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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

April 11, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Rabbis lose hair in hopes of saving children’s lives

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel was one of three Bay Area rabbis to participate in the Shave for the Brave fundraiser in memory of “Superman” Sam Sommer, above. Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel was one of three Bay Area rabbis to participate in the Shave for the Brave fundraiser in memory of “Superman” Sam Sommer, above. Late last year, “Superman” Sam Sommer, the 8-year-old son Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer in Highwood, IL, lost a valiant battle against cancer. As an act of sympathy for the Sommers’ loss and to raise funds to combat childhood cancer, 73 Reform rabbis, including three from the Tampa Bay area, shaved their heads. Most did so at the 125th Annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention in Chicago on April 1.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congre- gation Beth Am in Tampa, Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel of Clearwater and Rabbi Joel Simon of Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa were among those going bald as part of the Rabbis Shave for the Brave fundraiser. All three described the Sommers’ as friends as well as colleagues.

The fundraising effort, under the auspices of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity dedicated to raising funds for pediatric cancer research, began about two months before the Dec. 14 death of the young boy who adored superheroes. As word spread among rabbis, more and more signed up to participate.

After surpassing initial fundraising goals of $180,000 and $360,000, the latest information on the St. Baldrick’s website as of April 9 showed that $605,138 had been raised toward the goal of $613,000, or $1,000 for every mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah.

Both Rabbi Rosenberg, who has known Sam’s dad since they were teens, and Rabbi Treiser were able to meet Sam just days before his death when the Sommer family visited theme parks in Orlando.

“No parent should ever have to tell their child that there is no hope, and the money we’re raising will get us one step closer to making sure that never has to happen again,” Rabbi Rosenberg said.


Before and after : The three Tampa Bay area rabbis who participated in the Shave for the Brave fundraiser for childhood cancer research are, in photo at left, (L-R), Rabbi Daniel Before and after : The three Tampa Bay area rabbis who participated in the Shave for the Brave fundraiser for childhood cancer research are, in photo at left, (L-R), Rabbi Daniel On April 2, the day after the head-shaving event, a party was held at Congregation Beth Am where folks could watch a video of the shaving and place silent auction bids (with pledges going to the Shave for the Brave fund) to put a temporary tattoo message on the rabbi’s bald head. Thanks to the winning bid, Rabbi Rosenberg, a devout Yankees fan, will have to wear a Red Sox temporary tattoo. He said Rabbi Phyllis Sommer even chipped in some funds just to make sure the Red Sox tattoo won. The watch party netted about $800 for St. Baldrick’s.

“Through our work, our friendships and our personal lives, each one of us has experienced the pain and hurt cancer brings to an individual and their loved ones,” said Rabbi Treiser, adding, “With all of the excitement at the moment of the event, we were also aware of the sadness that it was the passing of a special and beautiful young boy that brought us together. It was one of the most sacred moments of my life.”


Treiser, Rabbi Joel Simon and Rabbi Jason Rosenberg. At right, after they were shaved, are, (L-R) Rabbi Rosenberg, Rabbi Simon and Rabbi Treiser. Treiser, Rabbi Joel Simon and Rabbi Jason Rosenberg. At right, after they were shaved, are, (L-R) Rabbi Rosenberg, Rabbi Simon and Rabbi Treiser. “Michael and Phyllis Sommer were classmates and friends of mine when I was in rabbinical school in Cincinnati (at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion),” Rabbi Simon said. “When I was a young, first year student in Cincinnati, they were among those in the fifth year class who took me under their wings and made me feel welcome and at home. They truly are two of the kindest, most genuine people I have met.”


Rabbi Joel Simon of Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa takes his turn in the barber’s chair. Rabbi Joel Simon of Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa takes his turn in the barber’s chair. He said the Schaarai Zedek community has been supportive of his participation in the “Shave for the Brave” effort. “Sam’s story is such a tragic one that left everyone feeling so powerless, and unfortunately, it’s a story that too many people can relate to through their own experience or that of friends and family,” Rabbi Simon said. “A project like this, which gives you the potential to help future families in the same situation, can help to return a small sense of a feeling of control. It was a powerful moment for the Sommers family and for everyone who contributed, and I was honored to be able to be a small part of that effort.”

“Seven families lose a child to cancer each day, yet only 4 percent of U.S. federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers. We can’t bring Sam back, but we can help other families,” said Rabbi Rebecca Schorr, a friend of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and a Shave for the Brave organizer. “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.”

St. Baldrick’s Foundation 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. According to its website, Rabbis Shave for the Brave is the top fundraiser so far this year.

To learn more about the organization, or to pledge support for the Shave for the Brave, go to www.stbaldricks.org.


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