Gil Adler isn’t a rebel — he just looks like one, with that crazy mane. Appearances to the contrary, he’s a licensed accountant and he served on a reconnaissance unit in the Israeli Defense Forces.
And oh, yeah, he’s growing his hair to make wigs for child cancer patients, and in memory of a childhood friend who died of cancer.
The friend, Eitan Shapiro, died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma just two months after his graduation from Frisch, a yeshiva high school in Paramus, N.J., in 2002.
When Adler left the army four years ago and headed dutifully back home to take his CPA exam, he decided to grow, and grow and grow out his military-style crew cut.
“I might as well grow it out for a good cause,” he reflected. He determined then to donate his flowing tresses to Locks of Love, the nonprofit that provides hairpieces to chronically ill children who can’t afford them.
Then more recently, as the time drew near to finally donate his hair, he realized he could wring additional good out of it by “holding it hostage,” as he put it, until he had raised $10,000 for Eitan’s Hope for Children, the fund Shapiro’s mother runs that aims to boost the spirits of children and young adults undergoing cancer treatment.
The fund provides financial support for alternative therapies and also offers personalized baskets of gifts.
Adler made the original decision to grow his hair despite the fact that the job market he entered in 2008 after he left the army was an extraordinarily difficult one.
“Everyone said, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing this when you’re job-hunting’,” he said. He took the precautions of neatly rolling his hair back, and also adding a heads-up about his charitable effort on his resumé, so as not to alarm potential employers.
But he never contemplated cutting it. “If it’s a firm that doesn’t take me because I’m growing my hair for charity, then I shouldn’t be working there to begin with,” he said.
In the end, his hippie hairstyle impressed potential employers.
“He said he was collecting money for a cancer charity for kids, and of course this showed a lot about the character of the person,” said Ron Dahan, the accounting director at the Government of Israel’s Economic Mission, where Adler worked before he took his current job at Mer Technologies, an Israeli high-tech security company. “So it gave him a few more points to help him get the job.”
Adler’s girlfriend is a little less enthusiastic, he said, as she thinks he looks more handsome with his hair short. She’s looking forward to the day Adler hits his fundraising goal, which he hopes will be in August at the latest, in time for Shapiro’s 10-year yahrtzeit. He’s already raised $4,000.
But in the meantime, their relationship has benefited from Adler’s increased sensitivity to what women go through every day to maintain typically feminine hairstyles.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s a time commitment as well,” he said. “A guy runs into the shower, a bit of shampoo and you’re done. With this, you have to condition as well.”