Four young Jewish women join together to create “SIMCHA Zine”

Simchazine 
The women behind "SIMCHA Zine"
clockwise from top left:
Adi Farage, Erin Meagan Schwartz,
Liesje Rolia, Sophie Hershfield

By BERNIE BELLAN Four young Jewish women, three of whom are from Winnipeg, one from Toronto, have joined forces to produce a “zine” aimed at a Jewish audience, titled “SIMCHA Zine”.

The four are: Erin Meagan Schwartz, Adi Farage, (both of whom live in Winnipeg), Sophie Hershfield, (who is from Winnipeg, but currently living in Toronto), and Liesje Rolia (who is a Torontonian - and who is the graphic designer for the zine.

 Erin Schwartz said she graduated from the University of Winnipeg “four or five years ago with an Honours B.A. in Women and Gender Studies”. She also has “a background in theatre, specifically improv theatre,” she added.

Adi Farage graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2018 with a B.A. in Sociology. “I’m currently about one semester off from finishing my Bachelor of Social Work,” she noted.
“My background is in Jewish community building,” she said. “I’ve been involved with all sorts of Jewish and general organizations.”

Sophie Hershfield, (who, I recalled, we had profiled previously in this paper as a champion debater), did not go into law – surprisingly – much to her grandparents’ – (Earl and Betty Ann Hershfield) disappointment, she admitted.
“I graduated with an Honours degree in English Literature” (also from the U of W), she said. “I will soon be starting my Masters in English Lit at the University of Toronto,” she added. “I’ll also be doing a special concentration in Jewish Studies,” she noted.

In April, copies of the magazine were distributed to various individuals who had pre-ordered the magazine, but if you are interested in ordering a copy, information is given at the end of this article.
The “zine” is a bound publication, not stapled together – more like a book than a magazine. I wondered whether, considering how much that must have cost, whether the women had incurred a loss producing their first edition.
As it turned out, however, according to Adi Farage, “SIMCHA Zine” had enough pre-orders to actually cover the cost of production.

Recently, I spoke with the three Winnipeg women who are behind the project – Erin, Adi, and Sophie. I asked them what led them to want to create a magazine and what their plans might be for the future.
The three Winnipeg-born contributors to the project have known each other for years, and Liesje was introduced to Erin and Adi through Sophie.
Erin Schwartz said that they first began to talk about doing a magazine in the summer. It was “definitely a ‘labour of love’,” she said – “a passion project”.
Adi Farage explained that the idea for a magazine came about “as a silly joke. We were just playing with the idea and then we realized ‘We can actu-

ally do this’. It was a fun project, then we found out people were actually interested in it, then it turned into a real thing.”

Apparently I was one of the very first individuals to see the magazine – in late 2020, when I was sent a digital preview. At the time I was very impressed with the production values. What I saw was a 30-page blend of serious essays, poetry, and some striking visual pieces (although later I was told the print version is actually 60 pages so what I saw must have been 30 double pages).
In the introduction by Erin Schwartz, she notes that “This zine shares stories of collective identity, personal history, and starting again from where we are.”
One of the pieces, titled “The Smell of Chicken Soup”, is by Farrah Perelmutter, daughter of Toby and Irvin Vinsky, in which Farrah contemplates what being Jewish has meant to her, first as a daughter in a traditional home where Shabbat was an important part of her and her sisters’ lives, later when she married someone who came from a home where religious observance wasn’t important. (Ed. note: My first encounter with a young Farrah Vinsky was when she was a teenage model who was featured in our paper back in the 1980s.)

Other pieces are equally serious. I asked the women, therefore, whether it would be fair to describe “SIMCHA Zine” as a literary magazine?
Erin responded, “I think so.” She went on to explain that the term “zine” derives from “punk culture”.
A “zine”, she said, “is usually a small published work – it can really be about anything.”
“Part of the reason we wanted to do the magazine,” Erin added, “is that we wanted Jewish people to create and submit pieces of work that meant something to them and we didn’t want to be strict about what kind of Jewish content it was.”
As a result, while some of the content is quite identifiably Jewish, she explained, such as “a poem about BBYO”, “there are also poems inspired by whatever” being Jewish means to the contributors.
As far as how the zine found contributors, Erin said “We put out an open call for contributors and we asked a lot of people that we knew, but we also put it out on social media.”
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of SIMCHA Zine should contact the zine’s online shop at simchazine.bigcartel.com

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