On Tuesday April 1, more than 60 Rabbis will shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric cancer research. The shave will take place during the 125th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention. [You can watch the shave live online Tuesday at 9:30pm central time] The convention brings together members of the CCAR, the rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism, with more than 2,000 Reform rabbis providing religious leadership in all walks of life. The connection between the Reform rabbinic community and pediatric cancer advocacy began with the story of Samuel “Superman Sam” Sommer (pictured here), the son of Reform rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer. Sam succumbed to leukemia in December 2013. The Sommers documented Sam’s battle with cancer on their blog, Superman Sam.
Shave for the Brave has been a catalyst in uniting members of the rabbinic community who have lost children and brought the entire community together to support each other. NFTY is so proud of the many Rabbis participating who are part of our family. They are alumni, former staff members, former board members. It is no surprise that they are champions of youth engagement and work closely with our temple youth groups.
Not only did Superman Sam rally Rabbis to shave their heads in support of St. Baldrick’s and bring a community together through laughter and love, but his powers reached all the way across North America. Coast to coast, Reform Jewish teens have raised nearly $12,000 to support the ‘Shave for the Brave’!
Because of Sam, 400 teens and 100 young adults from NFTY’s west coast regions (Southern California, Southwest, Central West, Northwest) and URJ Camp Newman came together to pray and dance at a Dance-A-Thon fundraiser to show support for, not only Sam’s family, but for other families who are fighting that same battle. The community we created in only three days was full of ruach (spirit), deep emotional connections and a strong desire to change the world. Together they raised $10,000!
NFTY Missouri Valley has fundraised for pediatric cancer for many years in support of their Camp Rainbow mitzvah corps program. This year they expanded their efforts beyond fundraising and focused on increased awareness of childhood cancer and the experiences of those teens who have been affected.
NFTY Southern California raised $1500 for St. Baldricks during their annual Social Justice Kallah auction.
NFTY’s Southern Tropical Region learned about the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and how they can pre-register for the bone marrow donor registry when they turn 18. They then learned about Superman Sam’s story and together they donated $360 to St. Baldricks in honor of their Rabbis participating in Shave for the Brave.
The rabbis’ Shave for the Brave fundraiser benefits St. Baldrick’s, a charity committed to funding childhood cancer research. Originally conceived of in the hopes of convincing 36 rabbis to help raise $180,000, the group has grown to 66 rabbis and is on track to raise $540,000.
Tell us your story: We are looking for stories of how teens have chosen to fundraise or advocate for pediatric cancer. If you’ve been moved by Superman Sam’s story let us know how. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.