Beginning on April 1st our community will have a bald rabbi, at least for a little while, as I will be participating with about 60 of my colleagues in a fundraiser to raise awareness of and funds to combat childhood cancers. We are participating as a rabbinic community in a St. Baldrick’s event which will take place at our annual CCAR rabbinic convention. While it is a public event, it feels deeply personal. Every day when I awake I give thanks that I and my family are healthy and well. I give thanks with the humility that comes from knowing that our good fortune is not shared by every family in our community. I suppose that there is inside of most rabbis a recognition that while we are able to walk with families in their pain there is little we can do to prevent it.
I am allowing my head to be shaved because there is so little else I can do. I am not a big fan of personal public spectacle except on Purim. The idea of sitting on a stage while my head is shaved makes my stomach turn. For Jews head shaving is biblically symbolic of outrageous grief and it is historically connected to the utter horror so many in our community suffered through during the Shoah. I know that for the St. Baldrick’s foundation head shaving symbolizes solidarity and connection with those who lose their hair to cancer treatments. It is different for me and I suspect for many of the rabbis I am participating with in this campaign.
I am allowing my head to be shaved out of frustration, and helplessness, and grief, and pain from seeing too many children suffer and some die from cancer. Frankly and honestly I am allowing my head to be shaved as a small gesture to raise awareness and money for research to combat childhood cancers. The fact that I cannot save these children or spare their families from fathomless pain does not allow me to do nothing. So, I am shaving my head to raise a little bit of money to help fund cancer research so that as a society we may one day reach a point where families like Michael and Phyllis Sommer’s no longer have to mourn the premature death of a child and so that families like Lee Kantz and Rebekah Cowing’s are able to find a speedy cure for their nephew Ben.
So, do not worry when you see me without hair. I am fine. I am shaving my head because many other families are not. If you would like to donate please do so here.