(JTA) — More than 1,000 mourners filled a Chicago-area synagogue on Monday to celebrate the life and lament the death of Samuel Asher Sommer, known as “Superman Sam,” the son of two rabbis who died of refractory acute myeloid leukemia on Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Sam died Saturday in his home at the age of 8. His death was announced during Shabbat morning services at the Union for Reform Judaism biennial convention, according to the Times of Israel. His funeral was on Sunday.
Sam’s 18-month battle against cancer was chronicled on the Superman Sam blog written by his mother, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. He also is the son of Rabbi Michael Sommer and has three siblings.
He was known as “Superman Sam” because of his love of superheroes.
As of Monday, 51 rabbis, most affiliated with the Reform movement, have pledged to shave their heads in honor of Sam to raise money for leukemia research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Another 11 have volunteered to help in other ways.
According to the according to the “36 Rabbis Shave For The Brave” Web page, the campaign has raised $122,808 as of Monday afternoon for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a 13-year-old nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research.
Sam was buried in his Superman pajamas and shirt, his favorite hoodie, a Superman blanket and SpongeBob SquarePants sheets, according to the Times of Israel.
Sam had been under home hospice care in the week before his death.
“Sam was not alone for a single moment of his life,” his mother wrote in her latest Superman Sam blog post. “He died peacefully and calmly and quietly at 12:33 am. He was not in fear or in pain. And for that I am eternally grateful.”
According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website, just 4 percent of money earmarked for cancer research in the United States focuses on pediatric cancers.
As a result, the foundation said, physicians must struggle to apply to children protocols that have been developed for adult patients. Treatment that works for adults can be toxic for children because they are so much smaller.