Communal Jewish spaces are disappearing. What’s taking their place?

Jewish communal spaces—including synagogues, delis and stores—are disappearing, such as this 19th-century shul in Bojná, Slovakia. (Photo by Patrik Kunec/Wikimedia Commons)

When Israel’s Judaica Centre, a prominent retailer in the Toronto area, announced it was closing after 42 years, it felt like another moment in an unfortunately increasing trend: the decline of Jewish “third spaces”, places beyond the home and office where Jews feel comfortable and welcome. Synagogues are closing and merging; community centres are broadening to welcome non-Jewish community members; now retailers are feeling pressure from Amazon and Etsy luring away their customers. Meanwhile, the type of engaged Jew who might visit these third spaces is on the decline, while younger generations are ever-more socially isolated, spending more time online.

What are we losing when these spaces disappear? And what will take their place? To navigate the topic, we invited on Elise Kayfetz, the founder of Vintage Schmatta, a pop-up vintage fashion store in Toronto’s Kensington Market, which taps into her Jewish heritage—and transformed her living room into an unexpected Jewish third space in the city.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast, donating to The CJN and subscribing to the podcast’s Substack.