Bigger Than Our Differences: Rabbi and Imam Bridge Divides to Help Kids With Cancer

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
November 4, 2015

For years, Rabbi Vered Harris and Imam Imad Enchassi have stood together in support of peace, love and respect. Now, they’re working together to help kids with cancer. Last week, as Rabbi Harris fundraised ahead of her shave for St. Baldrick’s, the imam had a surprise for her. Read on to find out more!

Imam Enchassi and Rabbi Harris stand together with other faith leaders at an interfaith meeting

Imam Imad Enchassi, second from left, and Rabbi Vered Harris stand together with attendees at an interfaith prayer service for Syrian refugees.

Rabbi Vered Harris was dumbstruck as she read a text from Imam Imad Enchassi. She had expected the imam to donate to her shave for St. Baldrick’s, but not like this.

Without telling her, Imam Enchassi had spread the word about her shave to members of the Muslim community of Oklahoma City. They rallied to the childhood cancer cause, raising $3,600 for the rabbi’s shave in just a day and a half — filling her entire fundraising goal in one fell swoop.

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10,000 Kisses: Father’s Day Without Sammy

by Michael Sommer
June 19, 2015

As Father’s Day approaches, Ambassador Sam’s dad, Michael, remembers his son and how he inspired him to be the best dad he could be.

Michael, David, and Sam

Michael with his two oldest sons, Sammy (left) and David, in August 2013.

Father’s Day has never been that important to me. I don’t really believe in Hallmark holidays when we should appreciate the people and parents in our lives every day. All I know is I try to be the best father I can be, and some days I succeed and some days I fail.

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Ambassador Sam’s Sister Shaves Her Head for Children With Cancer [VIDEO]

by Yael Sommer
May 28, 2015

On April 1, 2014, a group of rabbis shaved their heads in honor of Sam, who died from childhood cancer at the age of 8. Since then, 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave have become one of the top fundraising events in St. Baldrick’s history, raising more than $1 million for children’s cancer research. Sam’s sister, Yael, decided to brave the shave herself — twice! She tells her story.

Yael with a photo of her brother Sammy

Yael is raising money to help find cures for kids like Sam. Help Yael reach her $7,200 goal >

My name is Yael Sommer. I am 7 years old. I am a fashionista.

On December 14, 2013, my brother died. His name was Samuel. His favorite movie was “How to Train Your Dragon,” and his favorite animal group was reptiles. I miss him.

My parents shaved their heads because of Sammy. They did it with a lot of their friends, and they did it for kids who have cancer. They raised a lot of money for kids with cancer.

My school was doing a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s, and some of Sammy’s friends and adults at school decided to shave their heads. My friend Talah and I decided it would be fun to shave our heads, too. We raised a lot of money for the doctors to get medicine for kids with cancer so that they don’t die.

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12 Reasons Why We’re Shaving Our Heads Again

by Yael and Phyllis Sommer
February 25, 2015

Ambassador Sam’s mom and sister are braving the shave for the second time this Sunday. Read their reasons for shaving, then make a donation to support them. If it’s more than what you’ve given before, or if it’s your first time giving, your gift will be matched!

Yael and Phyllis Sommer

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TEDx Talk: The 36 Rabbis’ Extraordinary Story

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr
December 18, 2014

Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr recently took to the TEDx stage to tell the 36 Rabbis’ unforgettable story. As the Rabbis near their $1 million goal for childhood cancer research, a generous donor has agreed to match any new and increased gifts to St. Baldrick’s for the 36 Rabbis’ campaign. Make your gift go twice as far for kids with cancer. Make a donation to the 36 Rabbis.

Rabbi Rebecca Schorr TEDx Lehigh River

Rabbi Rebecca Schorr tells the 36 Rabbis’ story from the TEDx stage in Lehigh River, Pennsylvania.

Watch Rebecca’s full TEDx Talk >

More than six dozen rabbis walk into a room and shave their heads.

Don’t worry; this isn’t the start of an ethnic joke. This is a true story of what happened when a group of religious leaders decided that they didn’t want to bury any more kids whose lives could have been saved. It’s a lesson that a seemingly innocuous comment can be the beginning of something amazing. And it is a reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

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Remembering Superman Sam

by Phyllis Sommer
December 14, 2014

Today we remember Superman Sam, who died from acute myeloid leukemia one year ago. A generous donor has agreed to match any new and increased gifts to the 36 Rabbis campaign, so today, honor Sam with a donation to help fight childhood cancer. His mom, Phyllis, shared these words on this day last year.

Superman Sam Sommer playing on a playground in April 2012

Superman Sam in April 2012, before he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

On Friday morning, Sam woke up with a headache and nausea. He was vomiting a little, and we weren’t quite sure what the dark spots in his vomit were. But I had a terrible feeling.

We were scheduled for a trip to the clinic, and, frankly, we weren’t ready to imagine what it would be like without that trip. Giving up that trip, to me, meant we were ready to admit how very close we were to the end. Giving up that trip wasn’t really an option. Even Sam wanted to go.

So we made the drive. (It’s an hour and 15 minutes.)

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Happy Birthday, Superman Sam

by Phyllis Sommer
November 8, 2014

Today would have been Superman Sam’s 9th birthday if childhood cancer hadn’t taken his life last December. Today, give $9 for Sam’s birthday to the 36 Rabbis, which was founded by Sam’s mom and a friend, and have your gift matched. Sam’s mom reflects on his birthday, the reality of losing a child to cancer, and the opportunity to reach $1 million raised for St. Baldrick’s.

Superman Sam would have been 9 years old this month

Superman Sam would have been 9 years old today.

I’ve always been a really voracious reader, and as I reminded my 9th graders the other day, the pickings were far slimmer in the kids’ and young adults’ department of bookstores when I was younger. So I was always scanning bookshelves for things that looked interesting to me.

I remember being young, maybe 9 or 10, when I discovered a slim volume on the shelf at my aunt and uncle’s house. It was short, which didn’t bode well for me, since I tended at that point to pick books by their length. But there was something compelling about the cover. Alex: The Life of a Child, it was called, and there was a beautiful little girl on the front — her picture slightly fuzzy and black and white. I remember reading it cover to cover, and crying big blotchy tears. And then I remember reading it over and over again.

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Open Arms, Open Hearts: Superman Sam’s Dad Prepares to Shave with the 36 Rabbis

by Michael Sommer
April 1, 2014

Today, 74 Reform rabbis are going bald at the 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave, a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event inspired by Sam Sommer. Rabbi Michael Sommer has been growing his hair since Sam died on December 14, 2013, and he shares his thoughts before the shave.

Sam and Michael on the beach

Michael and Sam in Israel last November.

A piece of me is crumbled inside like a building gutted in a fire. I find myself walking around the wreckage looking for pieces of what was.

In the charred ruins, I find images and memories of days of laughter and revelry. Then I turn around and see all the rest of my existence, whole and intact — children that need to be dressed, fed, and prepared for school in the morning; games that need to be played; piano to be practiced; movies to watch. All the pieces of a life that Sam’s death left intact.

All these pieces of life remind me why I keep breathing, why I carry on and am capable of doing what needs to be done.

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Do What You Want

Dance-A-Thon Honors Superman Sam

by Ari Vared
March 18, 2014

Start a Do What You Want fundraiser and help cure childhood cancer!

Sam Sommer when he was battling pediatric AML

Sam was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was 6.

Sometimes being a superhero doesn’t have anything to do with a cape. Everyday superheroes seem to be changing the world without them.

Superman Sam Sommer showed us all what a true superhero looks like. In 2012, Sam was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. This past November, at 8 years old, Sam lost his battle with leukemia — but not before proving that he did indeed have super powers.

Super Power 1: The Power to Bring People Together

Not only did Superman Sam rally more than 50 Reform Rabbis to shave their heads in support of St. Baldrick’s, but his powers reached all the way to West Coast Party, our biennial three-day retreat for teens from all over the West Coast.

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Three Weeks Till Bald: Superman Sam’s Mom Speaks Out on the 36 Rabbis’ Shave

by Phyllis Sommer
March 12, 2014

Phyllis and Sam
Hair has always been an important part of our family. My children have strong opinions about their own hair and how it should look.

For Sam, losing his hair was a big deal at first. I think it was more the idea of the change rather than the actual hair loss. It changed how he looked, and it changed how people looked at him. Throughout his treatment, he was mostly bald, and then as it grew back after treatment, we noticed and celebrated.

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