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Story of Jews and Cannabis at YIVO Opens in New York Tomorrow |

A new exhibition is being launched by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The story of Jews and Cannabis: Am Yisrael High on May 5 at the Center for Jewish History building in New York City. For remote viewers, the event can be streamed live.

The exhibit, which runs from the beginning of this week to the end the year ends, focuses on the often overlooked relationship between Judaism & cannabis through history. While it’s well known that there are religious connections to cannabis, specifically in the Judo-Christian tradition, Rastafarians get most of the press coverage relating to sacramental usage of the coveted holy herb.

Courtesy YIVO. 420=עשן. Steve Marcus art, 2022. YIVO Archives.

According to the exhibit’s press release, references to cannabis appear in the Bible (a fact many Christians know as well), the Talmud, and numerous other Jewish texts. Rabbis wrote on this subject and marijuana has been used in rituals and for medical purposes.

The exhibit also highlights Jewish contributions to cannabis research and medicine. The exhibit also includes famous cannabis counterculture figures and entrepreneurs who are Jewish. You can also follow the history and Jewish passion for cannabis.

Also featured in the exhibit is cannabis-centric art and culture such as menorahs bongs. It sounds like this item might be included at a Hanukkah celebration.

“While activity in the many realms of cannabis involves all kinds of people, not only members of the tribe, many Jews have played significant roles in a number of aspects related to cannabis and their connection warrants inquiry,” said Eddy Portnoy, YIVO’s academic advisor & exhibitions curator and author of Bad  Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories from the Yiddish PressA press release. “The story of Jews and cannabis begins in ancient times and connects to religion, science, medicine, and law. It’s a story that continues to evolve.” 

Portnoy, a specialist in Jewish pop culture and currently works as an Academic Advisor for Max Weinreich Center. He is also the Exhibition Curator for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Portnoy has curated many other exhibits for YIVO, in addition to writing and researching.

Am Yisrael High An opening night celebration will take place at Portnoy moderates a panel discussion that will take place at 7:15 p.m. ET. Panelists include horticulturist, educator, and legalization activist Ed Rosenthal; attorney Adriana Kertzer, Rabbi/Dr. Madison Margolin; Yosef Steinman. Their discussion will consider the many connections of the Jews to cannabis—religious and spiritual, historical, scientific, and more. 

Courtesy YIVO. Illustration for “Hemp” entry in Dr. Paul Abelson’s English-Yiddish Encyclopedic DictionaryHebrew Publishing Company New York, 1924. YIVO Archives

“While many cultures and religions engage with cannabis in a variety of ways, the Jewish connection has its own unique features,” Pornoy told Chronic News In an email. “From ritual use to recreation, and from science and medical research to the legalization movement, Jews have been deeply involved in cannabis culture. Combining visuals and artifacts, this exhibit tells the story of the Jewish connection and contribution to the world of cannabis.”

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is dedicated to the preservation and study of the history and culture of East European Jewry worldwide. For nearly a century, YIVO has pioneered new forms of Jewish scholarship, research, education, and cultural expression. This new exhibit will join the institute’s physical and digital database of online and in-person courses, global outreach, and resources including an over-400,000-volume library.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Jewish connection to cannabis will find a lot of useful information.

You can tune in to the exhibit remotely by clicking here