“Shabbos Goy” by Adam Goott and Alex Szlezinger at The 33rd New York Jewish Film Festival
“Yes, he thoroughly enjoys his job, even though he’s against circumcision. ‘Why do that?’ he exclaims after which he’s shown knifing a carrot.” – Brandon Judell
[REVIEW by Brandon Judell] No one would say such a thing about either Adam Goott or Alex Szlezinger after viewing their four-minute documentary short “Shabbos Goy.” Before we get to what a “Shabbos Goy” actually is, let it be known that the directors are former Cambridge students who in 2017, at the mere age of 19, started a popular Facebook site, “Your Jewish Dad Talk UK.EU,” “a page exclusively reserved for the taking the piss out of nebbish Jewish dads.” A photo of Mr. Eugene Levy appropriately greets all who enter the site.
So what is this job all about? According to the Seattle Times’ Dion Nissenbaum, “[t]his irregular Shabbos Goy trade grew out of a unique need in Orthodox communities for non-Jewish help on the Sabbath. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, Jewish law calls on the observant to take a break from life. Cellphones are turned off. No one is allowed to drive. Meals must be cooked in advance. There’s no TV. No computer. No shopping.” So if a light needs to be switched off or a fuse changed, if there’s a hotplate in need of plugging in, the Shabbos Goy steps in. (Please note that both Elvis Presley and Barack Obama are among the Shabbos Goys of note if you are writing up a list.
This charmingly wry short, while sharing that trivia, focuses instead on one Terry Neville, who sometimes sings to himself but has never run for office. A self-proclaimed “complete atheist,” this gentle, slightly beefy soul, attired in a black tank top and jeans, has been serving as a caretaker at the Radlett United Synagogue for over a decade. “I do bits and bobs the Jewish people can’t do,” he explains.
Yes, he thoroughly enjoys his job, even though he’s against circumcision. “Why do that?” he exclaims after which he’s shown knifing a carrot.
“Coming in seven days a week to work in a synagogue I would never ever thought would happen,” Mr. Neville smilingly shares. “I don’t know what it is, but I always ended up working with Jewish people. I talked to my family about my job, but I don’t think they really understand.”
With a bit of clever animation and shots of Mr. Neville eating a different carrot from opposite ends with Candy the Horse, this film is a perfect antidote to the lengthier offerings such as Oppenheimer and Killing of the Flower Moon that we’ve been repeatedly subjected to lately.
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