The Shabbos Showvuplifts a pandemic-stricken community
By Amy W. Sorter
What started as sharing challah baking tips via Facebook in the early days of the pandemic has turned into a pre-Shabbat ritual for Debbi K. Levy and Barry Rothschild.
When “The Shabbos Show” started just after the COVID-19 shutdown, the 10-minute presentation was less about baking challah than it was about connecting Jewishly in the face of fear and a government-mandated lockdown. “We wanted to gather virtually and say ‘Good Shabbos’ to everyone,” Levy said. “We also thought this thing (pandemic) would last only a little while.”
That challah-baking demonstration, which included prayer and uplifting commentary, became the basis of The Shabbos Show.
Levy and Rothschild have day jobs — Levy owns Transformation Yoga LLC and has many practitioners in the Dallas Jewish community and beyond. Rothschild is president of Med Couture Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of health care uniforms and scrubs. Each Friday, at approximately 4 p.m., both leave their work personas behind. For 20 minutes, the couple focuses on helping viewers transition to Shabbat through education, guests and other activities.
“This is a way in which we make our way to Shabbat, together,” Levy said. “After the show, maybe people will attend virtual services afterward, or have Shabbat dinner with family. The purpose of the show is to provide what is, I hope, a sacred transition.”
The couple, who are affiliated with many area synagogues, pack a great deal into The Shabbos Show, with many shows carrying a specific theme. On Dec. 25, the pajama-clad hosts dined on Chinese food, with their dog Nala on hand (the dog had her own treats, and was not in pajamas). In between the lo mein and egg rolls, the couple discussed the connection among American Judaism, Christmas and Chinese cuisine. A recent show spotlighted favorite Jewish books, while an earlier Hanukkah-themed episode, on location at Temple Emanu-El’s Judaic Treasures gift store (with proper distancing and masking protocols), highlighted potential Hanukkah gifts. Another broadcast, taking place during Passover, showed the couple trying their hand at making Shabbat candles.
Along with the themes are special guests, such as Artie Allen, Aaron Family JCC’s CEO, and Garry Kahalnik, Israel Bonds’ registered representative; rabbis (Daniel Utley of Temple Emanu-El, Ari Sunshine of Congregation Shearith Israel and Elana Zelony of Congregation Beth Torah); Jewish artists (sculptor George Tobolowsky); and Jewish celebrities (Brad Sham, the Voice of the Dallas Cowboys).
Though each show varies, two constants are in place. First is a weekly d’var Torah, which is Rothschild’s domain. “I try to connect the Torah portion with something of value, as to how it relates to what’s going on today,” he said. Then there is the challah, with each week bringing different shapes and variations. “I love seeing the weekly challah,” said viewer Mindy Greenberg.
Challah, themes, guests and dogs aside, the show is, above all, about remaining connected during difficult times. In the early days and months of the pandemic, “we were devastated when we couldn’t go to Temple (Emanu-El) or Shearith Israel, or anywhere else we practice,” Levy said. “(The show) is how we find community, and how we can celebrate Shabbat.”
For former Dallasite and Shabbos Show viewer Greenberg, the community aspect is important. So much so, she acknowledged that she has made time to watch it even while driving, by pulling off the road. “Not only does it give me a sense of community, but I love hearing about the Torah portion for the week,” said Greenberg, who currently lives in Delaware.
As they continue growing their audience, Levy and Rothschild indicate that there are no huge plans for The Shabbos Show. The show currently “lives” on Levy’s Facebook page, with past shows available on YouTube (“The Shabbos Show featuring Debbi and Barry”). The couple is working on giving the show its own Facebook page. Otherwise, “we’ll continue to bring on guests, and see how it evolves,” Levy said.
With help from gracious and dedicated hosts, The Shabbos Show offers enjoyable pre-Shabbat prayer, information and togetherness for a community continuing to rely on social media and Zoom for connections. “They cover so many aspects of our Jewishness, and it is always fun and meaningful to see what they want to bring to our attention,” said Nancy Marcus of Dallas, a longtime viewer. “The Shabbos Show is uplifting, and definitely prepares us for Shabbat.”