When Aly Silverberg (she/her) started a Jewish meme account on Instagram, she never expected it to go viral - or for it to have such a big impact on her life and career. She certainly never expected it to reach tens of thousands of other Jews!
Silverberg, 26, created Jewish Girl Problems (@jewishgirlprobs) on Instagram in 2018. It's since become a beacon of funny, relatable content that resonates with more than 71,000 followers. Her hard work has resulted in a community of enthusiastic, engaged fellow Jews - and even helped her land a job at Snapchat.
How did this nice Jewish girl find the chutzpah (boldness) to build an online phenomenon? What's her guiding philosophy? Silverberg explains how she combined her passions for social media and Judaism to create a viral sensation.
ReformJudaism.org: What drove you to start Jewish Girl Problems?
Aly Silverberg: I was interning at an influencer marketing agency and looking at pages with female-identifying audiences for a campaign. Looking at these pages compelled me to look up whether there were any accounts geared toward Jewish women. At the time, nothing existed.
Everyone was like, "You have to start this. You're perfect for it!" I was social media savvy, and I love being Jewish, so it seemed like an ideal intersection of my interests. I usually prefer to be behind the scenes, but I figured it couldn't hurt to start an account.
I started with a few Jewish memes I thought were funny and used the strategies I'd learned at my internship to grow my audience. That was in May 2018; Jewish Girl Problems has been growing ever since.
How has your content evolved?
At first, I posted things I thought were funny that related to my own experiences - but I soon realized I needed to expand and include more diverse Jewish experiences than just my own.
I don't want to post content that only a subset of Jews with the same background as me - Reform Jews, or Ashkenazi Jews, or Jewish women - will understand. Luckily, many of my followers have been kind enough to help me expand my horizons and help me develop a better understanding of all facets of Jewish life.
Now, when I'm coming up with concepts, I try to keep them as universally relevant as I can. I try to be as inclusive as possible while still keeping my content light and funny, and I hope that all Jews can relate to what I post.
What can you tell us about your own Jewish identity and upbringing?
I love being a Canadian Reform Jew. Growing up, I attended Temple Har Zion in Thornhill, Ontario. I went to religious school and Hebrew school, became a bat mitzvah, was confirmed - all that good stuff. I got involved in my temple youth group and ultimately in NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement, where I served as the NFTY North American Communications vice president.
Did your time in NFTY teach you any skills that you still use?
NFTY was an amazing high school experience and was so valuable in terms of life skills. I still use many of the communications skills I learned in NFTY.
For example, I learned at a young age how to break the ice and comfortably interact with strangers - which, as it turns out, is what 99% of professional networking is about! Sometimes, people compliment me on my comfort level with public speaking, which is funny because it's really not my personality. I've had a lot of experience with it, though, thanks to NFTY's leadership training and programs.
The roles I had in NFTY and the skills I learned along the way solidified my passion for what I love and helped me decide what I wanted to do in the future.
What did your trajectory look like after NFTY?
I attended Western University in London, Ontario, which has a great Jewish presence. I became heavily involved in the campus Hillel and Israel on Campus. I became involved with their communications and was vice president for a while.
Now that I'm a few years into my career, I basically get to do it all over again! I'm a content specialist on Snapchat's Bitmoji team, and I'm also the co-leader of our Jewish employee resource group, which hosts global events for Jewish employees.
Do you have a favorite meme you've created or a favorite type of content?
Content does well when it's timely, so I've paid closer attention to the Met Gala, the Super Bowl, and other events like that in recent years. People love Jewish versions of secular content! I also love collaborating with other Jewish creators. There are some creators I've never met in real life, but we talk all the time, create content together, and ask each other for advice. We've really become friends.
Do you have to deal with negativity and antisemitism online? How do you cope?
I took negative feedback very personally in the beginning, but I've grown thicker skin. In general, my number one rule is to not feed the trolls; you're only giving them what they want.
In terms of antisemitism, I understand why some people are afraid to be Jewish online these days. Given the landscape, it's totally reasonable. For me, though, the most important thing is to spread Jewish positivity.
Pages like mine are a "screw you" to Hitler - we're still here and laughing. Remembrance is important, but Jewish joy is often forgotten or underrated. We need to spend a lot more time celebrating Judaism and its happiness.
What are some of the most joyful things about Judaism for you?
One of my favorite parts of being Jewish is connecting with other people - that instant connection, no matter who or where you are. I love the traditions, celebrating Shabbat and holidays, and choosing what aspects of Judaism are important to me. That's one thing I really love about Reform Judaism: choosing what matters most to you.
Sometimes people message me to say, "I don't feel Jewish enough," or, "I don't think I'm doing this right." That can be so disheartening. But I want to let them know that their Jewish identity is valid.