New zine celebrates nuances of Jewish identity

Cover of the first issue of SIMCHA, a Winnipeg-based zine

Three young members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community and one Toronto-based graphic designer have merged their creative talents and community building skills to create a new print zine that explores and celebrates the nuances of Jewish identity.

That zine is Simcha, a submission-based publication that welcomes writing and art created by and for Jewish people in Canada.

While zines typically are self-published booklets formatted on a computer, photocopied and stapled together, Simcha is a bound publication, largely funded by pre-orders.

Simcha was inspired by zine culture, collaging, and building Jewish community through artistic creation,” explains Erin Meagan Schwartz, one of the publication’s editors and an improv actor and coach.  “Our process is intrinsically tied to the history of independent zines and we hope to bring a fresh perspective by providing Jewish creative content in this form. We are just beginning and are excited to grow and draw inspiration from more sources.”

Schwartz, together with Adi Farage, Sophie Hershfield, and Liesje Rolia is in the process of delivering the first issue of Simcha to subscribers.

“We are looking forward to our readers having a physical copy to keep on their bookshelves and lend to their friends,” Schwartz adds. “We are not interested in running a website or blog.”

Simcha’s first issue is entitled “Beginnings” and explores fresh starts, origins and first steps through the lens of prose, poetry and artwork. 

 “We hope Simcha is able to reach anyone who wants to explore their Jewish identity, connect with other Jewish people, or is curious and looking to expand their understanding of what it means to be Jewish in a diverse and modern world,” says Farage, a Winnipeg social work student.

The editors are especially interested in connecting with contributors and readers who do not feel represented by conventional Judaism.

“We hope that our zine has the power to reach and represent people who aren’t necessarily in the mainstream, either in identity, form, or content,” explains

Sophie Hershfield, a University of Winnipeg English and philosophy graduate currently living in Toronto.

 “Our zine combines lots of forms,” she says, “and features creators who are queer, who maybe have a more complicated relationship with Judaism, or a complicated relationship with how Judaism is represented.”

Schwartz understands that complicated relationship with Judaism first-hand, admitting that unlike Hershfield and Farage, she really never felt a sense of belonging growing up in Winnipeg’s Jewish community.

“I hope that the zine finds its way to people who, like me, feel on the outskirts of their local Jewish community or feel disconnected from their Jewish identity,” she says. “I am excited to reflect the truth of so many people on the pages of our zine.”

While reflecting that truth, Simcha will also have a sense of joyfulness, silliness, celebration, and compassion. Its editors hope too that it will serve as a vehicle for community building and connectivity among Jews in Canada.

“Our zine has content from people who are very involved in the community and those who aren’t,” Hershfield says. “We hope to really bend the rules about how we tell Jewish stories — and we hope lots of readers will connect to this.”

For information about purchasing copies of Simcha or submitting writing or art, visit simchazine.bigcartel.com or the Instagram profile @SimchaZine.

The best is yet to come.

This website—the one you’re on right now—is just the tip of the iceberg. The CJN is building a whole new platform, which will be launching summer 2021. Jewish Canadians will be able to find community events, listen to relevant podcasts, connect with national networks and, of course, read breaking news stories, in-depth analysis and unique perspectives that matter. Subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media, to be the first to see our newest iteration go live.