It is in Canada, after all. Maybe that’s why Montreal-based Shtetl magazine, sounds like a kinder, gentler HEEB — albeit with an agenda including “sex, drugs, and Talmud,” according to founder Tamara Kramer.
Launched last week as a spinoff of Kramer’s wildly eclectic radio show Shtetl on the Shortwave — whose guest list careens from performance artist Annie Sprinkle to Hasidic rappers to African rabbis — Shtetl will continue sharing Kramer’s “beautiful and bizarre Jewish discoveries,” with a much wider potential audience. “I think Shtetl could travel well and I would like there to be a presence for the magazine in other cities,” Kramer told the Forward in an e-mail. “My grandfather was born in China and I’m particularly excited about starting a Shtetl Shanghai. They bring Chinese food into our homes and we bring Yiddish expressions into theirs?”
More seriously, Kramer hopes to continue experimenting with form and content around what the Jewish experience means. “As a journalist and radio producer, I’ve so enjoyed having a platform that allows for experimentation,” the 34-year-old told the Forward. “The liberty to produce humorous and edgy journalism, where I am allowed to talk about doubts around circumcision, love for Jewish music new and old, spiritual struggles and anything else. Shtetl’s goal is to bring that vibe to its audience and to give other writers and artists out there (whether they be Jewish or not) the chance to have as much fun jamming with Jewish culture as I’ve been having.”
Subtitled “Your Alternative Jewish Magazine,” the debut edition of Shtetl explores synagogue fashion wars; profiles a “shomer,” or guardian of the dead, in a Montreal funeral home; follows a Jewish single mother in a column to appear regularly; and offers “Yiddish and Danish,” a hilarious video feature in which “Shtetl brings yummy danish into [Yiddish speakers’] homes, and they bring Yiddish words and expressions into yours.”
The most important mission, Kramer says, “is to explore and enjoy Jewish culture in a fearless way. To ask all those questions that people have stored up in some hidden place in their closet. It’s also to give a much-needed platform for artists and writers to express and promote the work that they are doing.
“In Canada we don’t have a HEEB or Jewcy or Tablet or Forward. We need a place to let it all hang loose online and to explore the edgier side of the Hebraic culture.”