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Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom to Shave Head to Help Fund Pediatric Cancer Research

John Mooney

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 • 11:30am

“Shave for the Brave” Event Occurs at Central Conference of American Rabbis’ 125th Annual Convention in Chicago on Apr. 1st

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham of Temple Sholom in Fanwood will join over 60 male and female Reform Rabbis when they shave their heads on April 1st, 2014, at the 125th Annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention.  Their goal is to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric cancer research.

The “Shave for the Brave” event will take place at the gathering of CCAR, the representative organization of nearly 2,000 Reform Rabbis, the world’s largest group of Jewish clergy, at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park.

“We need to help children beyond fulfilling their last wishes, by making sure they can keep dreaming. The more who will stand up for this important cause, the more likely that change will happen,” said Rabbi Abraham.  “I'm shaving my head so that when you see me and ask, ‘Where is your hair?’ I can answer that it went to make a difference.”

The fundraiser benefits St. Baldrick’s, a charity committed to funding childhood cancer research. So far, the Rabbis have far surpassed their initial goal of $360,000 and hope to raise $540,000.

“The role of a rabbi is to right wrongs identified in the world, and the “Shave for the Brave” event allows us to do that, by raising awareness of pediatric cancer and helping to work towards a cure,” said Rabbi Steven A. Fox, CCAR Chief Executive.

The connection between the Reform Jewish community and pediatric cancer advocacy began with the story of Samuel Sommer, the son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer who serve congregations in Illinois.  They documented their son’s battle with cancer in a blog called, “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.  Sadly, Sam succumbed to leukemia in December 2013.

In October 2013, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and Rabbi Rebecca Schorr had the idea to organize a massive fundraiser in which 36 rabbis would shave their heads to raise awareness that only 4% of U.S. federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for childhood cancers. 

“We have surpassed our initial goal, but will not stop,” says Rabbi Rebecca Schorr. “We are slightly meshugene, but very devoted rabbis who are yearning to do something. We couldn’t save Sammy.  Perhaps, though, we can save others like him.”

St. Baldrick’s is a volunteer-driven, non-profit charity that is committed to funding pediatric 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 pediatric cancer research.

To sponsor Rabbi Abraham’s efforts, visit http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/661199/2014/ and make a donation to St. Baldrick’s in memory of Samuel Sommer.

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