By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov
By now, most of you reading this have probably heard the incredibly tragic story of the loss of a phenomenal young boy named Sammy Sommer. His parents, Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer were both in Rabbinical School at the same time as I was in Cincinnati and I am blessed that our paths crossed and we became friends.
Like countless others, I was so moved by Sammy’s battle with leukemia. I stayed up to date on his progress by reading his parents’ blog, by making sure to read his name aloud from our meshbayrach list at my congregation, by buying a tshirt he helped to design, and simply by praying. Along with a number of my colleagues (including a few who have written for this blog- Rabbi Adar and Rabbi Winnig), I decided to join #36rabbis “Shave for the Brave” and commit to shaving my head. At first I signed up hoping to honor this amazing young boy…and then sadly and far too quickly my commitment became one of memorializing a hero, as Sam departed this earth back in December.
When I signed up to shave my head of course I had a few reservations. How would my congregation react to seeing their rabbi bald, especially at major events such as B’nei Mitzvah? Or how would one of my best friends feel if I had to wear a wig at her wedding while I was serving as both a bridesmaid and the rabbi? Truthfully, after a little ponderance and a few conversations, I wasn’t so worried anymore.
My next concern came about with what to make as my fundraising goal. Should I make it something I knew I could easily reach…or should I “reach for the stars?” After a little “back and forth,” I set my goal as something I know is rather high. Over the last few days I’ve thought about changing my goal to make it something that I can more easily attain.
However, upon reflection on the life of Sammy Sommer, I know I must reach for the stars. I know that my goal may be a little high, but I also know that I’ll either meet it or at the very least I’ll work REALLY hard to get as close as possible. I’m already so proud of the students at my congregation who helped by putting on a talent show to raise funds. I’m also incredibly grateful to my friends, friends of friends and even strangers who’ve donated on my behalf.
No matter how much I personally raise- whether I hit my goal or not, I know that an additional legacy of Superman Sam will be for me- and hopefully others- to set our goals high and constantly reach for them.
I pray that Sammy’s memory will always be for a blessing and that his legacy will be for a better world. I pray that through our fundraising campaign- a campaign that to date has already raised over $349,000, a cure for childhood cancer will soon be found.
If you are so moved, please feel free to sponsor me (click here) , Rabbi Adar, Rabbi Winnig or any of the rabbis participating in this campaign to eradicate childhood cancer. Together we can truly make a difference!
Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov is the Rabbi of Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, New York.