Zikaron BaSalon: dealing with society’s memory of the Holocaust

April 1, 2021 by Danny Hochberg
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Zikaron BaSalon is a social initiative that takes place around the world on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) as well as on other dates throughout the year.

Literally meaning “remembrance in the living room” in Hebrew, the idea was born out of the understanding that modern society’s connection with the memory of the Holocaust has significantly deteriorated.

Alongside formal events, Zikaron BaSalon offers a new, meaningful and intimate way to commemorate this day and address its implications through discussions at home among family, friends and guests. It is a unique and authentic tradition of people gathering together to open their hearts to the stories of the survivors, sing, think, read, talk, and most importantly—listen.

Zikaron BaSalon was the brainchild of 24 year old Israeli, Adi Altschuler. She heard melancholy music playing on the radio, and panicked, thinking something terrible had happened. It turned out to be Israel Radio marking the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah. It prompted her to attend a Commemoration in Tel Aviv, where she felt she was one of the few people in the auditorium under 60. The following year she invited 10 friends to meet with a survivor in her living room. The 10 became 40. A movement was born and this year there will be over 1.5 million Zikaron BaSalon hosts and participants worldwide.

Zikaron BaSalon was established in Australia by Shalom in 2017 and grew to 15 events in 2019. But the pandemic in 2020 meant that the concept was forced to abandon the comfort of the lounge room and go online. Despite this, participants were able to connect digitally to hear from survivors and participate in discussions afterward.

This year, they are once again able to return to people’s lounge rooms. Eleven events have been organised. In addition to events in people’s private homes there will be a number of Synagogues participating, who will bring members of their community together to hear a survivor. Synagogues participating include Emanuel, Mizrachi, The Great and Coogee. J-Wave, an affiliate of BJE, that brings together families outside of the Jewish day school system to connect and share experiences, friendships and community, has organised 4 groups of parents and kids. Also participating are Moishe House , which is a community of young adults 20-30 years who live together and create Jewish engagement programs for their peers.

“ The key to the success of the program is the opportunity to get up close and personal with a survivor. To listen to their story, to be able to ask questions, and to have the opportunity to express oneself” says Zikaron BaSalon Chairperson, Danny Hochberg. “ The importance of this opportunity cannot be understated, particularly in the light of the diminishing number of survivors remaining”.

Zikaron BaSalon is once again being put on by Shalom, in cooperation with the Sydney Jewish Museum, The Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants and J Wave. The evenings will take place on Tuesday 6th and Thursday 8th April. You can contact zikaronbasalonsydney@gmail.com if you would like to participate at one of the events across Sydney this year and check it out on Instagram @zikaronsyd

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