Dozens of local rabbis to shave heads to raise money

April 1, 2014 (CHICAGO)

It's one of the many St. Baldrick's events - but this Shave for the Brave will be done by over 60 reform rabbis.

Nearly 600 reform rabbis are in Chicago for the annual Central Conference of American Rabbis convention. Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and her husband, Rabbi Michael Sommer, are among them - but their presence serves a dual purpose.

In June of 2012, our son Sam was diagnosed with leukemia, and we were stunned," said Phyllis Sommer, Congregation Am Shalom.

After months of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, the Sommers wanted to do more to help the pediatric cancer community. Sam was only 8 when he lost his battle last December.

"I floated the idea to my friend Rebecca, what if we did something really big and crazy? And I shaved my head! And she said, 'What if we got a whole bunch of our colleagues to do it with you?'" said Phyllis Sommer.

With the rabbis' convention coming up, the Shave for the Brave fundraiser to benefit St. Baldrick's was born. It may seem odd that a group of rabbis is participating in what appears to be a Catholic fundraiser, but there is a logical explanation - St. Baldrick's events typically happen around St. Patrick's Day.

The initial organizers thought that it might be interesting, or fun, or sexy, if you will, to make a mash up of the word bald and St. Patrick, and put them together and you get St. Baldrick, who of course does not exist," said Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr.

Unfortunately, a couple weeks after we came up with this idea, we found out that Sammy had relapsed and the doctors told us there was nothing more we could do," said Phyllis Sommer.

He stayed in good spirits and we lived everyday for 17 months as if we were gonna make it and he made me believe it was gonna be fine..but it wasn't," said Rabbi Michael Sommer, Temple B'nai Israel.

Seventy-four rabbis will go bald Tuesday.

"Being a part of Shave for the Brave has given me the opportunity to help children, to perhaps bring them to a place of healing, to let their families know their lives matter," said Rabbi Max Weiss, Oak Park Temple.

The Shave for the Brave event will take place at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Fairmont Hotel. Fifty-two local rabbis, that including 13 women, will shave their heads. It's not too late to donate.

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