And the crown goes to … the nice Jewish boy with the ukelele

Herb Meisner is crowned Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2022.
Herb Meisner is crowned Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2022 (Photos by Erick Fortiz)

Contestants in the Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant on July 31 treated the audience to a self-defense class, a crash course on how to pick up guys using Spanish and a performance of rap songs accompanied by a ukulele.

The annual charity event, returning after a pandemic hiatus, was put on by Nice Jewish Boys DC, an informal social group for gay Jewish men and allies in their 20s and 30s.

About 200 people attended the show, held at Union Stage in Washington and hosted by drag queen William Havranek, whose stage name is Venus Valhalla.

The four contestants included Alex Melnik, Toreno Herbert, Alejandro Bolivar-Cervoni and Herb Meisner, said Alexander Chaves, a co-chair of the pageant and a resident of Washington. The contestants competed in three rounds.

Two factors determined the pageant’s winner, Chaves said. The first was the scores from a three-judge panel. The second was a vote by the audience.

In the first round, all four contestants participated together in a choreographed dance number, and were judged on their individual performances. Next, in the question and answer round, contestants were asked questions by the judges, which included, “How will you use your crown to strengthen the Jewish LGBTQ community here in D.C.?” or “If you were a contestant on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ what would be your drag name and why?”

The third round was a talent show. According to Jeremy Sherman, a co-chair of the pageant, Meisner played the ukulele while singing a mashup of pop and rap songs. Bolivar-Cervoni did a comedic PowerPoint presentation discussing “how to pick up a cute guy using Spanish.” Melnik did a singing performance that involved “a bunch of outfit changes and reveals while he was singing the song.” As for Herbert, he gave “a comedic twist on a self-defense class,” Sherman said.

The pageant’s runner up was Bolivar-Cervoni, while ultimately Meisner was crowned the winner.

“I think Herb was really entertaining and funny,” Sherman said about why Meisner took the crown. “I think he displayed the talent of singing and playing the ukulele while still having this great stage presence and engaging the audience.”

“I think he also had a lot of fans in the audience,” Sherman added.

“It’s basically a competition to raise money for a Jewish LGBTQ charity,” said Sherman. “And it’s part serious, but also part just entertainment and fun for the community, [and] to bring awareness to the Jewish LGBTQ community in D.C.”

From left: Alex Melnik, Alejandro Bolivar-Cervoni, Janine Baumgardner, Herb Meisner, Toreno Herbert and William “Venus Valhalla” Havranek
From left: Alex Melnik, Alejandro Bolivar-Cervoni, Janine Baumgardner, Herb Meisner, Toreno Herbert and William “Venus Valhalla” Havranek (Photos by Erick Fortiz)

Sherman said all contestants “must identify, at least, as part of that Jewish queer community in D.C.” While, in theory, a contestant could be an ally who identifies as straight, it has not happened so far.

The first pageant was held in 2013, said Chaves, and then held again in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The pageant needed to pause during the pandemic, but came back for its fifth year in 2022.

“The event has evolved a lot over those five years of actually having it,” said Sherman, who attends Sixth & I. “The first year it was put on it was really small. It was not a super professional, big production.”

In addition to a crown and sash, Meisner received a $250 drink tab at a local bar and a $250 gift card to the restaurant Floriana

Money raised at the pageant was donated to Keshet, a national Jewish LGBTQ organization, said Sherman.

Asked what the common phrase “a nice Jewish boy” meant to him, Sherman thought of a mensch who cares for their community while being involved in Jewish life. Chaves added that a nice Jewish boy is a studious person with a future ahead of them, and “the guy that every parent wants their kid to date.”

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