In May of 2016, a Berkeley student created the UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook group. Its purpose was to share relatable memes with like minded students. The group quickly grew and today boasts over 100,000 members. It also inspired students at Ivy League colleges, and other elite institutions, to create similar meme sharing Facebook groups geared towards their own respective universities. Yale Memes for Special Snowflake Teens and Princeton Memes for Preppy AF Teens are just two such examples. In December this trend reached Yeshiva University with the creation of YU Memes for on the Derech Teens.
Yeshiva College student Tony Arriaza first came up with the idea of having a YU meme group after being “inspired by the Ivy League meme groups which are very popular.” He thought it would be a fun and creative outlet for YU students and asked Stern College student Shifra Lindenberg, the creator of “Jewsih Shifposting” and other Jewish satire, to co-run the group with him. Arriaza originally intended to name the group YU Memes for Self-Hating Teens but Lindenberg changed the name to YU Memes for on the Derech Teens thinking “it would be more relevant since we’re Jewish and ‘YU keeps you on the derech’.”
The first meme was posted on December 12, 2017 but since then the group, which today consist of over one thousand members and is still growing, “has developed a life of its own” according to Lindenberg. She explained that “she doesn’t ask anyone to post, but a lot of people know how to makes memes or videos and this group gives them the opportunity to share their own content.”
The memes make fun a variety of topics. Some touch on issues relevant to anyone in the orthodox world, exploring topics such as shmirat negyiah. Others focus on matters that are relevant to any college student, including the stress of finals or getting locked out of classes during registration. However much of the material is timely and exclusively relates to the Yeshiva University college experience referring to issues such as finals proctors, OSL cancelling certain events, heights parties, the intercampus shuttle, or the different morning Torah programs for male students. Lindenberg explained that this group fills a unique niche because before it, while there were other pages devoted to modern orthodox memes that contained some YU related memes, one couldn’t find a variety of YU content on these pages. “This group filled a ‘need’ for YU themed content.”
One Stern College alumna who wishes to remain anonymous expressed that “while the group does occasionally produce quality memes”, she generally finds the group “to be a frustrating platform that shares immature jokes about basic aspects of orthodox life.” Arriaza and Lindenberg both explained that they knew there would be some crude and controversial memes, but they try to censor memes as little as possible, since this sort of content is a part of any successful meme group. Arriaza also added that he thinks “it’s important to distinguish between the humor in memes and more serious topics” and that he wishes “people would stop taking everything so seriously.”
Yeshiva College alumni Zev Behar shared how he thinks the group is “a great place for people to express whatever feelings they have about YU and a fun way to bring to light things that really are bothering the students.” Similarly, Lindenberg believes that “the group provides a sense of unity for those in the school.” Though this wasn’t the main motivations for creating the group, she thinks it fosters a sense of pride amongst students of YU because they are able to understand a joke about their school that most people wouldn’t understand. She added that “the group gives a bit of legitimacy to YU by establishing its culture. People can see that YU has culture which makes YU feel desirable and adds to student life.”
When asked about how they envision the group’s future, Lindenberg responded by saying, “ I don’t see YU Memes for on the Derech Teens dying any time soon. There are a lot of members who post regularly so there’s always new content.” Arriaza shared a slightly different sentiment saying, “I hope it lasts a while, but if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. I just hope people enjoy it for as long as they can.” They both encourage anyone with an idea for a meme to share it on the page and to reach out to them for help if anyone doesn’t know how to make one.