October’s Online Short: WANDERING RABBI

September 29, 2015

JFI presents the SFJFF35 Official Selection Wandering Rabbi as it’s Online Short of the Month for October.

In Wandering Rabbi, which screened as part of the “Jews In Shorts” program at the 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, a young, traveling rabbi makes his way through the American South, struggling to breathe life back into dwindling rural Jewish congregations but finding strength and music along the way. Wandering Rabbi is a compelling look at Jewish-American life in the most unexpected places.

A Q&A WITH DIRECTOR HENRY WEINER

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What inspired you to make this film?

This documentary film was produced as part of the Stanford University Documentary M.F.A. film program, which challenges students to create films that have an interesting and unique story, while at the same time engaging with larger themes that all audiences can relate to. This was a tall order, but I thought that Wandering Rabbi would fit the bill. The story of this young religious man, preaching his way across the Mississippi Delta, is both strange and fascinating in its own right, but it also touches on a wealth of issues that Jews and Gentiles, Southerners and non-Southerners alike can relate to.

What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?

Because this was made during school, we had a limited amount of time to spend filming with the Rabbi, only a few weekends.

Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?

This film calls for Jews to act as leaders in their own congregations, to not just rely on the rabbi, but to let the responsibility for the strength of their community rest firmly on the shoulders of each and every member. It is a good message for Jews of any sized congregation.

What film/media has inspired you lately?

Any time I see something in a movie that makes me sit back, and think, “wow, that was awesome” it inspires me to pause that movie, and get back to work.

What do you do when you’re not filmmaking? I am an avid sports fan, and a bit of golf nut.

Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?

I have been making the gefilte fish for my family’s Seder for several years now. I use cod and sole, instead of carp and whitefish (hard to find in Mississippi), and it is delicious!

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