Funky rabbi spreads love online

  • batrabbi
When around 400 Orthodox rabbis gathered for a photograph at the end of Kinnus in New York recently, one rabbi opened his black coat to reveal a batman onesie. It was caught on camera.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Feb 16, 2017

This rabbi’s name is Meir Kalmanson, or Meir Kay as he calls himself, and he is a part of the US Chabad community, but his own community is the world and he “spreads love” through outrageous online videos.

Of his rabbinical photographic moment, he says: “At first not many people noticed… Once a photographer shouted ‘hey look this way’, rabbis turned in my direction and it was a sight to see. Lots of smiles and chuckles.”

Kay doesn’t have his own shul or physical congregation, but there are more people who follow his “teachings” than most rabbis with huge congregations.

“My mission in life is to live up to my name Meir; which means to illuminate,” he told the Jewish Report.  “I envision a world filled with kindness and compassion. I’m making it my mission to spread positivity and happiness through the videos I create, talks that I give, and in my daily personal interactions.” 

Kay, 27, was brought up in Connecticut and went through the traditional Chabad yeshiva schooling system, graduating with his rabbinical certification in Singapore. “In Chabad community, obtaining smicha (rabbinical degree) is the final step and graduation from the schooling system,” he explains. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted every man to be a rabbi of his own home.”

Finding his rabbinical path through video, Kay learnt his production skills through experience on movie sets as production assistant and then working on short films.

His videos vary from one in which he challenges strangers to a dance off in New York subway stations while wearing boxer shorts that read “100% kosher”; then dressed in a Star Wars robe he challenges New Yorkers to duel with light sabres; to high fiving commuters with their hands out to hail a taxi. 

In his favourite video, titled “Be A Kid Again” he took a bed around New York City to give people the opportunity to jump on it. “When we pulled out the bed at Times Square, we got shut down right away, but we persuaded the police officer to give us five minutes. Then young and old people were getting on that bed and jumping around on it. It was priceless. For five minutes, New Yorkers and tourists alike, were kids again.

“This experience really hit the core of who we all are. We’re just a bunch of kids inside and we want to be happy and to be free. We need to be reminded of this as we get older, and I like to be that reminder.”

Kay wants his videos to spread positivity and happiness to everyone who watches them. “I want to see people smile, laugh and walk away inspired,” he says. “The best reaction is when viewers go forth and perform an act of kindness and spread positivity on their own.

“I am trying to grow a community of like-minded people who want to hear about the good things in life and just take a break from the negative which is regurgitated in the media.”

He is also now branching out into public speaking and designing apparel, which are all about spreading the message of positivity and happiness. 

He says people appreciate his videos and the message he shares, some being moved to tears, smiles and laughter. “The best part is hearing the stories people send me about how the videos moved them to action.”

He uses the Internet as his pulpit that amplifies his voice to reach as many as possible through YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. He gets many “messages of love” via e-mail and Facebook from people in the US, Europe, Israel, India and the Philippines.

His fellow rabbis, he says, have mostly reacted positively and some have even shared his videos in their weekly newsletters.

“They also write how people from their communities have asked if they knew me, and how wonderful it was to see a frumpy doing what I’m doing.”

And back at Kinnus, he says, the energy in the neighbourhood was electric during the conference, because there was a mutual hunger to achieve selfless goals to better the world. Only most rabbis don’t do it quite like Kay does.



1 Comment

  1. 1 Sandy Rosenwasser 16 Feb
    You sounded awesome.  I would like an email address to contact you in regard to help /steer me in the right direction with some situations and I feel like I am banging my head against a wall with no answers.  I realize you might not be able to help me but its worth a shot in trying to network with anyone and everyone possible.
    FYI My younger son is s30 and this yer will be his 31st year at Camp HASC
    Anyway, looking forward to hearing from you soon.
    Kol Tuv  Keep on smiling.


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