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.
He has “always tried to make sure others don’t feel that way,” the report 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.”
He then met six homeless people in New York, bought them football jerseys and took them to a friend’s rooftop party, the report said.
Kalmanson then founded Super Soul Party, a nonprofit which has since held increasingly elaborate Super Bowl watches that reached Los Angeles and included clothing drives, free hygiene kits, haircuts, manicures and on-site therapists.
THROWING A SUPER BOWL PARTY FOR THE HOMELESS
Meir Kay and his team put together a super ball game for the homeless…. what a champ!https://t.co/4V0YMmedxS#MeirKay #homeless #compassion #uplifting #gollygoose #votecompassion pic.twitter.com/Bi0GFkLFgn
— GollyGoose (@GollyGoose) February 4, 2018
On Sunday night, his organization will host Super Bowl watch parties in homeless shelters and other venues in at least 15 cities.
“We plan the parties out so that there are an equal number of people who are experiencing homelessness and people who aren’t experiencing homelessness,” Kalmanson said. “This way, people can connect on a one-to-one basis, and they can have a close, intimate conversations. We want everybody to feel that they’re being seen.”
The vlogger, who has more than a million followers on social media and a total of more than 350 million views, has been making videos for ten years. He first gained widespread traction in September 2014 with his high-spirited video “High Five New York,” which has drawn more than 2.5 million views.