Keeping the Temple Open
Part traditional comedy, part tourist spot, Walter Tejblum’s Shalom Taiwan humorously portrays a rabbi’s efforts to keep his temple open even if he has to travel to the other side of the world. Rabbi Aaron (Fabian Rosenthal) is an ambitious man with big dreams. He is willing to give up everything to grow the temple and the social work that surround it. His mentor left him some very big shoes to fill when he was in charge of leading his community and all that that Judaism represents.
So Rabbi Aaron embarked on a major project to renovate and expand the building but this is a dream that can only be attained only achievable by taking on a significant debt with a financier, who despite having promised to be flexible to renegotiate when the time comes, as the due date approaches, claims to collect the full amount without leaving room for delays, because the economic situation no longer the same as when they made the agreement.
Using the same financial crisis as an excuse, the regular donors have stopped contributing and the rabbi sees no way to prevent the temple building from being used as collateral for the debt. When he is already desperate and about to give up, a friend approaches him with a rather unlikely plan but this is the Rabbi’s last card to play. The idea is to connect with a Jewish community in Taiwan that according to plan is made up of very wealthy, people who would be able to help financially and quickly. Wasting no time, the rabbi embarks on a journey to the other side of the world, from where he is forced to put into perspective many of the actions that led him to that point, especially those that made him neglect his family.
Rosenthal carries all the dramatic weight of the film and he is indeed a charismatic protagonist. As the rabbi, he portrays the optimism and passion that sustains a fairly simple plot that alternates between the family comedy and a Taiwanese tourist.
The film is funny in a quite tender and familiar way. It does at times feel fragmented but we can overlook that and just enjoy a film that requires no thought and provides entertainment.