The Jewish Salons

The Jewish Salons, KolDor and doing Peoplehood
By Benny Bailey

The Jewish Salons is a project intended to build a network of groups of young Jews from different communities, starting with Europe and Latin America. Each group in a given community will work to produce Jewish cultural events on a regular basis in chic and aesthetic venues, combining local and international thorny Jewish cultural content in interactive ways. The building of the programming for each event will be done through a global e-mail dialogue directed by one global cultural director. The gradual results will culminate in all these groups sharing their community’s local Jewish cultural scene with other groups in the Jewish Salons network of communities.

The idea of the Jewish Salons shaped up in my mind as a result of the KolDor experience. The physical meeting with young Jews from different places and Jewish communities around the world made me aware of an important phenomenon – the diminishing interest most young Jews have towards their Jewish identity. The Jewish Salons were created to challenge this phenomenon. At KolDor’s birth at the Sde Boker conference I met some lifelong friends and our friendship has revealed to me what it is to be Jewish today, when one is not Israeli. It’s different to be Jewish in Los Angeles than to be Jewish in Paris or Bucharest, but each of these identities in one way or another are different from that of being an Israeli Jew. KolDor friends from small communities, like the ones in Europe and Latin America, spoke of the limited options for them to engage with communal Jewish activity, finding the institutional circles, whether religious or Zionist, unappealing or unattractive. In cities like New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Paris or London this may be less of a problem AS there is enough of a variety of non-institutional Jewish cultural stuff. In Rome, in Amsterdam, in Budapest or in Mexico City it is tougher to be Jewish; in those places, the Jewish community is like a kibbutz and if one is not into the institutional activities, one is pretty much on his own. By meeting Diaspora Jews “from the rest of the world” – the term that was used for the first conference participants who were not Israeli or Americans – I learned of their isolation from the Israeli-American dialogue that dominated Jewish life in the second half of the 20th century and felt that the creation of the Jewish Salons project could start to address this.

posted with permission of KolDor