To everything there is a season.
"I have a seed..."
The phrase “having a seed”, or what we later abbreviated to just the word “seed”, is the language we established to indicate that one of us had an idea for a RogueShul tweet. We would then exchange a few texts parsing out the idea, and writing the joke together. In the early days of RogueShul, every seed needed a few minutes of craft as we worked out how Twitter worked and what was most likely to land. Now, a year and a half later, the process is much more fluid - a second language even.
We started RogueShul in May of 2019, after finding ourselves wishing we had an outlet for all of the outlandish things that happened every day as a synagogue staff member. The unspoken truth about Jewish communal work is that in the midst of the chaos, it can be extraordinarily lonely. Nestled between answering the phone calls about where to donate old prayer books and questions about the Shabbat dinner registration form, there’s a synagogue staff member on the phone with a religious school father as he makes the funeral arrangements for a parent who died the night before. There’s the mother who drops off her three year old at preschool with tears in her eyes as she prepares to share with her community that she and her partner have separated. The news that a beloved member’s cancer has returned sits heavily in the air as clergy go over the details of a child’s final bar mitzvah rehearsal. At synagogues, life and death mingles with mundane every single day. For us, humor was a way to wrestle with that. Sometimes, our work feels very tangibly holy and true, and sometimes we spend the afternoon defrosting the social hall freezer and cleaning out 40 year old file cabinets. At the intersection of those realities, we found RogueShul.
Our Twitter adventure began simply as a way to entertain ourselves and to laugh about the work at the end of consistently long days. As our follower count grew, what emerged was something unique - a community we didn’t know we needed. Suddenly, synagogue staff members had an outlet for the goofy, the unbelievable, the mundane and the irritating - and it turns out, there are hundreds of people who needed that. The shift from exclusively tweeting humor and snark to thinking about what people needed to hear made room for a shift in our own work and our perspective on changing Jewish institutions. We began to see the bigger picture of the communities we were part of both locally and nationally, and where we fit into them.
We, the staff of RogueShul, come from different places and different eras. Our approach to this work evolved in different ways but somehow our paths converged at the right moment, when we each needed to find our professional center again and in that place we found that it was not just the two of us, standing and laughing together, but all of you as well. What had felt for a long time like wandering aimlessly suddenly felt like chronicling a journey and navigating the big messy world together.
We are awed by the vast community of voices with whom we have connected of every age, gender, race, political view and religious observance and the conversations that have emerged among us. We have come to appreciate your humor and your insight and it now informs our work. Our hearts are warmed that you have loved the characters we created at RogueShul (especially dear to us is the busload of fictitious Confirmands who ventured to NYC last October.) There have been dark days for us all in the months of 2020 and it has been an honor to connect in moments of challenge and lift spirits where we could.
When it was announced this spring that all URJ Camps would be closed this summer, our little world cried together. When colleagues were furloughed, when someone got yelled at, when the weight of the world and the High Holidays and the pandemic were all too much, there was RogueShul with some witty commentary (and occasionally a surprise Starbucks e-gift card if one of our followers had a particularly bad day). Our followers began to feel like friends - especially after URJ Biennial when we had the opportunity to interact with them in real life, albeit still anonymously. (Those who are our friends IRL, we hope that’s still true!) We have treasured this time of watching each of you engage in your craft and serve the Jewish people with dedication and love. As RogueShul comes to a close, we are truly going to miss so many of these people, even though to them we are simply strangers.
As we considered how to end this journey, we knew that outing ourselves would pose a risk. Our tweets are based very loosely on things that might happen at any synagogue. Knowing that our dear congregants and colleagues might see themselves in our tweets worries us, because our intent was only ever to bring a bit of joy into the world and to join together in laughter. But the truth is, RogueShul was never about anyone specific - it was about all of us. It was about the joy and the hardship and the beauty and the exhaustion of a field that is uniquely personal and emotional. We hope the spirit of RogueShul, one of good intent and goofiness, lives on in our communities long after the Twitter feed is a distant memory.
We are saying goodbye to this chapter of mischief because we are planting some new seeds, shaped in part by everything we’ve learned about the Jewish community in the last 18 months. RogueShul has brought us closer to what we see as the truest strengths of the Jewish people: a breadth of wise leaders, depths of radical compassion, and the desire to be better people than we were yesterday. To everyone we’ve met along the way, thank you for laughing with us, for chatting with us and tweeting along with us, and for enabling us to keep up this goofy secret project for months. You are all our favorite people!
With much admiration and gratitude,
Caroline & Ellie