Why I’ll Shave My Head: A Jewish Perspective

Why I’ll Shave My Head: A Jewish Perspective
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Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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During the 125th Rabbis (CCAR) Convention, I will join over 60 male and female Reform Rabbis when they shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for paediatric cancer research. In addition, some participants are shaving in their home communities, including several Reconstructionist and Conservative colleagues who were moved to join their Reform peers in this important endeavour.

The “Shave for the Brave” event will take place on April 1st, 2014, at the CCAR Convention, which will be held at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. The CCAR is the representative organization of nearly 2,000 Reform Rabbis, the world’s largest group of Jewish clergy.

The rabbis’ “Shave for the Brave” fundraiser benefits St. Baldrick’s, a charity committed to funding childhood cancer research. So far, the CCAR Rabbis have raised over $330,000 for St. Baldrick’s, and hope to reach their goal of $360,000.

My cousin Liv Wise passed away a few months ago and so I am honoured to participate in the “Shave for the Brave” fundraiser, and to support St. Baldrick’s in their efforts to research paediatric cancer, and find a cure.

“The role of a rabbi is to right wrongs identified in the world, and the “Shave for the Brave” event allows rabbis to do that, by raising awareness of paediatric cancer and helping to work towards a cure,” said Rabbi Steven A. Fox, CCAR Chief Executive. “We are proud and honoured that the CCAR Convention could host this inspiring event.”

The connection between the Reform Jewish community and paediatric cancer advocacy began with the story of Samuel Sommer, the son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer. Phyllis Sommer serves Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL, and her husband has served Congregation B’nai Torah in Highland Park, IL and North Shore Congregation Israel. The Sommers had documented Sam’s battle with cancer on their blog, “Superman Sam.” From the blog, there came an outpouring of support from people all over the country who sympathized with Sam and his family. Rabbis across denominations prayed Mi Shebeirach for Sam’s recovery.

In October 2013, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and Rabbi Rebecca Schorr had the idea to organize a massive fundraiser, “Shave for the Brave,” in which 36 rabbis would shave their heads, raising awareness of the reality that only 4% of United States federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers. The initial fundraising goal for “Shave for the Brave” was $180,000, to fund paediatric cancer research.

“We have surpassed our initial goal, but will not stop. Not now; not ever,” says Rabbi Rebecca Schorr.

Sam succumbed to leukaemia in December 2013.Rabbis of “Shave for the Brave” are banning together to help save other families from having to go through what the Sommers went through.

“[We are] slightly-meshugene, but very devoted rabbis who are yearning to do something,” explains Schorr. “We couldn’t save Sammy; perhaps, though, we can save others like him.”

The “Shave for the Brave” event will take place at the CCAR Convention after a Loss and Mourning Service, led by Rabbi Rex Perlmeter. St. Baldrick’s is a volunteer-driven, non-profit charity that is committed to funding paediatric cancer research to find cures for childhood cancers and to give survivors long and healthy lives. The group has helped organize thousands of head-shaving events since 2000 and has raised millions of dollars for paediatric cancer research.

You can visit 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave to make a donation to St. Baldrick’s in memory of Samuel Sommers.



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