Celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who fought antisemitism throughout his life and served in the Haganah, died in Lost Angeles on Wednesday, May 9. He was 84 and had been suffering from leukemia.
Born in London in 1928 to a Sephardi father from Turkey and an Ashkenazi mother from Kiev, Sassoon grew up in a Jewish orphanage, where he was placed at the age of three when his father left the family. As a boy, he combated fascist thugs in London’s East End.
Sassoon left school at the age of 14 and his mother took him to a hairdresser to become an apprentice. He opened his first hair salon in London in 1954.
In 1943, British fascist leader Oswald Mosley and his supporters began attending public rallies, spouting antisemitic hate. Sassoon, then 17, along with Jewish veterans who had returned from fighting in Europe, set up the 43 Group of militant British Jews to rid the East End of the fascist presence..
In 1948, Sassoon, a self-described proud Jew, came to Israel to defend the newborn country from the invading Arab armies. He volunteered with the Haganah and spent a year in the country, taking part in pitched battles with Egyptian forces.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Sassoon’s close friend, historian Yehudah Bauer, said it was never Sassoon’s intention to stay here. “He came to fight for the Jewish people, but he had his mother and brother back in London and so after the war he returned to them,” Bauer told the Post.
“When you think of 2,000 years of being put down and suddenly you are a nation rising, it was a wonderful feeling. There were only 600,000 people defending the country against five armies, so everyone had something to do,” Sassoon told the Daily Telegraph last year.
In 1982, Sassoon funded the establishment of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Sassoon was married four times. He is survived by his wife, three children and grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter.
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