His name was Samuel Asher Sommer. But the world knew him as "Superman Sam." Thousands followed this brave child's battle with leukemia on the blog of that name written by his mother, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer: "He died peacefully and calmly and quietly at 12:33 a.m.," she wrote on her blog. "He was not in fear or in pain. And for that I am eternally grateful."
Samuel Asher Sommer, the son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer, died Dec. 14, in his Highwood home after an 18-month battle against refractory acute myeloid leukemia.
Phyllis had created "Superman Sam," a blog that documented her son's struggle. Along with a fellow Reform rabbi, she came up with the idea for the "36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave" in order to raise money for pediatric cancer research and show solidarity with Sam, who lost his hair due to chemotherapy. In the days since Samuel's death, rabbis, most affiliated with the Reform movement, have pledged to shave their heads, and in March will do so at the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis conference in Chicago.
Sam's parents wrote, in his obituary: "In those brief but meaningful years, he was a son, brother, grandson, nephew, schoolmate, student, friend. He never failed to see the smallest creatures and all the beauty in the natural world. Sam was bright, creative, curious, and lively. Leukemia took his life but did not define him. His sparky and silly nature will forever inspire all who knew and loved him."
More than 1,000 mourners came to pay their respects Dec. 16 at Am Shalom synagogue in Glencoe, where Phyllis Sommer is an associate rabbi, reported the Chicago Tribune. "Over his entire brief but meaningful life, Sammy has taught all of us about courage, struggle, strength, and wisdom," Am Shalom synagogue said in a statement. "But, over the last year and a half, Sam and the entire Sommer family have taught us all about grace, beauty, peace, and acceptance,"
Sam is forever remembered by his parents, Rabbi Michael and Rabbi Phyllis Sommer; by his siblings, David, Yael, and Solomon; and by his proud and loving grandparents, Sharon and John Sklar and Marilyn and the late David Sommer; as well as by uncles Joshua (Tina) Sommer and Harry Sklar and many special relatives, teachers, and friends. The family requests that donations in Sam's honor be made to the Sam Sommer Fund at Am Shalom. The funeral was directed by the Goldman Funeral Group, and the interment was at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.
~Reporting by JNS and JTA