The Facebook blurb and an email from Rabbi Vered Harris focused on a topic that rarely came up in conversation: her tresses.
“There’s a price on my head (of hair),” she wrote to family and friends.
“It’s a long story, but the short version is this: I have a lot of hair. I am donating it.”
Harris, spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel, went on to explain that she was trying to raise money — $3,600 to be exact — for pediatric cancer research.
The rabbi said she had faith that her goal would be reached.
Still, she was still stunned a few days later when a local Muslim leader told her that Muslims wanted to donate to her cause and in fact, had raised her entire goal amount.
“I was just so deeply touched,” she said.
“I think that people have so many wrong stereotypes and misconceptions about Jewish-Muslim relations.”
Thursday, she will join several other rabbis from around the country planning to shave their heads at the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial gathering in Orlando, Fla.
In short, she will become part of the “Rabbis Shave for the Brave” movement.
Hair today, gone (literally) tomorrow
Thursday’s shave-in is part of a project coordinated by St. Baldricks, a Monrovia, Calif.-based volunteer-driven charity that provides grants for research to find cures for childhood cancers. The organization coordinates its signature head-
shaving events like “Rabbis Shave for the Brave” and other fundraisers to give volunteers around the world an opportunity to raise money to support life-saving research.
Harris, 43, said to date, she has raised almost $10,000 for the effort.
She said the Muslim community’s generous response to her appeal is an example of interfaith goodwill that thrives even as people of different faiths experience tensions and hostilities in other parts of the country and the world.
Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said he led the effort to raise money for the rabbi’s fundraising project. Enchassi said the Council on American-Islamic Relations gave $500, the Dialogue Institute gave $500 and individual members of the Muslim community at large donated the remaining $2,600 of the faith community’s $3,600 donation.
“When you think about children battling this horrible disease, it hits really deep in the hearts of people,” said Enchassi, 50.
“We have never heard of St. Baldricks but it’s simply the fact that we trust the rabbi. She herself has stood with with us against bigotry and xenophobia.”
Harris did not initially ask her congregation to give to the cause but the imam said he suggested a “friendly wager” or challenge to the temple to raise more funds and the congregation responded so much so that Harris has raised $9,200.
Harris said it won’t be just rabbis participating in Thursday’s head-shaving event. She said other people attending the URJ Biennial also plan to join the effort.
She said she’s a little nervous about shaving her head.
The rabbi said she wore her hair long and blond growing up and was known for her lengthy mane. She said she cut it very short about six months before her wedding and her fiance, Benjamin, now her husband, was none too happy.
Harris said women in her great-great grandmother’s Orthodox Jewish community in Hungary regularly kept their heads shaved. She said her great grandmother for whom she is named (Vered means “rose” in Hebrew) decided to break with tradition, preferring to keep her hair.
The rabbi said she has preferred to wear her hair short over the last several years. When she arrived in Oklahoma City as the new rabbi for Temple B’nai Israel, she wore her hair in a short pixie cut style.
She said she has grown her hair for about two years in anticipation of Thursday’s head-shaving event.