I was extremely fortunate to receive Tent: DIY funding for a collaborative zine project called Chiddush! Zines are a format I am comfortable in, but in these last months I was able to explore spaces on the page, in study, community and in design, that I had not been able to before. I intended to create a zine compilation as a space for Jewish discussion and creation, as many were either extinct (see below) or single-focus.
Chiddush (Yiddish, from the Hebrew Chadash) means something new, and something brilliant. That certain spark that pushes you forward and keeps you sharing!
I started by thinking about the role that Jews have played in zine publishing. Since late 1980s/ 1990s, with publications such as Plotz, Mazel Tov Cocktail, Heeb existing as moments in time before fading away - or Hashem forbid - transferring to an online-only format. Others like the long running and formidable Cometbus (written by Bay Area resident Aaron Cometbus and others) exists as a contemporary (and extensively recorded) form of longer traditions of story telling and challenging narratives.
Speaking of longer traditions! Did you know? That I have now found what I would call ‘Jewish Zines’ from as far back as Midrashic, Hasidic and Zionist texts?! In looking over Jewish publications for this project, not only were philosophical elements of zines carried through, but the format often had not changed much as well. In many of these texts, as in zines, there was an emphasis on preservation of minority opinion, alternative perspectives, and in general; it is a personal responsibility to share knowledge. Much like self-publishing!
In the actual zine making process, I was able to reach out to members of our existing Tent family, as well as local Portland people (through planned workshops at Portland Moishe House and other community outreach) and extended online zine/Jewish communities. After some background, we made zines together and everyone made something really different and amazing. It was everyone’s first zine.
With outreach I was getting more and more submissions from great people, connected to Tent, locally and from online Jewish and zine communities. When the Portland Zine Symposium was about a month and a half away, we began to format the zine - to be read from right-to-left. (This often stopped people when they picked it up and they would try to puzzle it out). A few submissions were still coming in, but it was almost set. My helper Sarah C.
We printed 250 copies in the first run. We tabled at PZS for two days, where we handed out the zine free of charge and talked about the joys of Tent and Jewish culture with people - Jews, non and in between.
With the few leftovers, we were able to distribute them to a few community members and packaged the rest to be mailed to contributors (after I finish this report!) - I now have about 10 left. They were overwhelmingly popular at the Symposium, and they also helped to foster a discussion I held as part of a workshop called Jews and Zines at the Symposium itself.
We had a great crowd who gathered for a Shabbos-friendly workshop based on reading and discussion.
Participants browsed a collection of Jewish zines I have amassed during this project (and also discussed the idea of my next project: a Jewish Archive of Zines) and chose one to read aloud in chavrutas.
(from top right:
gaza, Molly McClain
How to Make A Man Out of Tin Foil, Barry Deutsch
Reich, Issue Four, Elijah J Brubaker
Painful VIces: A TAle of Bad Habits, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
I Cut My Hair…But It Grew Back, Issue No. 2, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
A Passover Haggadah, Will Prahl
Merry Christmas, Jewboy, by David Figler, illustrated by Pete Sickman-Garner
Cometbus #51: The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, Aaron Cometbus
She Said, Judith Arcana)
They got a short history lesson, which included “zines” from the apocrypha, Vilna Gaon, Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and the Holy Land as it was forming. To connect, we had a wonderful discussion about Jewish engagement in Portland that tied in with the “DIY” nature of the event, and the entire project.
I plan to do another “run” of these zines and hold a release party, to get the Portland comment even more excited for Jewish zines, and especially hyped for issue 2! Which I plan to make happen in 5775, so stay tuned. Tent DIY has given me a way to connect to local and wider creative community and I anticipate maintaining those connections, even beyond the pages of Chiddush.