Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Wawa® Shabbawa

Performance Artist Brian Feldman returned to Orlando for a friend’s wedding and, while back in town, he decided to host the Orlando premiere of Wawa® Shabbawa at Store #5153 on Colonial Drive near the Executive airport.  As the event description read, "Many people consider Wawa® a sacred institution, and Jews worldwide certainly consider Shabbat to be one as well." OneTable helped host this unique Shabbat dinner. Shabbat is a Jewish dinner tradition held every Friday evening after sunset usually with wine and challah. These traditional dishes were replaced with carbonated Grape Juice, and Soft Pretzels. Brian, standing behind LED candles, held up a large soda and recited the Shabbat blessings. I have been to enough Shabbat dinners to recognize the first few words, "Barukh atah Adonai..." After that I get lost. There is something very American and daring about breaking bread together at a chain gas station eatery. 

The event was sold out and I contacted Brian letting him know I had my own chair. He let me know that the seat left open for Elijah was available. People gathered on the edge of the seating area near the cement planters and parking pylons. Perhaps they were nervous that there was assigned seating. A man hung on the periphery wondering what was happening. He asked a guest a question and I heard the response which was to talk to the the guy in black. Brian was wearing a black suit, but I was also wearing a black shirt. The man approached me and asked me a question I couldn't quite hear. When sketching I get lost in my zone. He asked if this was a food sharing, which I suppose it was. Brian let everyone know that they could order food inside and he would cover the bill thanks to OneTable.

Pam Schwartz was with me and I believe this was her first Shabbat. We had just had dinner at a Pho Restaurant. She went inside and got me a bright pink Banana and Strawberry smoothie. I sipped as I sketched. At the tables, people sipped the thimble sized red plastic cups of grape juice. One member of the Wawa staff had come into work specifically for this Shabbat. Another member of the Wawa staff came out with a swag bag full of Wawa t-shirts stuffed animals and a Wawa history books. Brian gave me a T-shirt and book saying it would help with the write up.

A guy in a bright yellow shirt watched the evening unfold. He had no idea what Shabbat was. He was curious and I suspect, suspicious. Part of me felt a tinge of nervousness to be documenting this open display of religious celebration and tradition. The previous week I had seen a video of two Floridians ruthlessly punching and dragging a small girl by the hair as she waited for her family to come back from inside a similar roadside gas station. The attack was mindless and unprovoked, being caught entirely on the security cams. That seems to be the state of the country today, but this breaking of bread stood in stark contrast. There was laughter and a feeling of shared community.

The next morning, there was a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue which took 11 lives and injured six others. The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic rifle and three Glock .357 handguns, burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue on Saturday, shouting anti-Semitic epithets and opening fire on the congregants who were gathered for a baby naming ceremony. The Anti-Defamation League called Saturday's attack the deadliest against the Jewish community in U.S. history. Are we a county where people can no longer worship freely and live safely? Today I votes early. It seems this is the only thing I can do in the face of today's madness.

Joyce Fienberg, 75
Richard Gottfried,65
Rose Malinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Waxn, 88
Irving Younger, 69

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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