Pull Up A Chair: behind the scenes of The Shabbos Project’s viral video sensation

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The Shabbos Project

It got well over a million views on Facebook, let’s take a look at the making of this invitation to Jews on all continents to join the world’s Shabbat table for last week’s Shabbos Project.

Says Lawrence Horwitz, creative director at The Shabbos Project HQ in Joburg, South Africa, “It’s difficult to describe the magical experience of the Shabbos Project, the intrinsically holy, innate quality of it. The challenge is how do you record it, when you can’t record on Shabbat? We wondered, is there a way to share some aspect of it on a weekday? It’s the idea of setting aside time to sit together, not worrying, just being in the moment.”

Project manager Rosy Hollander adds, “a table is universal, it speaks to everyone. And food is so nurturing, tied into our earliest and warmest memories. We said let’s do tables in public places, with a bobba serving chicken soup and perogen, in Times Square, Trafalgar Square…” HQ is into thinking big.


Lawrence was set on Tel Aviv, “a microcosm of the Jewish world”, where you find a melting pot of countries and cultures. The location, Rothschild Boulevard, did not disappoint. A packed walkway that happened to be opposite Israel’s Shabbos Project HQ on Achad Ha’am, served up French, Italian, Argentinian, Dutch, American, English and Israeli Jews to sit down to good food and wine in three days of shooting.


Says Lawrence, “We bought the table from Ikea, it took 10 of us to build it, and then we invited people to sit down together. People want to unite. It parallels the Shabbos Project.”

Around the table there were six cameramen, one videographer atop a crane, and producer/director Orr Koren hooked up to comms with the cameramen and waiters, making sure jugs of water weren’t blocking people’s faces.

Oh, and three kitchen staff, serving up a feast of crumbed chicken breasts, hummus, breads and mediterranean brinjals - all in a 40 degree chamsin heatwave. In fact, one camera man ended up on a drip suffering dehydration - he’d been drinking beer all day instead of water!


Orr fills in more details. “We had queues of people wanting to sit down at the table. We ended up with 56 hours of footage, of beautiful moments, laughter and heated debates and conversation that we had to turn into a three minute video.”

Enter Tetelo, video editor, whose 110 hours of editing, produced the 45 minutes that Orr needed to work his magic to tell the story that people love watching. The story of connection and conversation, of an island in time to remember what makes us human. The story of the Shabbos Project.