You won’t believe where these people eat Shabbat dinner!

This is the official trailer of a film called Wendy’s Shabbat. It’s about a group of Jewish retirees who meet at a Wendy’s in Palm Desert, California every Friday night in order to celebrate the Sabbath together. The staff sets everything up for them ahead of time, and someone brings grape juice (no alcohol allowed at Wendy’s!) and electric Shabbat candles (no open flames at Wendy’s!). At first blush it seems adorable – a bunch of old folks, rediscovering some semblance of a spirituality that many had abandoned decades ago, and using that to foster community and ease their loneliness in the autumn of their lives. To be clear, this isn’t really a traditional Shabbat. I mean, it takes place in a fast food restaurant, none of the food served is remotely kosher and, if I were cynical, I’d note that, statistically, a big chunk of these people’s grandchildren would not consider themselves Jewish. That’s probably why none are there, right? But I guess we’d have to see the entire short film at one of the many film festivals its scheduled to be screened at. Let me at least note the incredibly kind hearted and restrained review offered by Aish.com – I was moved and impressed by how they chose to focus on the positive aspects of this story and barely make any mention of the myriad violations of the Sabbath and traditional Jewish norms:

“Wendy’s Shabbat” is a powerful reminder that we all long for holiness and connection, and is a testament to the determination to join with others through Jewish tradition… It’s also a reminder of our duty to include the lonely and isolated among us. It’s moving that so many Jewish retirees are seeking companionship and holiness in ad hoc Shabbat dinners in a fast food restaurant. It’s my hope that soon they can find this companionship in a home, as well. That soon, they can make the Shabbat blessings over real candles, that they can enjoy real wine, and that they can connect even more with their wider Jewish community. For now, their fortitude and determination in trying to carve out a Jewish community for themselves should be an inspiration for us all.

That was remarkably kind. We’ll try to be less cynical.

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