One of the ﬁrst big events we held in Zürich was Isaac’s and Nannette’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah party in February 1981 — a whole weekend with hundreds of guests. We invited many friends and acquaintances from Hamburg to celebrate with us, as well as new friends from Zürich, and of course friends and family from all over the world.
Have you heard what Hayedeh said?!
Sasson: For Isaac’s and Nannette’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah party, we invited the famous singer Hayedeh to come and perform. When she arrived in Zürich, I asked my brother Nissan to pick her up at the airport and take her to the hotel, because I had no time to do it. Nissan did this, and was shocked when Hayedeh asked him: “Do you have ‘mood altering substances’?”
Nissan was confused and didn’t even understand what she was talking about.
Gollar: I didn’t like Sasson’s decision to bring Hayedeh and pay her so much. We had also invited an Israeli band named HaShagririm (The Ambassadors), and I thought an Iranian singer and an Israeli band don’t go together. The children didn’t know any of these artists anyway. We decided that Hayedeh would sing on Shabbat eve (Friday night), when we had a Shabbat dinner only for our Iranian friends and family — all our Iranian friends from Hamburg came — around 200 people. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration itself was held on Saturday night with all the guests, including our Swiss friends, and then we had the Israeli band.
Friday night, Hayedeh sang for a couple of hours — which had never happened before. Normally, she would only sing for about half an hour and then go away, but after the revolution there were not that many opportunities to perform because nobody had the money to pay — most people had just escaped and were busy starting a new life from scratch. So she was very happy to be in her element again, and started dancing, too.
Sasson: One of our guests, who had come from Italy, shouted “Hayedeh Khanom, I didn’t know you were also a dancer!”
In Iran, singers are highly appreciated, but dancing is considered a lower form or art, so Hayedeh took it as a complete and utter insult.
She answered him: “Heil Hitler!”
All of a sudden, all the guests went quiet. The gentleman shouted: “Why are you saying Heil Hitler?!”
A wave of muttering went through the guests: “Hayedeh said, ‘Heil Hitler!’”
Hayedeh and the band tried to ignore this incident and continue playing, but the protest grew bigger and bigger. She stopped her show and went to her dressing room. I ran there after her, and saw she was crying.
“What happened, Hayedeh Khanom?”
Hayedeh said: “Agha Khakshouri, I only have one son, and I swear to God on my son’s life, I had no bad intention! I don’t even know what ‘Heil Hitler’ means! In our home, when I want to call my dog, I say ‘Heil Hitler’! I apologize, and will say or write whatever you ask me to.”
But it was already too late. Hayedeh’s words spread all over Europe and the USA, and many Iranian Jews in the USA and other places boycotted her, and for a couple of years, they didn’t invite her to any of their parties and events. However, her voice was so divine, they couldn’t boycott her for too long.