As I think back on the past 20-some-odd summers at camp, there are probably about a dozen programs that I remember—really remember. I think back on them not only in that I can remember what we did or what we created, but I remember how they felt: the moment of insight, the powerful conversation, the unique energy that was created through the experience.
Tuesday night was one of those programs. Except instead of being at camp, this program happened at a convention of rabbis. But I think that it’s no coincidence that nearly all of the rabbis that participated in this particular program were camp rabbis. Experiential education is so much a part of our thinking that we can’t help but create these moments for ourselves—and use those moments to live out the values that are inherent in the Jewish camp experience.
Tuesday night, I was one of about 53 rabbis who shaved my head. On stage. In front of the rest of the convention. And on livestream.
And like the programs from various summers that I remember, it was a night that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It was an experience that really changed me—more than just my hair.
Not only that, it was an experience that enabled me—and the other participants, as well as everyone who supported us—the chance to change the world, and to use the values that we preach and teach.
It was a little over 4 months ago that we became the 36 Rabbis Who Shave for the Brave. But the story really started in June of 2012, when Superman Sam Sommer, son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer, was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. While Sam’s life ended with his death in December, Sam’s story has continued (and will continue) for a whole lot longer than the 8 years during which he lived.
Through sharing and reading about the experience of Sam and his family, so many of us have realized so much. Seeing their pain, struggle, and grief, we have understood reality in a different way. Seeing that reality, we’ve learned about the devastating facts about pediatric cancer: Only 4% of federal funds for cancer research goes to childhood cancers; 13,500 children each year are diagnosed with cancer; 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year — treatments that, because of the need for more research for childhood cancer, are out of date and dangerous; and every day, in America, 7 children die of cancer.