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!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.