Sisterhood Blog

Wild and Crazy Hats for Women Battling Cancer

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Renee Ghert-Zand
Some of the designs on display at ‘The Hat Show.’

These are not pity-party hats. From the looks of these colorful and whimsical head coverings, it would appear that the pity party is over and that the empty ice cream containers and cried-into tissues have been thrown away. Whoever is wearing these cloches, chapeaux, bonnets and berets is holding her head high in the face of adversity.

On display at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif. through April 27 are 25 hats made by the members Plexus Art Group for one of their own— Roni Mentzer, who is battling a recurrence of breast cancer. “I’m going to lose my hair again when the chemotherapy starts,” Mentzer told her 12 fellow artists. “Those hats and uncomfortable wigs are so boring. Let’s create works of art. Let’s show the world beauty!”

The members (twelve women and one man) of this San Francisco Bay Area artists’ group embraced the challenge, as they have other projects that address social and political concerns that affect them and their community. Their exhibitions aim to raise awareness, as well as funds to support like-minded organizations.

“The Hat Show” — also referred to as “Hats Off to Roni” —collection was purchased by private art collectors, and the proceeds of the sale were donated to Zero Breast Cancer, a local non-profit organization that focuses on identifying environmental factors in the development of breast cancer. The hats are kept at the ZBC offices and travel to various display venues around the Bay Area.

Some of the hats appear to be more works of art than wardrobe toppers, though others make for practical headgear. All convey a very specific message of love and support to Mentzer. Jennifer Kim Sohn’s “Veiled,” made of ultra-soft baby blue, pink and white handmade felt, and looking like a jellyfish with long tentacles, aims to wrap Mentzer’s head and cradle it like an infant. Stuart Wagner’s “Battle Gear,” on the other hand, conveys a very different sentiment with its baseball cap made of steel sporting a symbolic pink breast cancer ribbon loop.

Juline Beier made for her friend a bright blue stocking cap adorned with dozens of colorful buttons attached to the fabric with those plastic things that hold price tags on clothing. If only we could tear cancer cells out of us as easily as it is to yank a price tag off a new purchase. Beier also made for her friend a seemingly Devo-inspired “Gladiator Hat” constructed from dark grey foamy insulation tubing, and an attention-grabbing, molded straw number reminiscent of the silhouette of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Marla Brill’s “Prayer,” a lacey cap made of white hospital bracelets turns the in-patient experience into a fashion show. “Genesis,” an upside-down flower with petals of copper and brass mesh suggests that renewed life — and hair — can sprout from a barren scalp.

All the hats enchant, be they made from downy feathers, coiled metal filings, bamboo fiber, or a re-purposed sequined blouse and belt, as is the one Mentzer herself designed.

These hats turn the cancer-patient experience on its head. Women who lose their hair to chemotherapy usually seek hats, scarves and wigs to hide their baldness. But Mentzer and any other woman who might wear these works of art are doing anything but covering up. Far from concealing their condition, they are drawing attention to themselves and to the need for a continued search for a cure.

They are ready to celebrate life, and they are dressing up for the party.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Hats, Hair Coverings, Breast Cancer

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.