Im ein ani li, mi li? U’kh’she’ani le’atzmi, mah ani? V’im lo ‘akhshav, eimatai?:
If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
Editor’s Note: We have been incredibly moved by the outpouring of support of NFTY teens, alumni and clergy for the ‘Shave for the Brave’ to support pediatric cancer research. Samantha Schauvaney is an alum of NFTY Northern Region and a student at the University of Wisconsin who made the decision to join in the effort and shave her head. We asked Sam to share her story with the NFTY community.
Recently, I combined my two favorite things, community and social action. It started because of an 8 year old who was diagnosed with Leukemia (AML) in 2012, Sammy Sommer. The Jewish community rallied together to help however they could. They raised funds to send him to Disneyland and Israel. They helped make life easier for his family in many other various ways. Unfortunately, on Saturday, December 14th 2013, Sammy passed away. The whole Jewish community mourned together. Then, something amazing happened. The Jewish community came together again, this time with the goal of ending childhood cancer. Many Rabbis were a part of the St.Baldrick’s event 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave. As an aspiring rabbi, I wanted to join in.
“If I am not for myself, who will be?”
While trying to figure out how I could help, I had to make sure I did it in a way that was possible given that I am a freshman at University of Wisconsin Madison. I didn’t have money to donate but I did have the leadership skills, the charisma, and the chutzpah to run a fundraiser and eventually shave my head. Mitzvot are not one size fits all. Some people donating money was the right thing, while I was thrilled to shave my head. It is important that we find mitzvot that work for us as individuals. If we are not looking out for our best interests, then who is?
I felt, as a member of the Jewish community, which calls for us to do mitzvot, I needed to do something. I needed to help so other families would not feel the same pain the Sommer family has felt. Through St.Baldrick’s, I raised $1300 for pediatric cancer, and continue to raise awareness every time I answer, “why are you bald?”. Some might think that agreeing to be completely bald is a difficult thing to do. But as I told my mother, “I don’t want to be one of those people who cares more about looks than I do about other people”. I wear my baldness as a badge of honor. The way the Jewish community has come together in the recent months is a true testament to the power of compassion and the impact that one little boy can have on a community.
“If not now, when?”
Sam Sommer had the nickname Superman Sam, he was definitely a superhero as he battled cancer and continues to inspire people. The day I shaved my head, I truly felt like a superhero, being able to make a meaningful difference through Mitzvot. Superheroes do things for others. They make the world a better place, and they never wait for someone else to do it first. Everyone has the ability to be a superhero, all it takes is asking what we can do to help, then actually doing it. If every day we ask ourselves, “what have I done for someone else today?”, we too can be superheroes.
We need to continue to work together as a community to help raise awareness and end childhood cancer, because If not now, when?