Review: ‘Wendy’s Shabbat’ — Burgers and Blessings at Tribeca Film Festival
By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, April 22, 2018
Wendy’s Shabbat, a short film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last night, is not about Sabbath dinner at the home of a Jewish matron named Wendy. Wendy’s Shabbat, directed by Rachel Myers, is about a group of Jewish seniors (“oldies but goodies” as one of the gang says) in the “active adult community” of Sun City, California, who gather for a weekly Shabbat dinner at a local Wendy’s fast food restaurant.
More than eight years into their run, the group lights candles, sips grape juice (no wine at Wendy’s), shares challah, says the blessings, and dines on French fries, burgers, salads, and even the occasional Baconator®. There’s even a 97-year-old rabbi.
The dinners are organized by 90-year-old Lou Silberman, who clearly has energy to spare. Lou calls ahead to Wendy’s, gets the tables set up (and reserved!), and makes sure everything is ready. He also orders his French fries well done and thinks Wendy’s chili is “outstanding.” I think I might have to try some now; Lou is very convincing.
The counterman at Wendy’s is fond of the bunch. They remind him of his grandparents, he tells us, who “want their things in a certain way,” which is clearly the polite version of “they’re fussy.”
The star of the film is the filmmaker’s grandmother, Roberta Mahler, who trucks around in her golf cart, accompanied by her elderly poodle Manzie (94.5 in human years). A remarkable number of the folks in the story have small fluffy dogs. (They’re good for the blood pressure, we are told by one of the dog owners.) Roberta is the bubbe every one of us should have: her comfortable home is packed with tchotchkes, she’s funny and smart, and she’s got good advice, like the importance of making your bed every day.
A widow who was married for 57 years (her mother told her it wouldn’t last), Roberta is clear about the point of the weekly gathering: the ritual provides comfort, and, probably more importantly, these people are each other’s family. They gossip, they share stories (most are about doctor visits, it seems), they enjoy their meal and the companionship, they relish the traditions. Shabbat at Wendy’s “gives you a feeling of belonging,” she says. How wonderful to find that, at any age.
Wendy’s Shabbot will be shown as part of the Tribeca Film Festival which runs through April 29. Remaining screenings are listed below; for more information click here.
04/24/2018, 5:30 PM at REGAL Battery Park City
04/25/2018, 5:00 PM at REGAL Battery Park City
04/28/2018, 3:45 PM at CINEPOLIS Chelsea
For more information on the Tribeca Film Festival click here.
Wendy’s Shabbot, documentary / 10 minutes / English / 2018 / Digital.
Director: Rachel Myers
Executive Producer: Abby Myers
Field Producer: Juliana Schatz
Editor: Dana Turken
Director of Photography: Jeanne Tyson
B Camera: Dylan Chapgier
Colorist: John Clifton
Sound: Ellis Burman
Cover: Still image from ‘Wendy’s Shabbot;’ photo: Jeanne Tyson.