During the 125th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention, Rabbi Paula Jayne Winnig, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education, is one of 13 female rabbis who will join with more than 60 rabbis when they shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric 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 endeavor.
The “Shave for the Brave” event is April 1 at the CCAR Convention 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 name made up to support shave events), a charity committed to funding childhood cancer research. So far, the CCAR Rabbis have raised more than $370,000 for St. Baldrick’s and hope to reach their goal of $540,000.
“I answered the call to ‘Shave for the Brave’ because I want to stand in solidarity with children and their families who are fighting cancer in the hope that this research will help find cures and treatment for the future,” Winnig said in a press release.
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. Phyllis Sommer serves Am Shalom in Glencoe, Ill., and her husband has served Congregation B’nai Torah in Highland Park, Ill., 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.