Publishing one’s own zine allows one to kvetch and kvell, rant and rave, race from one sentence to the next from high- to low-brow, sacred to profane then back again. Between 1995 and 2002, Barbara Rushkoff — Barbara Kligman until she married author Douglass Rushkoff — did just that, publishing 16 issues of her zine Plotz out of her East Village apartment.
An exhibit opens today at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art — the zinestress is attending, of course — celebrating the zine and featuring posters of its kitschified artwork.
In Plotz, Rushkoff followed her mind’s fancies, relating episodes from daily life, concerns and obsessions of an East Village Jew. The zine served as a voice — and a forum, with guest writers and interviews with the likes of musician Beck and filmmaker Ethan Coen — for the indie Jew and maintained a loyal following as it played off the themes of pop culture.
Behind the fun-at-heart feel — in Yiddish plotz means “to burst,” an idiomatic abbreviation for “to burst out laughing” — there’s an element of Jewish education in every Plotz. In addition to the regular “D’Jew Know” section, a “Yiddish-isms” page, fun facts — “Elvis was a Shabbos goy” and “the first Hebrew School in America was at Harvard University” — the zine offered reports on everything from what it was like for one guy growing up without a “cool” male Jewish role model to issue No. 15, “TV Plotz: TV Listings for the fachadded.” Outing the Jew and relating risque anecdotes from Jewish history are integral components, too. And while the zine might have started out as a place to rant about being overwhelmed by Christmas cheer, it ended up garnering articles in publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
The zine may be no more — Rushkoff is working on a book — but its offshoot Web site (www.plotzworld.com) is still going strong.
Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 North Broad St., Philadelphia; opening reception April 25, 7.p.m., exhibit through Aug. 17, please call for times; free. (215-627-6747 or www.rodephshalom.org)