Jasmine Bakalarz reflects on her experience attending this year’s ROI Summit, a program that brings together 150 young Jewish leaders and innovators from around the world. The Summit took place from June 23-27 in Jerusalem.
I decided I was going to write a book. As a photographer, this seemed quite daunting. For over a decade I had convinced myself that image-making was enough, that it satisfied my eagerness to document and expose. The impulse to write down all my ideas and compile a possible skeleton for a book came to me while I was listening to a session at this last ROI Summit in Jerusalem. Attending this gathering of astounding and inspiring individuals from such diverse disciplines and backgrounds was a strong trigger for this sudden urge to write and explore a different facet of my creative voice that I had not dared to examine in the past.
I have had the privilege of attending Asylum Arts retreats, among other artistic residencies, festivals and conferences. These experiences have strongly shaped the way my work has developed and how I have learned to present it in public. Most importantly, those few days away from reality and the daily stresses of life had provided invaluable time to reflect and connect with other artists, thus, creating life-long bonds, collaborations and communities around the world.
Before attending the ROI Summit, I was a bit nervous about the large number of participants, in comparison to artists’ retreats, and of course was skeptical that I wouldn’t find things in common with the majority of the people that were not from my field. I felt like I was a child leaving kindergarten and entering primary school where the curiosity of the unknown causes an exciting kind of nervousness. On my flight to the Summit I decided to deal with these feelings by reading each and every one of the 150 biographies of the participants. Although I hadn’t slept the night before the flight, because as most artists, I do everything last minute, staying awake for this task was easy. This was partially due to the fact that there was 7-month baby girl excitingly kicking in my belly, but truly it was because reading each page was like entering, for just a few seconds, into the life of someone’s impactful existence in this world. I truly couldn’t wait to meet everyone. The newly acquired stress was something that would follow me for the days to come – how do I make the most of this opportunity and absorb all the experiences and interactions with these incredible people?
After a few days, I managed to meet all of the people who I had clumsily jotted down on a plane napkin. The conversations I had with these generous and kind-hearted individuals, as well as the sessions and the speeches that they gave, created a shift in my previously skewed perception of what I’m really trying to do with my work and how to achieve that. The Summit widened my vision, like when horses’ side eye-covers are removed, freed. I look forward to this new challenge of continuing to reflect on issues of memory and social justice in relation to a personal narrative with these new perspectives that were influenced and encouraged by this new community of collaborators.
Photo Credit: Chen Wagshall