Meir Kalmanson’s past as a bullied Jewish boy inspired him to host homeless people for a Super Bowl party three years ago. This year, an organization he has since founded is hosting 20 such parties across the United States.
The rabbi and social media star, known to his followers as Meir Kay, says the initiative was born when he randomly encountered a homeless man in New York holding a sign that said: “I don’t want anything to eat. I don’t want to drink. All I want is to be seen. I want to talk to somebody.”
“That just hit me in the gut,” Kalmanson told CNN in an interview published Friday. He said he bought food and sat down with the man. “We connected. … I know what it means to feel alone in this world.”
As a child, Kalmanson moved around a lot, and says he was often ignored and bullied. Born in Brooklyn, Kalmanson grew up in Connecticut and attended Chabad Lubavitch yeshivas in Miami, Florida; Manchester, England; Postville, Iowa; and Singapore, where he received rabbinical ordination. (Kalmanson was also part of The Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 in 2017.)
He has “always tried to make sure others don’t feel that way,” the CNN cited him as saying.
One of the most meaningful videos I’ve ever seen…
This man takes homeless folks off the street, and gives them a 5-Star Super Bowl party experience…
One small act of kindness at a time. pic.twitter.com/YJsPNAp6gW
— Marcus Guy (@_MarcusGuy) February 1, 2020
That is when the Super Bowl idea came to him.
“Super Bowl is this unofficial holiday in the US,” the 30-year-old said. “There’s all this stuff going on for those who are experiencing homelessness around Christmas and Thanksgiving but nothing for the Super Bowl. So, I figured, it’s a good time to jump in and try to connect the people who may feel a bit more lonely than usual.”