Years ago, in the basement of Yale University’s rare-book library, I stumbled upon two Louis XV armchairs that once belonged to Gertrude Stein. They were upholstered in needlepoint by Alice B. Toklas according to Picasso’s designs. Those chairs long haunted me. They evoked a knowledge remote from the arid deserts of Kant and Hegel to which my studies had confined me—a distinctly feminine savoir faire, a domestic sublime, redolent of the body and warm with conviviality. High culture in an armchair! That premise informs “The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and Their Salons,” a provocative and engaging show currently at New York’s Jewish Museum. It focuses on 14 Jewish women whose elegant drawing rooms or beachside bungalows, in cultural meccas from 18th-century Berlin to 1940s Santa Monica, attracted a dazzling array of artists, politicians, and intellectuals.