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During the 125th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention, more than 60 Reform rabbis will shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric cancer research. As the religious leadership of Reform Judaism, the CCAR Rabbis strive for justice and wholeness and health in the world in for all people. At the same time, through the CCAR, the rabbis support one another in their rabbinic and personal lives. 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.
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.
The shave will take place on the evening of April 1st at the CCAR Convention in Chicago, following a service on loss, healing, and hope led by Rabbi Rex Perlmeter. Rabbi Steven A. Fox, chief executive of the CCAR, said,
We are proud and honored that the CCAR Convention could host this inspiring event, which fosters our goal of rabbis supporting rabbis and building relationships throughout our communities. One of the many roles of the rabbi is to strive to change the world for the betterment of all peoples, be it the health and well being of members of our society or social justice for all. The ‘Shave for the Brave’ event allows rabbis to do that, by raising awareness of pediatric cancer and helping to work towards a cure. This event is an example of CCAR rabbis acting on our moral commitments.
Rabbi Fox also noted that the CCAR has been at the forefront of religious leadership advocating for healthcare for all people everywhere. As early as the 1940s, the CCAR declared that “Every individual should have access to medical care and the most advanced medical research regardless of his economic circumstances.”
Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr, the Shave for the Brave” organizer, said of the event,
Seven families lose a child to cancer each day, yet only 4% of US federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers. We can’t bring Sam back, but we can help other families. By taking such visible action, these rabbis are serving as role models in their communities and raising awareness among their congregants. It’s an amazing way to bring out the best in people and strengthen the community.
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 $360,000. The “shavees” consist of 53 male and 13 female rabbis. In addition to the group shaving at the CCAR Convention, there are additional rabbis shaving in their home communities, including Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis who were inspired to support their rabbinic colleagues. The outpouring of support demonstrates how a tragedy can unite people across denominations to act on shared values.