Running a Zionist Salon

Firstly, a hearty thank you and a warm congratulations for taking the initiative to host a Zionist Salon. Promoting and facilitating the discussion of serious issues within the Jewish people is an extremely worthy cause, and these salons are an important part of these discussions. So thank you!

 

The goal of the Zionist Salons is to further our intellectual understanding of Zionism and deepen our emotional connection to the great Jewish project of our times - the State of Israel. With this goal in mind, it is important that the Zionist Salon be an interesting, informative, comfortable and open-minded event, thus encouraging people to participate.

 

Rather than celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday with a hail of falafel balls and mountains of blue-and-white cookies, the Zionist Salons give us all an opportunity to ask “what does Israel mean to me” and “what does Zionism mean to me” -- to try to use these tools to build meaning in our lives - while also contributing to the Jewish People, Israel, and the world.

 

For your convenience, we have put together a quick document, a brief list of considerations for hosting this salon. Please take a few minutes to think about the following points, so that this gathering of minds may be as fruitful and enjoyable as possible.

 

  • Location: Where would be best to host such an event? In a private house? A synagogue hall? Which location would be accessible and functional for participants?
     

  • Audience Size and Type: How many people should be invited? Should the event be exclusive or open to the public? Is it a small event just for a select group of people with common interests (say, your book club) or do you want a large and diverse gathering of people? Is this event geared towards adults, teenagers or senior citizens? What would be the needs or expectations of your target audience?
     

  • Topic: As you may have noticed, there are several different options of topics for Zionist Salons discussions, spanning a broad range of interests. As the host, you must assess your potential audience, and select the most stimulating and challenging topic for your audience. Would they prefer a basic discussion of what Zionism means? on what Zionist identity looks like today? On the evolution of Religious Zionism? On a debate between the universalistic and  particularistic strains of Zionism? The choice is in your hands.
     

  • Leader: The nature of these Zionist Salon ensures a dynamic, text-based discussion that can take place among people independently. However, it is important to have someone leading the evening, who can direct and summarize the discussion points. Who will be leading this Salon? Should it be an expert on Zionism? Perhaps a Rabbi, a Professor, or a well-educated layman? Should you invite an outside expert (such as Prof. Gil Troy) to lead the event, either in person or over the internet? And finally, to what extent will the leader have control of the event: will he or she direct the evening as they see fit, or will they give more space for the voices of the participants?
     

  • Tools: For the event to be a success, thought must be given to the necessary tools for the event. Make sure to print out ample amounts of copies of the source-sheets for all the participants, and to provide other elements such as pens or chairs.
     

  • Extras: Zionist Salons provide a good opportunity to make an Israeli-themed evening. Perhaps you would like to have Israeli music as the participants arrive, or an Israeli food buffet? Could the room be decorated with Israeli flags or some similar decorations?
     

  • Tone: What kind of tone do you want the evening to have? Should it be a light-hearted, more fun atmosphere? A more sober, intellectual ambience? If this is done with a younger audience, would you set up various “Stations” of discussion and keep them moving throughout the evening?
     

  • Customize: There are many different ways that the evening can be customized to fit the interests of the audience. Perhaps relevant videos may be played intermittently within the discussion to stimulate interests, or perhaps people within the audience may stand up and recount experiences or express opinions that are relevant to the subjects at hand. The possibilities are endless.
     

  • The Zionist Ideas:  If you would like to have a copy or copies of The Zionist Ideas on hand, you can order directly from the JPS or from Amazon - group discounts are also available and your sponsoring organization (if you have one) may have discounts.
     

  • The Opening:  As in life, how you start often determines how you finish. Our strong advice is to make the opening welcoming and empowering, both inviting people to speak and helping them get over any anxiety they may have about sharing their views -- especially about Zionism. Having everyone introduce themselves is essential (unless the group is larger than 25). One technique that works with a group of 20 or less (25 is pushing it), is to have everyone say their name, where they are from, and their favorite Israeli -- it can be a friend, relative, teacher, fictional character, historical personage or current leader/celebrity. If the group is more sophisticated half can say their favorite Israeli and half their favorite Zionist - this kind of “icebreaker” - helps the leader assess the group, helps everyone get over their initial shyness, and, most important of all - the kinds of Israelis mentioned usually lighten the tone, make it more multi-dimensional, less ideological - and then you can get to work…
     

  • The Closing: It is important to end the salon in a way that allows for summary of ideas generated and leaving the group with at least one poignant question or comment for them to reflect upon.

 

We wish you the best of luck with hosting this event, and remind you that we are always here if you need help, support or advice.

 

Gil Troy                                                      Simon Klarfeld

Author, The Zionist Ideas                                Executive Director, Young Judaea

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