An RVF Zine: Reflecting on the 2019-2020 Rising Voices Fellowship
As the RVF 2019-2020 cohort looked at each other through our Zoom screens towards the end of our April virtual webinar—emotionally together but physically distant—I glanced down at the blank piece of paper in front of me without the faintest idea of how to fill it in. I had never made a zine before, and I don't tend to express myself through art. I thought back to the blog posts I had written and how they related to the question, "What does being a Jewish feminist mean to you?" I did my best not to overthink the images I created; I wanted my zine pages to feel raw and open. – Ellie Klibaner-Schiff
At their final retreat for the year, the 2019-2020 Rising Voices Fellows created a collaborative zine in a workshop with Brooklyn-based cartoonist, creative facilitator, and educator Rebecca Katz, who compiled and edited the final version. In their zine pages, they answered the questions: "How do we say goodbye?" and "What does being a Jewish feminist mean to you?" Rebecca Katz's own comics and illustrations are on Instagram (@katzcomics) and published in Lilith magazine.
In an RVF roundtable, the Fellows reflect on the zine-making process and their time in the Rising Voices Fellowship.
What was the zine-making process like for you? How did your zine pages come into being?
Ellanora Lerner: Zines have always been radical because of how accessible they are to their audience. I think they are also radically accessible to their creators. Creating this zine, and more generally creating art in a similar style, has been radically freeing for me. It has helped me begin to feel more confident in creating work that is not perfect nor groundbreaking but is a reflection of what I need to say. On my pages I focused on the question, “What does it mean to say goodbye?” This was asked in conjunction with the end of this Fellowship, but it is a central part of my life as someone who graduated high school in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Making my zine pages taught me that saying goodbye is often a deeply communal process and creating art, sharing feelings, and forming memories of that transition are all meaningful parts.
What does saying goodbye to RVF mean to you?
Sasha Azizi Rosenfeld: Saying goodbye to RVF was very bittersweet for me. I never considered myself to be a writer and RVF really changed my perception of writing. I have learned so much from the program and have met amazing people. I am so grateful to this program. The end of RVF is sweet because although I'm sad about it ending, I'm so proud of myself and my peers for completing something so meaningful. I have met so many amazing people that I am planning to keep in touch with so it doesn't even fully feel like a final goodbye.
Ilana Drake: Saying goodbye to RVF means saying goodbye to one of the best experiences I have had in my life. While the other Fellows and I did not get to stand together in a circle in person on Shabbat for our final retreat, I have made great friendships and connections that can withstand the distance. The whole year has felt like a blur, and only now, I realize that this is truly goodbye. I wish that I had been able to say goodbye in person, but the virtual retreat helped solidify the community.
Maddy Pollack: I'm naturally reserved and stopped regularly going to Sunday school by the time I entered high school, so I've never really had a steady group of Jewish friends before RVF. I am immensely inspired by the girls and women I met, and saying goodbye to them definitely comes with a sense of regret; feeling like I didn't make the most of my time, didn't try to get as close to everyone as I could have, and feel like I might never find a group of girls like this again. These negative feelings are fortunately balanced out by feelings gratitude and pride to have been a Fellow. This balance of emotions is one that I often feel when things end, and are very similar to what I felt graduating from high school this year. It often feels like I didn't do "enough" even though I have no definition for what is "enough."
Ellanora Lerner: RVF has been an incredible experience, beyond what I could even imagine. While I immensely enjoyed my time in this Fellowship, its completion doesn’t feel like an ending, but a beginning. I am leaving with connections to a group of smart, kind, and interesting women and the opportunity to meet many more through the alumnae network. I am leaving with a portfolio of work I am incredibly proud of and with much improved writing and editing skills. Most importantly, I am leaving with the knowledge of people, communities, and organizations doing work that is meaningful to me, to my identities, and to my community, and I have that world to look forward to.
What does being a Jewish feminist mean to you after participating in the Rising Voices Fellowship program?
Ellie Klibaner-Schiff: My Judaism and my feminism have always coexisted within me, but it was not until RVF that they merged together to strengthen my identity. I now recognize how integral my Judaism is to my feminism, and how, vice versa, my feminism is integral to my Judaism.
Lila Goldstein: Being a Jewish feminist means, to me, seeking out other empowering communities in the future, and looking for support like this Fellowship has offered. Being a Jewish feminist is different from just being a Jew or just being a feminist, and I can have more confidence in my beliefs knowing the meaning of that identity.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.