[by Cantor Sharon Hordes]
Have you ever noticed that, in many texts that are part of our Jewish tradition, hair figures prominently? In the story of Samson, the loss of hair leads directly to a loss in strength and vitality. Our forefather, Jacob, used a hairy disguise on his arm in order to pass as Esau and receive the birthright from his father. On the holiday of Lag B’omer, scores of three year old boys get their first haircut together in a large collective upsherin ceremony held near the tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai in the Galilean town of Meron. Even to this day, Ultra-Orthodox women cut off their hair upon getting married so as to control their sensuality. In these various examples, the cutting of hair symbolizes everything from a loss of power and seduction to a child’s rite of passage.
However, we must also think about what hair loss may mean today in our modern experience. Sadly, hair loss no longer happens solely as a result of old age. To the unfortunate child who must undergo chemotherapy in a battle with cancer, hair loss can come shockingly prematurely. This is why I had decided to grow out my hair so that I could, for the second time, donate 10 inches of it to Zichron Menachem, a non-profit Israeli organization that works to “ease the suffering of young cancer patients and their families.”
Zichron Menachem, or ZM, was founded in 1990 by the parents of Menachem Ehrental who, after 14 years of fighting the disease, lost his life to cancer. This remarkable organization, the first of its kind in Israel, offers its services to families of all backgrounds, religious affiliation, ethnic origin and socio-economic status.
Making children’s wigs out of donated hair is just one of the services that ZM provides for families dealing with cancer. They also raise funds so that they are able to provide educational, recreational, therapeutic and rehabilitative programs free of charge to families dealing with cancer and its effects.
Through the donations that the organization has received for its 20 plus years of existence, it has been able to create the ZM day center in Jerusalem, outings and adventure camps in Israel and oversees, as well as a guest house for out of town families with children who are undergoing medical
treatment in Jerusalem hospitals.
ZM’s reach extends to the entire State of Israel, helping children at 12 different hospitals. A ZM volunteer may comfort sick children by staying with them either in the hospital or at their homes, freeing up the child’s parents to go to work, get some rest or care for the rest of the family. For the children who are further along the road to recovery, ZM volunteers supervise adventurous outings and camping experiences.
Zichron Menachem’s work has been noticed by the Israeli government. Among the prestigious awards and prizes that ZM has received have been the Israel President’s “Prize for Volunteers,” the Israel Prime Minister’s “Child Protector Award,” the Israel Heath Minister’s “Prize for Volunteers” and the Mayor of Jerusalem’s “Citation for Volunteers.”
I urge you to find out more about this important organization and to think of ways that you might be able to contribute to easing these families’ struggles. If you are planning on traveling to Israel with Keneseth Israel and you are able to grow enough hair by then to donate, you can deliver it in person upon arriving in Jerusalem! In addition to hair, the organization also accepts cash donations. You can find out more about donating hair at their website: www.zichron.org.
If you have any questions at all about the process, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail me at 459-2780 or SHordes@kenesethisrael.com.