Remembering Vidal Sassoon’s Jewish identity

Vidal Sasson was a “Hairdresser and Trendsetter,” the New York Times proclaimed. More than 1,500 news articles spread across the Web since his death on May 9 at age 84 of leukemia.

The Times reported, in part: For Mr. Sassoon, the cut was the thing—just about the only thing—and he fashioned his clients’ hair into geometric shapes and sharp angles to complement their facial bone structure. … (His hair designs) helped propel the youthful revolution in fashion—and just about everything else—that gripped London and then America and the rest of the world in the 1960s. “He changed the way everyone looked at hair,” Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue, said in an interview. “Before Sassoon, it was all back-combing and lacquer; the whole thing was to make it high and artificial. Suddenly you could put your fingers through your hair!”

Here is all the Times had to say about his Judaism: As a youth, he joined a Jewish organization that battled in the streets with the Mosley-ites, anti-Semitic British fascists who were followers of Oswald Mosley. In 1948, he traveled to Israel and fought in the war for its independence.

Click the cover to visit Jewish Lights.THANKS TO THE PUBLISHERS AT JEWISH LIGHTS for sending us Sassoon’s personal note that appears in the book-length collection, I Am Jewish. In fact, his commitment to Judaism and to combatting anti-Semitism was consderable. He founded the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For the I Am Jewish book, Sassoon wrote:

I am Jewish, humble yet proud of a heritage that has dignified me even as others have tried to destroy my race. I was twenty years old in 1948 when the Palmach/Haganah accepted me as a soldier in Israel’s War of Independence. The experience changed the course of my life. I am a Jew who believes that, though small in numbers, we have a powerful moral influence on the world, and in the words of Hillel, “If not now, when?” Daniel knew when. It is imperative that we nurture a fidelity of commitment to purpose. What is that purpose? Not just to exist, but to continue to bring to this world actions noble in thought and deed, always in courage, remembering, we are our own final solution.

The excerpt is from I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl. © 2005 Dr. Judea and Ruth Pearl. You can find out more about the book by visiting Jewish Lights.

This story published at, a journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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