You Should Know … Herb Meisner

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Herb Meisner

Herb Meisner is a host with OneTable, an organization that helps ensure that young Jewish adults have the funds to celebrate Shabbat with others. The 25-year-old Washington resident said OneTable allows him and his friends to cook and celebrate together.

What are those Shabbat gatherings with OneTable like?
A lot of the time it’s getting folks together to celebrate the week. We’ve done a few things to celebrate other people in the group. For instance, during the attacks on reproductive justice, we had a Shabbat to celebrate one of our friends to make sure that she felt loved and nourished.


We’ve celebrated Shabbat to celebrate Pride and get a group of queer people together to celebrate with one another. There’s a lot of different ways to come together. Sometimes we just eat together and watch reality TV, so it really depends on the week. And sometimes it’s just me ordering food in for myself and resting.

What are some tips you would give to someone hosting or attending a Shabbat dinner?
I think a tip about throwing it is that it doesn’t have to be what we think of Shabbat. You don’t have to do all the prayers. The way that I view it is simply being with your friends, family and people who are nourishing your soul. I think that is sufficient.

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I think being a guest for Shabbat is understanding that space is yours as well, to rest and nourish your soul. I know that I have a lot of [non-Jewish] friends who are a little worried that they’re taking up space, and I really want to emphasize that they are part of this community when they are at Shabbat.

And also, just have fun. You get to determine what is nourishment for yourself. If that is eating and watching reality TV, that’s great. Drinking with a bunch of friends and dancing is nourishment, too.


What is the importance of having this kind of community?
A lot of people that I’m surrounded by do not make a ton of money. It’s really expensive for us to come together and cook for one another like we love to do. And so this provides them the ability to organize and to celebrate with one another. No one has to worry about food, because OneTable will cover it.

Has your relationship with Judaism always been this positive?
I think it fluctuates. I think sometimes I’m very angry and sometimes I don’t know. But what I will say is I’ve been able to really dig into my roots and my culture. And this has allowed me to showcase this culture to my friends who haven’t experienced this. Like doing the prayers, talking to them about my childhood traditions.

What is it that makes you angry and what can Judaism do better?
Sometimes I’ve gotten angry with how we gatekeep Judaism. I don’t identify as a Zionist. I don’t identify with a lot of things that I feel like sometimes I have to associate with in my Judaism. And so I think what we can do is have open arms, open hands and actually use Judaism toward the beacon of justice, rather than using it to oppress people. And I think sometimes that’s what it’s used for, just like any religion. And so I have high standards for that.

What is it like to have an LGBT community within your religious community?
I was at the Pride event last weekend. I think it’s really interesting to see how my queerness intersects with my Judaism. I don’t view myself as Jewish or queer, but I view myself as Jewish and queer. That’s an identity within itself. Judaism has honestly taught me to love my goodness, which has been great.

I don’t know my beliefs in God. I don’t really follow the Torah. But the cultures that we’ve managed and the social justice aspect has been really important. I think that intersection is really interesting. I feel really empowered by it. And it’s nice to see so many queer Jews in the city as well.

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