his first job was at a radio station in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. He also taught communications at the College of the Virgin Islands.
Jews played an important role in the history of the islands, including the governor at the time, Ralph Paiewonsky, Bahr said.
Later, Bahr became a foreign correspondent in London, and covered Israel’s Six Day War in 1967. “It was a great time to be Jewish in Europe.” A producer, reporter and news exec for CBS, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for coverage of the civil war in El Salvador. He eventually ended up at CNN as managing editor of its documentary unit, and won many awards for his long and short productions.
About 20 years ago, he rediscovered his Judaism. When he’s not leading Shabbat services at Sunrise at Huntcliff Summit in Sandy Springs or teaching about film and popular culture around town, he’s active in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and sharing his best bets on films to watch.
He says he enjoys writing about what he knows. His AJT specialties are movies and the arts. But Bahr was also a food columnist for Atlanta magazine for a while, so when he’s not writing, he enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. “I do a really good Italian.” He’s also gotten into Sephardic cooking in the past few months, he says. Although he doesn’t follow them, he touts an impressive cookbook library he uses for inspiration to learn about foods from around the world.
“I am a person who never saw a book I didn’t like. I’m irresistibly drawn to books. I have an immense collection.” The last book he read was “Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey & the Last Great Showbiz Party” by Shawn Levy.
Another little-known fact about our prolific freelancer is that he raised chows. “They are the most difficult dog to raise; they make wonderful companions.”