If you work in the Jewish community and spend time online, it’s likely that you’ve already heard of @RogueShul, the Twitter account taking Jewish communal professional world by storm. With its quirky, hilarious, and utterly relatable insights into the behind-the-scenes realities of synagogue life, RogueShul has gone “Jewish viral."
Who’s behind RogueShul? We don’t have a clue, as its creators have remained impressively unnamed – but they were more than happy to chat with us (anonymously by email, of course!) about the project, the feedback they’ve received, and exactly why their account is so darn relatable for so many of us.
ReformJudaism.org: What brought about the creation of RogueShul?
@RogueShul: We were inspired by Twitter accounts that sprang up after the 2016 election, sharing supposedly insider info from government departments. We thought it would be funny to parody those and share “if they only knew what went on behind the scenes” stories from synagogue life.
The timing of this project coincided with theseason, which, for synagogue staff, is full of long days, odd phone calls, and even more wackiness than usual. We needed to laugh at the chaos of it all – and we thought others might relate, too.
How do you tap into your experiences as synagogue professionals with commentary that hits home for an audience?
We’ve been active in the Reform movement our whole lives. We grew up in wonderful Reform congregations, went to URJ camps, were active in NFTY, engaged in Jewish social and learning opportunities in several different cities, and even did a tour of duty at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
Having also worked in a number of roles in synagogues (as teachers, administrators, volunteers, etc.), we knew this work had unique, humorous peculiarities, and it seems that those peculiarities are more universal than we suspected. Every day, there’s something to laugh about – which is good because being part of a congregational team can be really hard work!
At the risk of disappointing people, we admit: The events shared in the account aren’t a play-by-play; they’re loosely based on things that happened or could happen in our shul. But the specific peculiarities of those experiences have resonated with our followers in a way that is comforting to both us and them: Even though we find this work to be very rewarding, we share many of the same challenges.
Your bio says, “No actual congregants were harmed in the making of this account.” How do you keep things light and humorous instead of potentially hurtful?
RogueShul is a parody that represents the combined experience of synagogue life – a life filled with characters and circumstances that are just funny. Luckily, most people understand that. Our goal has always been to laugh at the mishigas (craziness) of the work we do but never at the people who do it.
We know firsthand that shul staffers, congregants, and lay-leaders are hardworking, dedicated, and talented, and we hope our admiration for them comes through as strongly as the snark. Our humor is offered only with positive intent.
Also, if it’s not obvious, we have a lot of fun at work, and the real-life people we work with are terrific. We feel lucky that our biggest shul problems are about oneg cookies and room setups!
Why do you think Rogue Shul is so relatable to so many people in the Jewish community?
RogueShul was always meant to represent every shul – an expression of shared moments and personalities. We love that people are identifying with our tweets and even contributing their own experiences, and we’ve all been able to laugh together about the quirks of our field.
People tweet us about funny things that have happened at their own shuls; they tell us they read RogueShul tweets out loud at their staff lunches; they tag their friends in tweets that relate to their experiences. We love the idea that RogueShul is bringing people together for a moment of laughter amidst the hard work.
Tell us about attending the recent Union for Reform Judaism Biennial. Any takeaways or insight into the current state of Jewish life as a result of your time there?
At #URJBiennial, we felt like being double agents. On one hand, we were participants, presenters, lay leaders, and colleagues; on the other hand, we were running around a huge convention center secretly leaving RogueShul paraphernalia everywhere.
We loved meeting people who we’d been interacting with online for months without them knowing that they were talking to RogueShul, and it was fun watching people get excited about the mystery of it. Overall, being at Biennial made us feel so invested in the greater community – and hopeful about the future of Reform Judaism.
What are your overall goals, both with RogueShul and as Jewish professionals? Any ways you hope to inspire change, conversations, and thought processes?
Let’s be honest: We just hope the paper delivery arrives before the copy machine runs out. We’re not plotting the course of the Jewish future. We are, however, tickled to share a bit of humor and remind our amazing colleagues and congregants that we’re all in this together – and that it might as well be fun.
What's next for RogueShul? Any ideas for additions or growth – or for revealing yourself?
We’d love to sell merch… but we can’t figure out how to do that without a return address!